I’m going naked. That’s right, nude. Completely unadorned and unfettered. What I’m talking about isn’t illegal, but it is taboo, at least where I live.
I’m talking about going without make-up.
A few weeks ago I read a rant in my favorite feminist blog about a campaign coordinated by the BBC’s annual Children In Need, which sponsored models to go without make-up. In public. The horror. It got me to thinking about cosmetics in the context of socially enforced beauty standards.
Many of us are aware of the toxins in our commercialized beauty products. And after recently watching The Story Of Cosmetics by Annie Leonard, I’ve been even further put off by the cosmetics industry.
However, it wasn’t either of these very compelling arguments that prompted my decision to never wear make-up, it was something my five-year-old daughter told me. We were washing the dishes last week and she turned to me out of the blue and said,
“Mama, you’re ugly without make up. Why don’t you ever wear it?”
The emotions and thoughts that raced through me were broad and intense. I was devastated that she thought I was ugly. I was angry at whatever outside source may have penetrated my heavy parental (and feminist) filtration. I felt defensive (hey, I’m not ugly!), and insecure, (am I?)
Her statement also prompted unsettling feelings from my own childhood and how I had viewed my mother as unattractive. It was all very mixed up and confusing, but I had to act quickly. I could see that she was carefully gauging my reaction and it felt like one of those critical, possibly even defining moments. It turns out that it was, for me anyway.
I took a moment to make sure there was no hurt in my voice and then I told her, “I’m sorry you think that. It wasn’t nice for you to say, but I know you weren’t trying to hurt my feelings. I must say that I completely disagree with you. I am beautiful, inside and out.”
She didn’t respond, and to be honest, I don’t think she is convinced. She has her own ideas of beauty separate from mine, and I just don’t measure up. I can’t take it personally. I have to ask myself what is more important: that my daughter sees me as physically beautiful, or that she sees me as confident and comfortable in my own skin?
I realize that despite the television ads, billboards and even peer pressure, I am my daughter’s strongest female role model. She will ultimately look to me for guidance, even when she does not completely agree with me. If I had gone running straight for the eye-shadow and blush, it would have sent a strong message that I define myself by my looks, and that her disapproval of me was serious enough to change my standard practice (I stopped wearing make up regularly a year ago).
Therefore, I have decided to rebel against my daughter. I am going to do the opposite of what she thinks I should do. Not because she pushed my buttons, but because I want her to know that my priority is for me to be happy with the way I look – not for others to be happy with it.
Although I have not worn make-up regularly for over a year, my online images showed me wearing it. I took a new bare-faced photo that looks pleasing enough and I uploaded it my Facebook and Google profiles. I put my few cosmetics in the back of a closet, only to be brought out for super special occasions, like weddings, so that I don’t attract too many stares. I’m making a point here, that I love the way I look even with my wrinkles and spotty skin, not to mention a notable lack of eyebrows and pale eye lashes.
There are other things that I am doing to teach my daughter about the integrity of inner beauty, but I also want to be careful not to undermine her own personal values. I refuse to say negative things about make-up, because I know that she likes it.
The message I want her to learn is to be confident in who she is, and if I put down something that she feels is wonderful, I would be putting her down as well – and that would be an ugly thing to do.
Destany Fenton, Author of They Are All of Me
Destany is an artist who works from home while raising her four kids, who range in age from teens to littles. A self proclaimed cheapskate and “maker-queen,” her do-it-yourself attitude compels her to promote self-education, frugality, and taking responsibility for our global community. She is attentive to her children and works to foster and maintain a deep connection with each one, while finding harmony within herself and remembering to take time for her husband. When she is not painting, cooking, gardening, knitting or playing with her kids – even the big ones, she is blogging about her life at They Are All of Me, where she shares crafts, recipes, and crazy mama mishaps that are bound to crop up when living with pets, teenagers and little ones.