When Rachel White contacted me last week and invited me to participate in No Makeup Week, I jumped at it. On a blog that explores fashion in an area where we are routinely lied to and told we’re not beautiful (plus-size) removing not a lie, but defensive warpaint, seemed like a fitting move.
The picture above is me, yesterday, wearing not a single smear of makeup. That’s how my face looks. That’s my real coloring. That really is my skin. There’s no Photoshop. As I looked in the car mirror today amidst my errands, I realized I’m long overdue for a facial.
An odd fact about me? I only began regularly wearing makeup at age 31. I did wear in in high school, and junior high, but never daily. Yet strangely, I collected. I owned a ton of makeup – and wore virtually none of it. I think the same personality tweak that causes me to wander liquor stores just staring at the beautiful bottle and label designs also prompted me to purchase makeup and perfume. In high school, classes started at 7:30, and the less I had to do, the better. I would wear moisturizer and head out into the day – fortunately, zits came upon me rarely, one of the Divine’s little trade-offs for life as a fat kid in a socially bizarre position.
In my 20s I went hippie. Hippies didn’t do much makeup in the late 90s. Also, I was in my 20s, and therefore, broke. Even drugstore makeup costs a chunk, so aside from whatever I needed to avoid physical pain in the winter (generally lip balm and moisturizer) I just went without. Looking back, it may actually explain a few promotions that I didn’t get in the customer service job I worked. It was partly my hippie/fringe religion thing (values I still have, for the sake of full disclosure) and ultimately it really did come down to my appearance.
I started wearing makeup more at age 31, shortly before I started Fat Chic. Why? I was working in a company that served Fortune 500s, and I discovered that a little eye shadow made my female superiors much more courteous to me. When I took the time to give myself a manicure, they went from courteous to out-and-out friendly. My male colleagues remained oblivious to all but my performance, but the female coworkers – those who controlled my career destiny – visibly changed their attitudes based on my appearance.
Freaky. Most people with my values and spiritual outlook would get upset. But I’m a pragmatist, and I saw this discovery as a tool. It finally hit home. Clothing and appearance is its own language, especially among women. It’s not right, and I’m willing to bet that the women I worked with weren’t even conscious that their attitudes were the ones that changed. In fact, the most difficult and demanding coworker passed along word to my boss that she “Really appreciated how I turned around my attitude.” I hadn’t changed my behavior at all – except to put on makeup in the morning.
Now, working for myself, it’s a bit different. Because I started this blog I do feel a little self-conscious if I wander out of my apartment in my yoga pants and a tank top. Still, it’s not like I get on-the-street recognition. Even so, the last few months I’ve found myself checking the mirror before I go out, thinking “Hm, maybe just a little mascara.”
Part of this is my age. I bought a wrinkle cream for the first time last month, and my husband commenting on my laugh lines (he finds them lovely) caused me to self-consciously run for a bottle of eye moisturizer. Part of this new concern about makeup is writing for this blog for three and a half years now. Part of it is also the message I want to send – if I must deal with the competitive types, I need a strong first move, and that move comes from my appearance.
But if you strip off the war paint and fashion, you see the real me. There I am, above this post, friendly and sometimes guileless to my own detriment. Imperfect. But really, pretty OK.