I was going to talk about the bowl of noodles I had for dinner, because they were pretty good and fairly inspiring, but I found a better tangent. Even though noodles are great, they’re better in Italy. With friends. And wine and cheese. And some gelato to finish it off.
And then there’s beauty, a totally unrelated but completely relevant subject. What is beauty? Who defines it? Do we see it in ourselves? Does it require maintenance? The answer is that I don’t have the answer. This fall has been my biggest battle with mascara, and I can’t really say why, of all times in my life, I have started to question everything I believe about makeup and appearance, but let’s just roll with it. It’s a season of change.
Until this past fall, I have religiously worn mascara and concealer every single day for ten years. That includes a summer of working as a baker (i.e. getting covered in flour and sugar and sweat every single day) and a month of volunteering in an African village without running water or electricity (again, sweaty, smelly, overall not pretty) and so many trips to Young Life camps were no sleep was to be had. And I wore mascara every single one of those days. Can we just take a step back and absorb that?
Putting on mascara doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and it’s not so much about the actual mascara (because let’s be honest, it makes me look super awake and bright-eyed compared to my normally invisible blonde lashes). It’s mainly about the insecurity that it covers. The world that I grew up in and around impressed upon me at an early age that I had to wear mascara and makeup to just look decent. Meaning that I was considered indecent without mascara. My makeup-free face was unacceptable to the public. This train of thought continues into a downward spiral full of false notions that all add up to: Makeup = beauty, and Natural = the lack of beauty.
Oh boy, and this is where it gets messy. By feeling obligated to put on mascara every single day, I have allowed myself to become a slave to it. That’s right, I’ve allowed an inanimate object (albeit, a great one) hold power over my self-confidence and self-worth. I promise this isn’t something I would choose in my right mind, but it’s something that I accepted as a cultural norm, the idea that mascara and makeup in general is a standard uniform for a woman’s face. No shirt, no shoes, no makeup, no service. Or no beauty. And the beauty part is what really makes me sad, because I know so many beautiful women who are slaves to makeup just like I am. I don’t think I have an influential female role model who doesn’t wear makeup every single day. I can probably count on one hand the women in my life who go free of makeup.
When I think of beauty in a woman, I think of one instance in particular where one of my makeup-free friends sat next to a high school girl who shared her story of a troubled childhood and poor parental relationship. And as that vulnerable high school girl shared her pain and cried, my friend cried and prayed along with her. It’s hard to describe, but when I saw her, it was one of the most moving things ever. I thought to myself, ‘this is real beauty – this vulnerability, this emotion and outpouring of love.’ That’s all to really say, a woman’s heart is the most beautiful thing about her. And that facial symmetry and full lips and long lashes are overrated, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Just to be clear here – I have not thrown away all of my makeup forever. I just use it less frequently. The very first day I went without makeup, I felt like everyone was staring at me (they weren’t) and that I looked like an alien (I didn’t). The second time was a little better, and I made myself keep skipping makeup at least one day a week, then two, then three, and now I average wearing makeup only 3 or 4 days a week. Sometimes less or more. I generally wear my glasses if I don’t wear makeup, it’s just one of those security blanket things. If I’m feeling really brave I will wear contacts on my makeup-free day. And on the days that I choose to wear makeup, it’s a little bit of a confidence boost, something special, and makes me feel pretty, not just average. It used to be that my makeup-face was average, but now it’s just my plain (young) face. My perfectly average face. I am learning to see it as beautiful, and that’s a pretty cool thing.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you.
Song of Songs 4:7, In case you were wondering, this is what God thinks of your beauty. So hold on to that truth. And try going a day without mascara. I triple-dog-dare you. It might change your life, or at least your view of beauty. In a society like ours, I think we should all be challenging our view of beauty. And giving our real faces some grace.