My love affair with make-up began when I was seven or eight years old. Friends would come home, we’d paint each other’s faces and giggle as we’d look at the result in the mirror. Bright colour spilling over our lips, panda eyes, red circles smudged on our cheeks,we thought we looked beautiful and couldn’t wait to grow into our mothers’ stilettos. Oh, to wear lipstick outside the confines of our bedrooms!
Little did we realise the extent of scrutiny and judgement that awaited.
I grew older faster than anticipated, as we all do, and at college I first started hearing disparaging remarks about girls that ‘decked up’ for a seven a.m. class. ‘How does she get the time?’ they’d snigger. ‘Does she wake up at dawn to paint her face?’
Not wanting to have such comments directed at me, also not having the will power to wake up a millisecond earlier than absolutely necessary, I stayed away from make-up until I was into my twenties, when, after some trial, a lot of error, and endless tutorials by friends (thanks Puja) I finally got it right.
Now, some days I wear a lot, other days, none. While my make-up habits have gone back and forth, attitudes, it seems, have stayed the same. Women are increasingly being targeted for being fake when they wear make-up, and when they don’t, they look ‘tired’. (Code for crap.) The ‘wrong’ shade of red lipstick purportedly makes them appear promiscuous, glitter somehow reaches into their brains, drains them of all sense and objectivity, turns them into instant bimbos. The judgement never stops.
There is another deep-rooted belief that a woman wears make-up because she is ugly, or thinks she is – hence the oft-repeated phrase, “You’re so pretty, you don’t need make-up.” The fact is, there are many ladies who look great the moment they step out of the shower, but still choose to apply make-up – often as an expression of individuality.
Make-up is a work of art. It can help you look bolder, grungy, playful or glamorous. It can make you look brighter, alert and awake, (and conceal the fact you cried yourself to sleep the previous night). Indeed, the perfect shade of red lipstick can even make you look intimidating. On the other hand, a bare look is pretty in its own way. It makes you look young, innocent – a look men may like on women, but women may not necessarily like on themselves.
This brings me to another point – women do not, and never have, worn make-up for men, and you just need to hang around outside a girls-only college for proof. A woman’s love affair with make-up is a culmination of her relationship with her mirror, and in this alliance, men lag far, far behind. Poll after poll shows that men prefer women without make-up, but look around… does it seem like women care?
Whether you choose to wear make-up or not, every woman should be able to make her own choice without being subject to judgement or ridicule, however subtle. No one should tell you what an acceptable level of modification is. Your face, your body. You get to decide how far you’re willing to go in this relentless pursuit of beauty. Whether you go bare-faced, flaunt grey locks with pride, highlight your hair, change your eye colour, put glitter on your lids or contour your face, its all good, and if it provides you with a healthy dose of confidence, it’s positive. However, if looking good starts becoming an obsession and takes away from other aspects of your life like your health and your relationship, you need to step back.
There are women who cannot imagine stepping out of the house without make-up. They feel incomplete. Do give yourself a break from make-up every once in a while and learn to appreciate the natural you, for you’re beautiful both with and without the artwork on your face.
Having said that, a little lipstick never hurt nobody!