"What was your high school prom like?" my friend asked me one evening after we had finished going through photos of her own prom night, "Do you have pictures?"
"Yes I do," I replied, browsing through my computer's image folders, opening the one containing the photos of my high school prom, and enlarging an image of myself taken that night. In the picture, I was wearing my flowing white prom dress, my hair done up in an elaborate bun, my eyes framed with black eyeliner and mascara, my cheeks rouged, and my lips glossed.
My friend's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. "WHOA!"
"What?" I inquired with a chuckle.
"You looked gorgeous!" She exclaimed, "I mean, I know you don't wear makeup now because you don't have time and stuff, but wow! You looked so pretty!"
My eyebrows could not have been more glued to my hairline. I had a good mind to ask her whether she thought I looked ugly in my everyday life, but I decided to let it go with another uncomfortable chuckle and a "Yeah, I clean up nicely."
I should have told her that the real reason I don't wear makeup is not that I "don't have time and stuff," but that I don't have the desire to wear it or want to make time to put it on; that I feel completely fine without wearing makeup and that the act of doing so makes me feel uncomfortable and alien in my own skin; that I, and a whole lot of other people, don't need makeup to feel put-together.
Allow me to be clear about one thing: In writing this article, I do not, by any means, intend to shame individuals (I don't say 'women' specifically here because I know men who wear makeup as well) who wear makeup. I am a firm believer that people should do what makes them feel best and most confident in their own skin, whether that is dressing a certain way, wearing makeup, or getting plastic surgery, as long as it's not hazardous to their health. I am here to chastise those who believe that women should wear makeup to look and feel beautiful.
One of the biggest reasons why I don't wear makeup is that I'm just not used to it. Growing up, my mother would tell my older sister and me that we did not need makeup, that we were too young for it. "Enjoy your youth," she would tell us, "there is an age for everything. Right now, you don't need to try to look older than you are. One day, you'll regret it."
I will admit that there was a time, in middle school and early high school, that I wanted to wear makeup. I would take advantage of my school's Halloween costume parties and family friends' weddings to put on makeup with my mother's permission. Nevertheless, when I looked at photos of myself afterwards, it felt like I was looking at a stranger. Why did I wear makeup to prom, then? Because I felt like I had to in order to fit in with everyone else.
Today, as a 5 foot tall twenty-year old who routinely gets mistaken for a high school freshman, one would think I'd give makeup a go. However, I have become so comfortable without makeup that wearing it makes me feel as if I'm not me anymore. Some people claim that makeup makes them feel better and more confident about themselves. I say, good for them. That is not the case for me, and for lots of other women out there as well.
We talk about the women who are shamed for wearing makeup, but we hardly broach the subject of those who are shamed for not wearing it. Especially in professional settings, women are expected to look a certain way, and one who decides to forgo donning makeup is considered 'sloppy' or 'unprofessional,' or even as not taking their job seriously. The sad reality is that the same individuals who shame women for wearing makeup also shame them for how 'unpleasant' they look without it.
We have all heard the joke or anecdote about the man who took a beautiful woman home one night only to realize the next morning, when her makeup had been soiled or taken off, that she looked completely different, possibly even 'ugly.' To that, the only response I have is that he or she who expects a person to look the same with and without makeup is an utter fool.
It's not a bad thing to wear makeup. If it makes you feel beautiful, empowered, and/or more confident and comfortable with the way you look, by all means, wear it. However, if you wear makeup just to live up to a societal standard of beauty, know that you're not doing yourself any favors. If you don't wear makeup at all and you feel good about yourself that way, who the hell cares about what other people say? This is not a question of external beauty; but of what makes one feel best.
Perhaps I will change my mind in the future. Perhaps I will one day find that sense of empowerment and beauty that comes with wearing makeup. For now, though, I'm pretty darn happy.
And that's totally fine.