‘You’re brave,’ was the reply I received from someone once when I said I never wear make-up. Brave for not putting on a bit of foundation and eyeliner in the morning; that seemed strange. Surely if I were brave I would have faced some considerable challenge in life with fortitude, or saved someone’s life, but not having worn make-up, that didn’t make sense. It shouldn’t make sense. Why is it still considered brave for a woman to forgo a bit of colour on her face very day?
Whenever anyone asks me why I don’t ‘paint my face,’ I usually reply because I’m lazy, or I can’t be bothered. However, I think that’s the wrong answer and in future I might answer because I don’t have to and I don’t want to. I never have done. When I was in secondary school and all the girls started arriving with various shades of eyeliner on every day, I thought I ought to start doing the same, but having to get up in time to do so every morning was not something I found easy. I’ve never been a morning person, so it didn’t last long as I just couldn’t be bothered to lose time in bed or eating breakfast to doll myself up. Also, like many teenagers, my skin was awful, and covering it up didn’t make it look any better, if anything, I thought It looked worse and made my face itch.
Even later, into my twenties at university, I tried again to conform to expectations, but then again, it just didn’t feel right to me. I also had a limited budget and would rather spend my money on new music, books and art materials. Much like today. Apart from the ‘I can’t be bothered’ attitude I have towards the whole thing, I would also much rather spend money on more important things, as I see them.
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t care about the visual impression I make at all; I love wearing colourful, pretty clothes and make sure I am smart and my hair looks good every day. I’ve started having it coloured now, so does that make me a hypocrite? I would argue no, as the grey hairs just look messy to me among my natural darker colour, but I guess some would say that’s no different to wearing make-up, and I take their point.
People are often surprised at how old I am, and I primarily put that down to good genes but it may also have something to do with the fact that I haven’t spent the last twenty years pulling at my face every day as part of a make-up routine. And no, I’m not some natural beauty who doesn’t need the stuff. I’m fairly average, plain I guess. So some might argue I should ‘make an effort’ as I’ve been told to do before, but I have other, more important things to do. If a man doesn’t like what he sees, well he can look elsewhere, and they invariably do, but at least I’ve been honest. I also wouldn’t expect, nor want someone to desire me for my looks, which won’t last anyway, but for who I am. Yes, that’s a cliché, but it surprises me that in the 21st century women are considered brave for choosing to go without make-up. We are still not being encouraged to be loved for who we are, rather than what we look like.
This post was inspired by a recent article on The Guardian website by Jessica Valenti, ‘Going without make-up isn’t a radical act. It’s just being yourself.’ 24.04.15