I like cosmetics. Nay, I am enamored of them. I think they’re fun, I like playing with them, and I’m good at them. I own more bottles of nail polish than I could ever possibly need or use, I frequent several beauty blogs, and my bathroom is absolutely cluttered with product.
I almost never wear makeup.
Why not, you may wonder, if I enjoy it so much? Well, my sweet angelface, it’s because I don’t really care. I don’t need it. I feel good without it.
I did not always feel this way. My adolescence (like most adolescences) was awkward, confusing, and filled with a lot of self-loathing. I first started playing with makeup when I was in high school, and like most high school females, I learned to hide behind products designed, I believed, to hide any of my perceived flaws. In this manner, I learned a pitiful parody of what confidence looked like.
Fortunately, by my senior year of high school, I was so busy with my extra-curriculars that I began to wake up in the mornings too tired, too lazy, or just too apathetic to worry about putting on makeup I would inevitably have to wash off for tennis or marching band anyway.
I carried this attitude towards cosmetics with me to college. Although I continued to feel better about myself if I took the time to do my makeup, I didn’t put it on every day, and rarely in the mornings. My sophomore year, I found myself with my first college boyfriend, and while I panicked to make sure I always did my makeup if I were going to see him, I rarely wore it otherwise. This, I think, speaks to the pervasive (and damaging) standards of beauty expected of women. Our society tells women men find XYZ attractive (not actually a quantifiable thing by the way) and therefore women must strive for XYZ, even when their own ABC, DEF, 123 are beautiful and wonderful the way they are. The beauty industry thrives on telling women two conflicting ideas: 1) Be beautiful, be you, and be empowered 2) but do it by looking like this, purchasing this, wearing this. Yay to numero uno, not so much to numero dos.
The past two years have contributed even more to the way I perceive myself and the way I perceive beauty (perhaps I will elaborate on those experiences later, but for now, suffice it to say I learned to value myself separate from my appearance). And, after a decade of struggling to accept my appearance, at last I am equally comfortable with and without makeup. I might be more comfortable without it. I don’t need it to feel pretty, or confident, or valued.
Do I still look in the mirror and see imperfections? Of course I do. There are many parts of myself I still struggle to accept, but I no longer feel the need to hide those things. My friends and family love me regardless of what I look like. I’ve been told I’m pretty with makeup and without it. More importantly, I feel pretty whether I have makeup on or not. And this, my sweet angelface, has given me the freedom to enjoy cosmetics out of fun, not out of necessity, and only when I feel like it. And for me, that’s a pretty cool place to be.
(DISCLAIMER: You do you. I don’t judge anybody else for what their opinions on the beauty industry are. If you wear makeup every day or feel more confident or beautiful or whatever with it, I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t. Do whatever makes you feel good. You go, Glen Coco.)