I face the mirror with makeup brush in hand and my 4-month old daughter beside me. She sits in her favorite chair and watches me with a mixture of interest and awe. I look back at her, my innocent baby who, to me, embodies perfection in a 16 pound package.
I gaze down at her face and think of the questions she'll likely ask me one day, and the assumptions she may make about my actions and habits. I wonder what I will tell her when one day she asks "Why do you wear makeup Mommy?" Possible answers run through my head.
Do I tell her that I wear makeup as a way to make myself look pretty? Or would telling her that seem like I was trying to convince her that physical attractiveness should be a woman's main goal life? Should I tell her it's to cover up things we sometimes feel insecure aboutin our appearance? Or would that subconsciously suggest that parts of her might too be bad to be honest about? Then I switch gears: do I start by telling her about social expectations about women and objectification, and the role feminism should play in her life? Or would that further confuse her in the process?
In other words, my question became this: how do I answer this question without promoting the double standards, contradictions and insidious feminine oppression created by our Disney-princess-promoting, hyper-image-conscious and patriarchal society?
To answer my question, I went back to basics, asking myself what my ultimate intentions are. In short, I want to be able to give my daughter an honest answer that is also empowering.
That intention sounds simple enough, and yet I realize that I don't even really know my own answer for why I wear makeup. I too am in need for an answer that is empowering.
I found myself pondering this recently as I read David Deida's book Blue Truth. In it, he explains that "the feminine is excruciatingly sensitive to the way adornments can serve to amplify or diminish … your heart's display of light." Reading this, something clicked. My answer came to me. The feminine power within me loves to be adored and adorned. I put on makeup as part of self-celebration. A celebration of what I am at my core — beauty, light, love.
I don't wear makeup to make myself look better or to cover myself up. I do it because it's available to me as something fun and whimsical. Think about other kinds of adornments and decorations in other walks of life: we celebrate achievements and holidays with parties, gifts and decorations — all of which are intended to enhance the joy and positive energy of the celebration.
In other words, garlands and banners bring something tangible and glitzy to a fun event. It's the same with makeup. The achievement of simply being is a wonder in and of itself. So the celebration of makeup, if you desire it, can simply honor and enrich your daily experience and make it fun. But again: only if you want to.
As long as honesty is on the table, though, I'll admit that I sometimes wear makeup because it is expected in certain situations, and/or because I feel the sting of comparison. It can be challenging living in a culture that places such a high value on appearance — particularly for women. I am no spiritual saint who is completely immune to societal pressures. I try to be adaptable and compassionate with myself during these moments, not feeling a pressure to make all my actions and behaviors match my purely political and philosophical belief system.
But on the days when I desire to wear makeup — and they are not every day — it often brings me joy and good old fashioned fun to enhance the radiance of my skin as a reflection of the radiance that I am. I enjoy adorning my face as an expression of my love for who I am and the love that I am. It brings me pleasure to highlight the sparkle in my eyes and the flush in my cheeks which are products of the delight I experience in my life. I feel powerful and passionate in a strong red lipstick — because I am powerful and passionate at my core. I feel glowing and luminous with a bronzed and dewy complexion — because I am glowing and luminous at the center of my being. I am these things too when I am bared faced. I see the makeup as a visual amplification of what is inside.
Of course, not everyone can or should agree with the way I feel about makeup. But this is how I see it, and I think it is both honest and empowering. So if and when my wonderful daughter asks me why I wear makeup, I'll answer simply: because who I am is love and light. It feels fun to celebrate what is inside by decorating the outside sometimes. There's no pressure to do this, and there are no right answers. So tell me, daughter of mine, what feels fun and good to you? What would display your heart's light? Let's go do that.
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