War Paint

I started wearing make-up around the age of 12/13. And it almost always looked terrible because my Mom believed in letting us make mistakes and so I just layered on foundation and occasionally blue eye shadow which made me look exceptionally sickly and, on occasion, like an actual ghost. (Side note: Sheesh Mom, I know you wanted us to be independent but couldn’t you have given me even 1 make-up lesson??)

To this day, make-up, though I generally like the way it looks now that I know how to use it, still makes me feel….ummmm….insufficient? Like the way I look isn’t good enough? Something along those lines although I can’t quite find the right word for it. And recently I was thinking about that and it reminded me of how my Grandfather always calls make-up “war paint”.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 12.13.21 PM

And even though I think he means it as a joke, it really does feel like that sometimes. Going to a wedding where you will be seeing an ex? Interviewing for a new job? Going on a blind date? Just waking up in the morning and facing the day? All of these things can feel like going to war and instead of weapons and armor, women use make-up to prepare and protect themselves against whatever they’re facing that day. Make-up makes us feel strong, makes us feel beautiful, makes us feel powerful. makes us feel SUFFICIENT.

But, isn’t that some bullshit? Why can’t we feel that way as our natural selves, wrinkles and pimples and all? Why do I feel so much better about my capabilities when my under-eye circles areย camouflaged? What the fuck does the way I look have to do with my intelligence, my ambition, my joie de vivre?

And yet….and yet….it does. When I’m war-painted up, I do feel more powerful, more capable, more together.

Gosh damnit, I’m so ashamed to admit that.

– Mae

44 thoughts on “War Paint

  1. It’s not just makeup. I feel more intelligent by putting on a suit than I do in my more traditional shorts, tshirt and flip flops. I’ve also always felt tougher in cowboy boots for some reason! Lol. You women…I’ve told my wife that she looks beatiful without makeup (and not just to save money by eliminating that expense, I meant it) and she told me each time to “shut the f#ck up!” Lol.

  2. I had this difficulty with makeup. I’ve chosen to use that power of confidence to my advantage. We can’t train everyone in this society to not wear makeup, but we can remind them to do it for themselves rather than others!

  3. Love this post. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I go through phases of wearing and not wearing makeup, and I have the same conflicted feelings. I feel so much better, and somehow more…prepared (?) when I’m wearing it…yet sometimes I also feel kind of fake and weird when I have to wipe it all off at the end of the day. But I think you’re right, it really almost feels like a kind of armor at times. And hey, if it gives us a needed boost, I say let’s not feel bad about it.

  4. I have never liked wearing makeup. Since I was a kid, I just never had the inclination. I like the way my face looks by itself and can’t be bothered to waste five minutes of my time every day to make myself look “better.” I only use makeup for stage shows. But I think I understand. It’s not that you feel necessarily lesser when you put on makeup. I think that it’s not like people look at themselves and think “I’m worthless without makeup.” But I think it’s that it makes people look at themselves and think, “That could be improved.” And looking at yourself and thinking about your body and your face (essentially the embodiment of your self) every day in such a way can do some damage. I think it’s about reframing makeup to be about having fun instead of making yourself look “presentable” (as if you, in and of yourself, are somehow not worthy of hanging out with your friends/significant other/going to work).

    And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting power from makeup. At this point I am completely unfazed by any stressful activity I do even if I have a pimple/huge undereye circles (because hey, it’s me, and I’m not afraid to admit that today I have a giant pimple and only slept for four hours to any stranger on the sidewalk because I ain’t ashamed). I don’t really get insecure about it because I got over it long ago. However, I do know that when I get my hair to look good or when I wear a nice shirt I’m like ‘AHAHAHAHAHA MUTHEREFFERS, I AIN’T TAKIN NOO SHIET.” To each their own.

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m working on getting as comfortable without makeup as you are, but it definitely seems to be taking me a while….

  5. God yeah. It’s amazing and disturbing what a little blush does for my self esteem. (Am very pale.) And red lipstick, hell, I can take over the world. It’s inane. I do consciously go one day per week without any makeup at all though, just to keep a hold on reality and not be horrified by my own face the way I know some women are.

    • That’s a great idea! I try and do at least one day without make-up as well. Blush is one of my make-up crutches as well, it just makes me look more alive…

  6. I think we as women,no matter what age you are, need to love & accept ourselves naturally before we do with war paint on. Once that hurdle has been conquered then the rest is easy. I only wear make-up once a week, yes my skin has imperfections but its mine to own. Don’t let make-up make u feel insufficient.

  7. Very true. I like wearing a ‘mask’, even if it is just a slick of eyeliner and some mascara. Makes me feel much more confident. Silly really, but there you go. Plus whenever I go without I get asked if I’m ill!!!!!!!!!

    • Yeah, that’s definitely part of the problem, whenever I don’t have it on people are like “Are you tired? You look tired.” which doesn’t exactly boost my confidence in going without it.

  8. It’s like you’re inside my brain. I’ve never enjoyed wearing make up because it makes me feel fake, but recently I have started wearing more of it because my very bad adult acne was making me feel crappy. I read about a study that says that even if they don’t mean to, people judge others with acne more harshly because they associate it with laziness or being unclean. Some people wear make up to get noticed, and others, like me, wear it so people won’t notice how unfortunate my skin is.

    • Oh no! As a former acne sufferer, I feel your pain. I’m not sure if you’re on any type of regime or not, but washing my face with honey made a HUGE difference in my skin.

      • I do have a routine, but it wasn’t working, so I just recently switched it up to a honey routine! I’m really hoping it does something for my skin. Glad to hear it worked for you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • This may sound crazy, but I cleared up my skin (I’m 40 and adult acne was a problem) using nothing more than raw unfiltered honey. I found out about it from Crunchy Betty. I tried it for 30 days and my skin is now clear and toned. I’ve been using honey for over a year now. I use only honey no other products, moisturizers or anything. I’ll never use anything else.


