Four years ago, I wrote a poem titled “Mask”–featuring one repeating line at the start of each stanza: “Why, little darling, must you paint your face?”
In my poem, I alluded to makeup as a “disgrace” (albeit mostly to rhyme with “face”), and I recklessly shoved it into the ineffable category of “Other Awful Afflictions”– parallelling it to anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphia and self-mutilation disorder.
My pre-teen self, with a thesaurus in one hand and a sharpened pencil grasped in the other, was yet unable to grasp onto the admittedly fuzzy lines separating proud defiance and brutish ignorance.
“Why keep your skin painted, tinted and dyed when it will always remain a mess under this false finesse?” In every rhyme was an accusation, and I was the self-appointed commander of war against what I believed to be the ultimate byproduct of female oppression.
I didn’t think things through. I didn’t know I was claiming the title of a “female rights activist” while weaving a message of internalized misogyny. And I failed to foretell that what I said then would deem my current self a hypocrite.
Because now, I too, “paint” my face. And I won’t say it isn’t at least a tiny bit because I am insecure (it is), but it’s definitely not because I’ve developed a crippling dependency on “tracing my features and laminating my skin.”
Although I believe it is sickening that women are measured by mirrors and not by merit, I believe even more that everyone’s choice in their makeup regime (or lack thereof) should be contingent on what they want for themselves.
In no way should anyone feel the need to construct a visage upon their face unless doing so makes them happy. “Should” is a word that puts this strange unwarranted pressure on us to comply to what other people believe is best for us, and in this case, what society believes is the best optimal “look.”
But if dusting on some blush and curling your eyelashes every morning can put a smile on your face or a sparkle in your eye, why not do that? It’s not the act itself defines you, it’s the reason behind it. Like with any other thing in the world, it’s possible to have an unhealthy, obsessive relationship with makeup.
But that doesn’t mean that makeup itself is evil.
Four years since I’ve written that elaborate lament of a poem, I can say that I have had a substantial change in perception, both outwardly and inwardly.
One might even say that I have matured. This right now is simply me trying to take a dip into the deep end of an otherwise shallow topic (say as you will, but eyeshadow is barely radical).
In the end, whether you want to see makeup as an artistic expression, as an individuality enhancer, as a confidence booster or as entirely unnecessary is up to you, and I’m definitely not going to write another pretentious poem to shame you for what you do.
Today, I too, “paint” my face. And that’s okay.