I started wearing make-up early in life.
At first, I had to wear it for the ballet performances I was in. My ballet teacher lived and breathed dance, and because she had been a prima ballerina in the “old country”, she demanded perfection of all of us. We were not only to dance in unison, but we also had to look like carbon copies of each other. So, we were all made up in ballerina fashion with dark eyeliner, pink cheeks and rouged mouths.
The difference was amazing. Like magic, we were transformed from gawky pre-teens into lovely “swans”.
For me, it was like putting on a mask and feeling the painfully shy version of me disappearing. She was replaced by a confident looking stranger. It was a heady feeling and I loved it. Putting on make-up allowed me to hide my outer self, the one I felt was colorless and drab and had nothing to offer the world.
Soon, I began wearing a little make-up on the days we weren’t performing too.
But, wearing even “a little” make up can take you down a slippery slope and that’s what happened to me. Soon, I was spending way too long in the mornings “doing my face”. I started getting up earlier just to put make up on before school. And, like a drug addict, I began carrying cosmetics in my purse and retreating to the bathroom between classes to touch up my face. It began to consume me, but I couldn’t quit.
I think people assume that those of us who wear make-up every day are egotistical. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I learned to accept my painted face, I considered my natural one to be too ugly to take out in public. I could look at others and appreciate their natural beauty, but I couldn’t see any in myself.
And so, I continued to be held captive by my make-up bag.
I stopped going to slumber parties because I didn’t want my friends to see me without make-up. When my friends wanted to gather and do our make up together before a function, I made an excuse and did mine at home.
As the years went by, I was still a slave to cosmetics. At women’s retreats I’d get up before everyone else to shower and put on my face. I put on make-up to clean the house, to do errands, to get the mail and even to garden in my backyard (you never know when someone might drop by!). I put on make up to exercise and to have my babies.
I lived in fear of anyone seeing my unadorned face.
In recent years I’ve worked hard in counseling to battle that inner voice that tells me I am ugly. And, I’ve come a long way. But, I still wear make-up every day. There are only a very few people who have seen me without it. I am blessed that I only see love in my husband’s eyes when he looks at me, with or without make-up. And, my kids have of course seen my naked face too. But, that’s about it.
So, when I had to have surgery recently and was told I couldn’t wear make-up for a week, you can imagine the panic I felt. I not only had to see a multitude of health care workers and doctors on the day of the surgery, but I had to return a number of times for follow-up appointments, all without make-up.
I felt horribly exposed and vulnerable.
As the day of surgery progressed, a funny thing happened: I forgot I wasn’t wearing make up! People treated me kindly and didn’t seem put-off by my natural face. No one was screaming and pointing and running away. By the second day I was striking up conversations with fellow patients and when it was time to go home I even asked my husband if we could go out for lunch!
I’m kind of enjoying the extra time I have in the mornings now and I love being able to take a rest without ending up with “raccoon eyes”.
And while I’m sure I’ll return to wearing make-up when this week is over, I think I’ll start trying to cut back. Maybe I’ll try going out with just a bit of lip gloss or some blush and see what happens.
And, who knows? Perhaps one day I will even feel brave enough to get the mail with a bare face!
A girl can dream!