To the woman who told me I could be pretty if I wore makeup,
I don’t know you but it will be a long time before I forget your face. We passed each other in the grocery store. We were going opposite ways down each aisle, apparently at an even pace as we kept meeting halfway down each row. Finally, you and I were stopped in front of the meat counter and over the romantic hum of florescent lights you said “You could be so pretty if you just covered up those lines”. Your finger was so close to my face I was seeing double by I knew where you were pointing and it was to what I refer to affectionately as my laugh lines. Yes, affectionately. In fact, you probably first noticed them because my three year old had me nearly doubled over with one of her customary one liners. She makes me laugh and smile every day. I have earned those lines.
I’m an eternal optimist, so bear with me. There are a couple of reasons I’m guessing you might have decided it was your place to tell me what exactly to do with my face. The first is that you appear to be about fifteen years older than me. Maybe you were speaking from experience. Perhaps, you look back on pictures of yourself at my age and wish you looked more “put together”. I’m young, naive. Maybe not jaded enough to know that you might just be right by most people’s reasoning. The other is that someone older and “wiser” once told you that in order to be beautiful you had to be perfect. If that’s why, then I’m sorry someone misinformed you.
I like to think your backhanded compliment came from a place of caring but it still wasn’t appropriate. My daughter was sitting in the front of the cart and she was listening very intently. I could see her watching our interaction. Her eyes bouncing from my face to yours and back again. She is by nature very observant and constantly asks questions, as most children her age are and do. Her ears are always open and her mind is expanding exponentially. She is as close to a sponge as a little girl can get and she heard what you said to me. She has big blue eyes and blonde curls but her worth is rooted in much more than how she looks on the outside. I never want her to think her intelligence, her integrity, her openness to new people and situations, or her curiosity are less important than how she appears in the mirror. I want…no. I need her to know she is beautiful without having to rouge her cheeks or gloss her lips.
My face is not perfect. I have scars from sports incidents and dog bites. I am not symmetrical nor am I anyone’s standard of beauty by I am lucky each part of it is in working order so I get to experience the world to the fullest of my abilities. My eyes are blue like my mother’s. Now my daughter shares them with us. I look at her and I see myself reflected there. They allow me to have entire conversations with my husband without ever saying a single world. They absorb fine art in museums and street art on the brick buildings of Berlin. My face is full and my cheeks are a little round. They are just right for feeling a cool spring breeze or those first hesitant drops of rain. My nose was made for smelling fresh clipped grass, chocolate chip cookies, baby’s breath, and the popcorn scent of my dogs’ paws. My mouth is big. It is rarely closed. Often my crooked teeth are exposed to the elements of your distaste as I cry out against the social injustice so prevalent in this world or smile at its unabashed beauty and charm.
Maybe it’s time we, as women, start seeing our bodies as a vehicle for our unique human experiences instead of a part of ourselves upon which we precariously balance our worth, starve ourselves to perfect, and spend precious time finding new and inventive ways to cover. My body is strong. It gives me the opportunity to explore, to learn, to grow, to connect, and to reach out. I have no issues with makeup. In fact, I actually think it can be an artistic medium in the right hands and have, on occasion, added some sparkle to my eyelids. My problem with it stems from the belief that women need to literally paint over their face and find new ways to remove all the qualities that make each of us individuals . The cosmetics industry is a multi-billion dollar business which is built on top of the mountain of women’s insecurities.
You are enough. Without covering your face. Without starving yourself or obsessing over one too many cookies. Without Nair and a never-ending series of disposable razors. Without pinching at muffin tops or squeezing into pants one size too small. Your worth is not found in the un-clumped application of mascara or the bold swoop of eyeliner across a lid pulled taunt. You won’t find it behind the Spanx at Macy’s or on a shelf at Sephora. Instead, it is tucked gently inside of your humanity, waiting to be discovered.
All my best, Rachel
Written by Rachel Brandt