      All the best1

  9. Before I leave the house, I always say I have to go “put my face on.” I mean it as a joke in that it is ridiculous for me to feel that I have to go change how I look in order to feel comfortable going out. A lot of that has to do with acne that has plagued me since I was 13 (I am now 22). But I have recently found that when I go somewhere without much more than a little cover up, that I actually feel powerful that way too. It’s like I’m rebelling or something.
    Also, I think we as women should compliment each other more. One night, I went down to ask for a package I had received on campus in sweats, a heavy winter coat, and no makeup.,One of the girls I had never met before just looked at me and said, “You’re really pretty.” I was both shocked and pleased. Shocked because it occurred to me that such compliments like that from girl to girl just don’t happen very often. it was lovely.

    • You’re so right! We should absolutely compliment and encourage each other more! Especially since we can’t rely on the rest of the world to tell us we’re pretty without make-up.

  10. When I know I have to go out somewhere, I put off getting ready until the last possible time I could start getting ready to be there on time. This is only because I find it such chore putting on my makeup, but once it is on I feel so much more confident. It’s not that I don’t like my own face, I do. But sometimes it feels nice to look a bit different, because makeup allows us to do that and to sometimes explore our alter egos. That’s the way I see it anyway … I posted about a similar subject not so long ago. Feel free to take a look! http://coldyellowscientist.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/the-naked-truth-do-you-dare-to-go-bare/ ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I actually LOVE make-up, and I consider it a special treat when I have a new product to try out. But, like everyone else, I have some mornings where 15 extra minutes of sleep would be GLORIOUS and I’d prefer to not to have to use that time to apply makeup.

    But, at least as far as work goes, if I ever showed up bare-faced, I’d feel completely unprofessional. I equate not wearing makeup to wearing a wrinkled shirt – not the end of the world, but certainly not ideal. It’s clearly a double standard (why are women expected to beautify themselves but men are acceptable as they are?), but until several other double standards are eliminated from society (I’m advocating for the elimination of high heels), I don’t see the make-up industry suffering any major losses.

    • I feel the exact same way about work! And yes, it makes me mad about the double-standard, but also I really want to keep my job for now.

  12. Nice post. My personal viewpoint is less about having to “cover up” our inadequacies, but more about enhancing our looks to their utmost. Let’s face it … (no pun intended) our society responds most positively to those that look their best. As a result, when we feel our best (for me its wearing a favorite outfit in my “power” combination, red & black) and look our best, then we tend to also be the most dynamic.

    Anywho, that’s how I’ve always viewed it.

    • I think that’s definitely they way a lot of people, including myself (occasionally) view it. I’m just torn as to why I don’t feel my best when I’m all natural…

  13. I sometimes feel badly for women or girls who cannot leave the house without makeup or whose mates have never seen them without it. I was blessed with good skin, though, and I know that helps. Still, I use makeup when I’m performing and I tend to use it when I may run into my Ex — I guess I don’t want to look like I don’t care, or not feminine. Sometimes it seems like so much work — and expense — and time — to be a woman. Seems so unfair. The make-up, the shoes that make us walk unnaturally on our toes, the expense of manicures and pedicures and waxing, etc. We are expected to do so much to be presentable, desirable. We should get paid more.

  14. I haven’t worn any makeup since I was in middle school. I would like to say it’s because I think “war paint” is silly — why women wear and not men, etc. But the truth is, I am incredibly self conscious about the fact that I don’t know how to “do” makeup, so I figure the naked blemishes are better than the misuse of makeup. It’s something I’ve always been embarrassed about.

    • Don’t be embarrassed! It took me ages to learn to do my make-up and I still make mistakes all the time. Play with it if you want to, but if you don’t then wear your natural beauty proudly! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. When I was about 14 or so, I came up with the motto, “When you feel bad, look good”. Despite my very obvious feminist tendencies, I do wear make-up (though not as often as my image concerned mother would like). It helps because when you know you look good, you have confidence. I don’t think it is the make-up that makes me look better, but how the make-up makes me feel. /endrant

    • I don’t think wanting to look feminine makes you less of a feminist. I love that motto, I used to always get a new outfit after a break-up to cheer myself up a bit, and it worked. It definitely worked.

  16. It’s great that you put on your war paint to make yourself feel better and more powerful. Rather than trying to “fake” something, you know?

    I’m not a big make up wearing girl. If there’s a special night out, I’ll slap on some lippie and eye make up. But I’ve never been particularly good at putting on make up, nor do I know what to do really! Aside from eye make up. But the world’s used to me being without. I think my boyfriend’s seen me with make up on once. It does feel a little bit freeing that I don’t feel the need to have to put make up on when I leave the house. I can just have my face be my face.

  17. I’m young and zitty, and I’ve definitely heard women express their mixed feelings about makeup before, but I should point out that it’s not just about looking good or feeling powerful (and it definitely does both of those things). Makeup should be fun the same way choosing an outfit is fun. I get really annoyed when I’m told I’m not hardcore feminist enough (or independent woman enough, etc) to not wear makeup, because it assumes that I’m using it as war paint or because I don’t feel comfortable with myself naturally. I usually just tell them where to shove it in response. There’s nothing wrong or insecure in wanting to cover up a massive zit on a chin (something I did this morning), nor is there anything deceptive about covering up under eye bags or wearing mascara. It’s not good to feel like you NEED a full face of makeup to go to the grocery store or to hang around the house, but is anyone entitled to tell me that, if I did do such a thing? Nope.

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