It is a ritual.
The attire is worn.
The drums beat to announce their arrival. The battle cry is uttered for both sides to hear. The troops rush into battle. The winner enjoys the spoils.
This is war.
Which funnily enough isn’t much different from normal daily life, in the figurative sense.
We all fight our daily battles with ourselves and our peers. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Sometimes we learn and sometimes we keep making the same mistakes until we change our tactics. Sometimes we just give up and socially die.
Being a woman, I often find myself gearing up for battle in the mornings. And occasionally during the night-time.
I sharpen the blade that is my mind with meditation, prayer and affirmation.
With careful precision, I smear on my war paint. A little mascara and eye-liner to enhance the ferocity of my gaze. Some blush to portray the fury boiling underneath. Red lipstick to warn my enemies of my strength and blood-thirst. Concealer to hide my weak points. My eyebrows are strong black arches to profess my sure victory.
I put on my armour: a killer outfit paired with some even more lethal footwear, my bag to carry the day’s trophies back home and I am ready to take no prisoners.
I shield myself from the penetrating gazes of the judgemental and the covetous with my confidence, ready to strike down anyone that attacks me.
Sometimes it is a colleague who lustfully eyes my position and its benefits. Maybe a friend who would spill blood to get my social standing. It could be a jilted lover who wants to settle the score over past betrayals. Or a relative who would readily offer me as sacrifice to further their own ambitions.
Sometimes it is strangers who just want to pillage and destroy for nothing more than the thrill.
Often though, it is my reflection telling me that although I look like a warrior, deep down I’m just a coward with no integrity whatsoever.
We all conform to the norms we have been born into. That is social conditioning.
Deviating from them gets you branded an anarchist, a heretic, a black sheep amongst the grey.
Isn’t it strange that while we promote freedom and personal integrity we are also quick to suppress and extinguish it the moment it does not correlate to our prescribed narrative?
Or that said narrative is full of all sorts of contradictions?
It is almost funny.
But I digress.
Egyptian royals wore kohl so they’d emulate their gods; during the second world war, lipstick was considered a morale booster and according to Native American Indian Facts, “War paint was often believed to provide the wearer with supernatural powers including strength and protection. The symbols and colours of the paint would determine the types of powers bestowed upon the wearer. Often war paint was applied to a warrior to strike fear into the enemy and provide camouflage. War paint sometimes had practical uses such as protecting the warrior’s skin from the sun, insects, and the elements such as wind. Sometimes war paint was simply worn as a decoration.”
So basically, wearing makeup grants you superpowers.
The cosmetic industry gets a lot of flak for making billions of dollars off women’s insecurities. While yes, profiting off another person’s esteem issues seems unethical, isn’t that what most of modern life is about? All these consumer brands telling you that you will feel better when you have this or have a good life if you buy that. They all profit from an individual’s need to aspire to greater social heights. Its what keeps the world spinning, after all.
The beauty industry is here to stay. And makeup and cosmetics will evolve.
Maybe someday, being barefaced will be the new beauty standard again. Fashion recycles after all.
Still, there has to be some sort of limit, shouldn’t there?
That seems to be the big question floating around the beauty cosmos.
Is there a limit and if there is, what is it? Is such a thing even possible?
Everybody from beauticians, psychologists, entrepreneurs, dermatologists, marketers, biologists, beauty bloggers and a disgruntled male or two has shared their two cents on the matter.
It seems that despite our personal preferences or the boundaries we set for ourselves, as long as there is the human need to self improve, compete with our peers and seek their admiration, we’ll always be willing victims of the beauty industry.
But is that necessarily a bad thing?
Various research has concluded that a large number of women feel more attractive when they wear makeup. They are happier, more self assured, feel less noticeable, can handle their tasks better and are much more likely to take profitable risks compared to a percentage of their non-makeup wearing counterparts. As a result, they are more successful.
The problem however, is when women wear makeup all the time. This is usually detrimental to their psychological well being as they develop high levels of anxiety, self-consciousness, and conformity.
Apparently too much of a good thing is an actual thing.
Interestingly, another study has shown that women who decide to wear makeup less frequently experience higher social confidence, self-esteem and emotional stability (Robertson and colleagues, 2008).
In yet another preliminary study based on the No Makeup Look, it was concluded that barefaced women who spent sometime looking at their reflection and appreciating themselves experienced decrease in stress and an increase in self-compassion. (Well, et al. 2016)
All in all, it seems that the benefits of wearing makeup, if done in moderation, far outweigh the disadvantages.
According to the Association for Psychological Science, attractive people are more likely to be treated favourably in every area of life.
Most studies connect wearing makeup and the desire to look attractive with wanting to appeal to the male gaze but that isn’t quite the case.
The truth is that women wear makeup for themselves. It is a way to unite within the sisterhood. It is a bonding ritual between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. It is a shared passion between painters of all shapes, colours, creeds and sizes.
An opportunity to give a compliment and show kindness.
And a membership to a club of total badasses.
A little sex appeal is just a bonus.
So here I am, hardened after many years of battle. Friend and foe have been lost as casualties of life. Empires have risen and fallen. Memories have been made and unmade. Lemons made into face masks.
Then I begin to wear down.
Suddenly I don’t remember why I’m fighting. By the time I do, it no longer seems important.
My daily rituals have changed a bit.
I still sharpen my blade. I wear my armour but its mostly for old time’s sake.
I no longer have to wear war paint. My battle scars are enough testimony to the victories and losses on the battlefield.
Free from the demands of war, I smile at the judgemental and contemptuous.
I no longer need a shield. I am the shield.
When I look at my reflection, I see a warrior. Eyes full of experience, cheeks smiling with secret knowledge, lips brimming with laughter and relaxed brow, secure in my own self.
Somehow through all those years of battle, I blossomed into a black sheep.
Who occasionally likes to smear on her war paint.