Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Barefaced and Beautiful - Giving Up Makeup for My Daughter's Sake

I wear makeup.  I don't know the statistics here, but I'd venture to say that most adult women do wear makeup, if not on a daily basis, then at least from time to time.  I don't wear it as often these days, and I've never worn much makeup, but when you are naturally blonde and have virtually transparent eyelashes, a little mascara is nice sometimes.  When I was 8 years old I became involved in community theater, wearing full stage makeup for performances.  Naturally, I enjoyed looking "grown up" at that age and by the time I was 12 or 13 I was wearing makeup every day to school.  I've never thought much about it.  Other girls my age were also wearing makeup.  By the time I reached high school pretty much every girl was.  Of course, as we grow up, almost every image of a woman that we see in a magazine or on television is of a woman wearing makeup, and nowadays they're most likely airbrushed as well.  And then we have studies, such as this one, (paid for by major makeup industry tycoons BTW) telling us that wearing makeup "increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness,"  this is "according to a new study, which also confirmed what is obvious: that cosmetics boost a woman’s attractiveness."  Why should women have to change their appearance in order to be successful and appear "competent," while men have never had to do so?  And why is it "obvious" that makeup makes women more attractive?  I guess maybe more attractive by the general public's standards, but it makes me sad.  

The other day I was putting on mascara in the bathroom and my 5 year old daughter walked in and asked what I was doing.  Without thinking I said, "making myself pretty for Daddy."  Oh how I wished I could swallow those words.  As soon as they were out of my mouth and I heard them aloud I knew that was not at all what I wanted my daughter to hear.  I immediately started to back pedal saying "but you know, Daddy always tells me I'm prettier without make up."  Which is true, my husband always tells me that I don't need makeup.  But it's kind of an addiction, isn't it?  My daughter then says, "well then why are you doing that?"  Silence.  I don't know.  Why was I doing it?  Why do I do it?  Why do I put eyeliner and mascara on before I go out in public?  Why? I'd never thought about it before and now some serious thinking ensued.  I guess because it's part of my routine, and part of how I've come to see myself in my mind's eye.  My image of my true self is the one that is "done up."  But that's not me.  That's not my true self.  I'm just used to seeing myself that way.  Does it make me feel more confident and attractive?  Yes, actually.  Because I've spent decades having that positively reinforced.    

What I know is this.  I have a young daughter.  About to turn 6.  She is a very unique little girl. She largely cares nothing at all about popular culture, TV, models, pop stars or any of that silly nonsense.  I dread the day when that might start to change.  I relish watching her roll in fields of clover, skip through the yard to feed the chickens, play in the's not that she hasn't started receiving some of these pop-culture messages about how girls are "supposed" to behave and look.  I mean we can't shelter her from life, and those messages are everywhere - from seemingly harmless television shows, to the toy aisle at Target.  It's just that she chooses not to care or be influenced by it.  I am scared that could change.  I want her to be true to herself, and to value her intelligence, wit, humor, creativity, and uniqueness over physical beauty.  I want her to be proud of being different and having unique interests, and I want her to have a positive image of herself and her body.  I realize that I am her number one example of that.

I recently came across another survey, this one conducted on behalf of the Renfew Center, which is a non-profit that works to prevent, treat, and research eating disorders,  in which 65% of the survey participants started wearing makeup at the tender ages of 8-13 years old.  The survey found that at least one in five young girls had negative feelings associated with not wearing makeup.  Many girls surveyed felt it was most acceptable to go barefaced to the pool or beach but least acceptable to show up at a friend's house or school without makeup on.  

I can imagine my sweet little girl, maybe as few as 2 years in the future feeling like she can't leave the house without mascara, because mom doesn't and her peers don't.  Wanting to make herself "pretty" for her dad or her first crush.  My heart sinks.  She is so beautiful, inside and out.  I don't ever want her to feel like she needs to change herself.  And so I've come to a difficult decision.  Should I give up makeup for the sake of my daughter?  I kind of think I have to.  It seems like a silly thing, but it's actually pretty difficult.  Women out there, can you imagine quitting makeup cold turkey?  Completely revolutionizing your own self image?  Admit it, if you wear it, it has more hold over you than you realize.  It's even a little scary.  I know there will be special occasions for which I may don the mascara, but for now I think I'll try going barefaced.  My daughter may still wear makeup someday, I can't predict that now, but I know it won't be because she saw that I could never leave the house without it.  I want her to know she can be barefaced and beautiful.  I want her to understand, even though it's a cliche, that it's what's on the inside that makes her truly beautiful anyway.