Nothing to Hide

So many videos go viral these days, I rarely pay attention. While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed this one caught my eye. It’s a makeup advertisement (and a few years old it seems). The company asked the most tattooed man in the world – every inch of his body is covered in ink, including his face (which is tattooed to appear like a skull) – if they could use him to pimp their cover-up. The results are quite impressive; you’d never be able to tell he had a tattoo, let alone being covered in them.

But what caught my eye most was the following comment on the blog where I first saw the video: “I’m no woman, but it looks like pretty effective makeup to me.”

I am a woman. And while I can admit to being impressed by the power of this concealer, I’m rather annoyed by the presentation. As if we’ve been elbowed in the side and told, by the way, this product will cover all your flaws. This is exactly the narrative makeup companies try to sell women, and it dismays me to see men buying into it. I don’t consider myself a feminist; I’m not here to give a lecture on equality.

Let’s talk instead about body image instead.

I don’t wear makeup. I don’t have a very positive self-image either (and not surprisingly, the two might be related). I wore makeup on my wedding day, not a lot, but that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Aside from costume makeup on Halloween, I’m pretty sure I haven’t worn makeup in the ten years since. I was never a ‘girly’ girl. In high school, I painted my nails to keep myself from biting them. I owned a few tubes of lipstick, but I never wore any. I never played around with makeup. I still don’t really know how to apply it.

I’ve never liked the way makeup feels on my face. As soon as it’s on me, I want to scratch it off. The best description I can think of is ‘caked on.’ I don’t want that thick, icky goo all over me. Or the dust. I don’t like the smell. And, much as I’m not fond of my unaltered appearance, I’m pretty sure I like how I look even less when I’m wearing makeup.

Because that isn’t me.

All I can think while I watch this video is look how thick that crap is and it’s going to take him forever to get all that crap off of him.

In the wake of recent events, there’s a lot of talk about women and our place in the world. Many make the valid point that women are taught from a young age that how they look is important. You have to dress for success. You have to wear your hair the right way and paint your face to make it more appealing. Success requires all of these factors, perfectly executed every day if you want to reach lofty heights.

The truth is, I’m too lazy to get up an extra half hour early and cake myself in makeup. The truth is, I don’t want to spend an hour getting ready to go to dinner or visit friends.

But it’s deeper than that. My face is part of who I am. It might not be the prettiest face, but it is mine (and my husband is quite fond of it). If you don’t like the way I look, don’t associate with me. I’m not going to smear crap (which is bad for you by the way) all over my face to make you like me. I’m more than capable of doing my job without the glittery eye-shadow and mascara. Those things have nothing to do with my skill.

I saw a post on tumblr recently asking people to view human bodies the same way we view at flowers. It was an interesting comparison to the kinds of ‘blemishes’ often concealed by makeup or ridiculed if left uncovered. When did the natural appearance of the body become taboo? Pair that with the recent photoshopping of classic nude paintings to fit the modern concept of ‘beauty’ and you start to realize how unrealistic our expectations are.

No one can match today’s ideal of beautiful because the ideal is ridiculous. Human bodies simply aren’t made to look that way and be healthy.

I rant a lot about the ‘ideal of beauty’ the media pushes on women from the time they hit puberty. And men aren’t exempt from this damaging campaign. Is it any wonder so many teenage girls end up with anorexia when the models used to craft the height of fashion are always one step away from the hospital for starvation? Cover your flaws, we tell young people. Wear masks to convince people you’re better than you can be alone. Use our product to help.

We need to start being proud of who we are. Without the goop, without the masks and without the photoshop brushes. Is it great that we can conceal markings if we really want to? Certainly. But we shouldn’t feel obligated to do so.

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