The Rapidian

I'm not making this up

Growing up and growing more confident without cosmetics.
Underwriting support from:

/Anna Gretz

Believe me, I don’t look that great without makeup. But I still don’t wear it.

I’m 27 years old. My first experience with makeup was 15 years ago, in 5th grade. Like most 12-year-olds, I was forming a love-hate relationship with Woodland Mall. My friends and I would get dropped off on Saturday afternoons to walk around and eat large, expensive cookies from Mrs. Field’s. Each time, we would pressure each other to buy something: Gap Dream Fragrant Spray-Lotion, or Limited Too Super-Sparkleface Lip Gloss, or a compact of powder foundation from Hudsons. I actually don’t remember trying this out, or buying it, as if it was somehow traumatic and I blocked it from my mind. I do remember getting home, running into my room and hiding the stuff between my mattress and box spring, right next to my diary. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, shallow and completely out of my league. I didn’t know what to do with foundation. So I left it under my bed.

In my later teenaged years, I took all of that pent-up love-hate to the stage of Forest Hills Northern High School. On performance nights, we were to arrive an hour early in order to let other high schoolers smear handfuls of oily sludge onto our faces so we would look better under the stage lights. I secretly liked stage makeup. I thought it made me look prettier. After each performance, while everyone complained about how impossible it was to remove, I admired my even skin tones and blushed cheeks. Almost all of my friends wore makeup on a daily basis, but I still did not allow myself to. This was not because I was secure in how I looked, but because I was deeply insecure, and worried that even if I did try to enhance my looks, I still wouldn’t be beautiful. So I didn’t try.

I told people that I didn’t wear cosmetics because my allergies were so bad that it would get totally messed up every day. This is both entirely true, and entirely untrue.

Not trying to wear makeup lead to a few major moments in my life in which makeup was conspicuously absent: my senior prom, and years later, my wedding.

My last few years at FHN, I went on a “dance strike.” I made it clear to all of my friends that I did not believe in the sinful debauchery that took place on the gym floor during “The Thong Song.”

The truth was, I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t have a date, and dancing made me feel self-conscious, so I thought I would avoid that embarrassment by telling all of my potential admirers that I wasn’t going, so don’t even think about it. A few weeks before the senior prom, I was nominated for the prom court, so my attendance at the dance was obligatory. I did have a date (a very sweet and gracious date, as I was a bit of an abrasive teenager), but I tried to underplay the event as much as possible.

I gave every impression that looking pretty was not important to me: I borrowed a dress from a neighbor, did my own hair, and wore no makeup. I did not feel pretty. I did not feel like I deserved to be my high school’s prom queen. But at the end of the night, I was.

Being crowned prom queen is one of those things that people are not supposed to hang on to years later, after real life starts and we all grow up and nothing that happened in high school matters. But that night was important to me.

It was then that I actually started believing that I might be ok. I’m not sure if many people saw through all of my feigned confidence and admired me in spite of it, but people did admire me. If anyone cared that I didn’t wear makeup, they didn’t care that much. I started believing what I had been pretending to believe: that the way I looked wasn’t very important in the big scheme of things, and that when people looked at my face, it was only an identifier that reminded them of all of the other things that I was: funny, and kind, and maybe even talented.

Four years later, I was married, and I walked down the aisle at Oakdale Park CRC as a makeup-less bride. This was my decision, but also my husband’s request. He told me that if I made-up my face, it wouldn’t be mine. I agreed. We didn’t make a big deal about it. On my wedding day, makeup was not an issue.

I have chosen to think about my face as a tool that I can use to communicate, and that others can use to identify me. I don’t think about makeup very much anymore.

I don’t have anything against makeup at all, or anyone who wears it. I think people use it in wonderful ways. But I’ve chosen not to use it, and I want other women to know that this is a valid option.

If makeup causes you stress, you don’t have to use it, and you don’t have to feel weird about it and tell everyone it’s because of your allergies. If it’s something that makes you feel more confident, go for it. It’s a great form of self-expression, and can be stunningly artistic. But you don’t owe it to anyone, and it is not the source of your beauty.

I don’t make an argument for or against makeup. I make an argument in favor of the freedom to choose whether or not you wear it.  As for me, if I made-up face, it wouldn’t be mine.

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