You Can’t Convince Me to Wear It

Photo of a light-skinned hand holding an open tube of cherry-red lipstick.
Photo by Juliana Malta on Unsplash

There are quite a few things you have to let go of during an unplanned move across the country and, for me, makeup was one of them.

I’ve read quite a few articles lately from women talking about their various perspectives on makeup, aging, and the male gaze so here’s mine.

I love makeup. I do not wear it.

I think there’s a fond nostalgia in applying lipstick from a bullet tube, checking your face in a handheld compact (or a phone camera), or blotting lipstick onto napkins. I hold a great deal of respect for anybody who can regularly do liquid eyeliner and not look like Amy Winehouse on a bad day (unless that’s what you’re going for). I love the new multichrome eyeshadows and pretty pinched-cheek blushes.

Still, I do not wear makeup.

Fourteen-year-old me would curse the sky blue if she had to leave the house without makeup and I blame my mother’s own low self-esteem for that.

I was never taught that I could be holistically pretty without makeup, I had to learn that. I’ve never been fond of plastic surgery, but as long as no one’s cutting into me I couldn’t really care less what anyone else wants to do with their own body. I worry sometimes about the youngest of my generation not liking their faces when compared to the ‘makeup-free’ selfies of celebrities and models who have had plenty of knifeless cosmetic work done. Microblading, lip filler, ponytail face-lifts on women only a few years older than my quarter century, eyelash extensions, and of course the filters… None of those are makeup.

The line for me as I was culling my possessions to decide what to donate, keep, or throw away was when I picked up my bag of several years and several hundred dollars worth of makeup I only felt disdain.

I felt hatred for the way concealer creases on my eyelids, misery at how I hide my freckles, disgust at the feeling of of mascara clumping together, and most of all exhaustion at the thought of getting up earlier just to make myself a liar by hiding how tired I look.

Selfie of author. She’s got light yellow skin with green eyes and dark curly hair. Wearing a green dress with small white flowers. Her face is bare of makeup and freely shows the small blemishes, dark circles, and large pores. She’s softly smiling at the camera.
Photo by Author, of Author.

I think the most surprising thing is I don’t feel any less girly. Part of me worried briefly if I’d feel inferior as someone who was raised in the dying Southern society of women always looking ‘presentable’, but I don’t. I find myself accepting how I look at face value (ha), focusing more on my skin’s health than its appearance, and more on how I feel about my own comfort than about how I present to others.

My nails are healthy, my hair is soft, my skin is protected, and my eyes are bright if a little tired.

But as I put my foot across the threshold into spaces in academia and finances and business where women are often simultaneously belittled for their girly interests and criticized for not taking care of themselves I’m perfectly happy to step in at the standard set for my male peers. Happier with myself, not spending money on something that doesn’t make me happy, and avoiding the ingredients in cosmetics I tend to be allergic to anyway.

Whether you wear makeup or not, I hope you do it out of creativity and confidence, not compliance. If that bright lipstick makes you feel sexy, wear it! But if the application of concealer over your so-called ‘flaws’ feels tedious then here’s your permission to not wear it. Even if you’ve always had a done-up face the people around you can adjust. They’ll get used to seeing you without the addition and if they don’t… Well, maybe you don’t need them keeping you down anyway.

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Two things I care about- Words and people. Anthropologist and Wordsmith.

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Sydney Martin

Two things I care about- Words and people. Anthropologist and Wordsmith.