It’s two months into lockdown and I’m looking at my bare face while videocalling a friend. This is the longest I’ve been without makeup since I started wearing it at 18 and I’m getting…….used to it, used to seeing my actual face and features without any manually applied beauty filters. ‘Can you please tell me why you’re using a global pandemic as an excuse to look so bad these days’. Bitch. Makeup is one of those subjects that splits feminists – is it political, neo-colonialist, genocide-enabling? Probably all of those things. But the worst thing that has happened in recent years is the rebranding of makeup as something you do for yourself, to make yourself feel good, and not for other people.
I once said to a group of women I work with that I wear makeup in the hopes of garnering some of that elusive male attention and it prompted much liberal feminist hyperventilating. That’s awful one said, that’s maybe the worst thing I’ve heard today said another. Why not, I argue back, why would I enhance my outward appearance for….myself? It really makes no sense this notion that it is anti-feminist or submissive to decorate yourself for men.
Makeup acolytes argue that enhancing attractiveness for other people can be a tangential benefit sure but it can’t be the sole reason – the overarching impetus must be that you’re wearing makeup for yourself, to make yourself feel better and empowered. Anyone who says this is lying to themselves and is not to be trusted. It is better to acknowledge that everything we do in life is an attempt to be loved a little bit more and this is no different. In fact, it’s more honest and honourable to announce that you’re doing it in the hopes of attracting someone than living in a regressive delusion that you’re doing it to make yourself feel better, which sounds borderline pathological. The difference between wearing makeup for yourself and wearing it for other people is the same as that between vanity and narcissism, one is harmless the other is malignant and alienating.
One of my coworkers asks why I wear makeup to work. I work in an all female office, it’s awful, the hopes of getting any male attention are slim to none. As I said, it’s the worst. I explain that it’s like Gatsby throwing parties all the time in the hope that Daisy would show up. ‘So you wear makeup in the hope that a man might show up?’ my friend asks. ‘And that’s not pathological?’ Listen if Idris Elba happened to be in DHA Phase 1 that day let’s just say I wouldn’t be thinking oh thank God I’m so glad I wore makeup for myself today. The conversation always then progresses to its natural end point which is that ‘women should just have the choice’ ugh, the worst form of liberal terrorism. Whenever someone says this the truth is they couldn’t find an opinion even if they were given its exact googlemaps location and an ETA. The beauty economy is now worth over $500 billion globally, there’s no choice, you are ‘supposed’ to be wearing makeup – but the only choice you have is whether you can admit that the reasons you’re doing this are not to make you feel good about yourself, they’re to enhance your attractiveness in the hopes of conning someone into loving you. It’s the only honest thing to do.
I’m walking into a bakery with my friend, I hadn’t realised they were an essential service and open during lockdown. We’re talking about the current Sino-Indian conflict and the possible implications for Pakistan. Just kidding. We’re talking about men and how we hate flying and men and how all our favourite restaurants are shut and men and vivid coronavirus dreams and men. As we enter we’re told to wear our masks properly and we carry on talking. I tell her this is so annoying, I can’t see your facial expressions. She replies, but I never have any facial expressions. That’s true. I’ve probably seen her laugh maybe twice. I know what you’re thinking: oh no she’s going for the pithy ‘the makeup mask is being replaced by an actual mask’ conclusion. Well you’re right. The truth is that both of these masks are for other people, one is to keep them safe the other is to keep them interested.
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