Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Non-political corner: a woman goes out with no make-up

I travel make-up free on long haul flights and am confronted with the 'real me' in the mirror of the creepily lit plane toilet. Beauty is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder, as Harry might have noticed when he thoughtfully popped round yesterday to bring me a a carton of milk and some Jaffa cakes as I caught up with my post Canada sleep. Here's a woman from the Times

The morning passes uneventfully and most of the women I see on the bus, or on Oxford Street, don't seem to be wearing make-up either. When I catch sight of myself in the mirrored lift at the BBC I realise that I look a bit rough - luckily I am doing only radio - but apart from that, I don't really think about it again. It is only when Gill the photographer from The Times turns up and shoves her giant lens practically up my nose that I begin to feel stressed and self-conscious. The closer she comes to me, the closer I come to punching her lights out.

Later, I telephone the clinical psychologist Dr Cecilia d'Felice. She is very sympathetic. “Women wear make-up because it makes them look and feel more attractive and there is something very masochistic about forcibly stripping that away and not allowing yourself some protection. It's human nature.”

I totally agree. I've left my make-up bag at home in the interests of the experiment, but a quick trip to Boots and five minutes in front of a mirror puts a smile on my face again.

I lasted all of three hours without my “face” on, and it cost me fifty quid to feel normal again. Rather than liberated, I felt robbed of the right to make the most of myself and I suddenly understood why the Miss Naked Beauty contestants felt so vulnerable. To be honest, I feel disappointed in myself. Why can't I love my unadorned face? To compound my sense of failure, when I speak to psychologist Oliver James, he tells me that the credit crunch will make me think twice about the amount I spend on unnecessary cosmetics. He believes that the recession will challenge women such as me to distinguish between real “need” and the artificial “want”.


phyllis said...

The time I spend putting on makeup is the most relaxing part of my day. Everything drops away; kiddo needs, work hassles, commuting agro - none of that matters for 20 blissful minutes. I love it.

California Dreamer said...

I agree with the financial analysis. When I'm flush, a splurge on a fresh eyeshadow or lipstick gives me an emotional boost. When money is tight, I carefully weigh my needs. A splurge just adds stress, but I will buy the tinted moisturizer when I run out because I need it.

"Why can't I love my unadorned face?" The same reason we don't walk around naked, speaking our minds and scratching ourselves in rude places. We have a public self. We try to look and act as pleasantly as possible because we are social creatures who want to be accepted in the society in which we live. Truthfully, I sometimes feel a sense of failure when I haven't made the effort. Am I some kind of sociopath who doesn't care about being accepted?

Maybe we're just programmed to be self-critical.

susanna said...

Sure, I want makeup, I don't need it. I want lots of things. I need very a few. But putting a bit of makeup on makes me feel better about myself, and I'd rather cut out other things rather than stop buying makeup.

I wonder what a female psychologist would have said.

Suze said...

I'm 52 and I very rarely wear make-up - I wear lipstick for the occasional big event. So I'm very used to being in public in my unadorned face and have no worries or self-consciousness about it. It makes me feel a bit sad that it's such a big deal for so many women.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it depends what you mean by makeup. For work I always use eyeliner and mascara but I rarely bother at weekends, unless I am going out. Foundation etc is a relative rarity - I tend only to fall back on it when I look or feel really rough and need a layer of protection against the world. I wear it to please me, not anyone else and do not feel naked or vulnerable without it. I am 52, and find people are surprised by my age.

desertwind said...

I wonder how much our relationship with makeup after we reach a certain age is a reflection of the makeup we wore (or didn't) when we didn't need it?

I was always in a world where foundation was kind of uncool if it was just used as makeup.

I didn't wear makeup in my teens because I went from hippie-feminist to feminist-feminist. In my twenties, it was multi-colored boho-intellectual-punk statement makeup. In thirties it was just eyelids & bright red lipstick.

Now that I'm in my fifties, I just wear a little lipstick when I go out. But, that's partly because I don't know how to use foundation, etc!

Anonymous said...

i went through a period in highschool where I never left the house without makeup. that lasted for about a year and then I stopped caring. haha! Now I barely wear any makeup and im 26 and feel comfortable not really having anything on but concealer! but when im on a date or a night out with the girls then I'll put some on to look more polished. otherwise tho, i'd loose more sleep doing it. haha :)