Everyone’s got a few ways they stay sane in Ithaca. Some people have Netflix, some people have Tinder, some people have exercise and some (very put together) people have all three. I’ve got makeup tutorials.
I love makeup. Nearly everyone that’s known me for more than a few interactions knows I adore makeup — putting it on me, putting it on other people, watching other people put it on, shopping for it, everything associated with the industry is part of a larger passion I have. I’d call it an obsession, but to be entirely honest, I’d like to be able to justify the last time I spent two hundred dollars at Sephora without feeling like I need to seek (more) therapy.
Having a conversation with people about makeup, either as an industry, a practice, a form of self-expression or even as a daily practice reveals a certain connotation attached to makeup that exists in society today. Makeup is perceived as something girlish, something extra, something that takes those few extra minutes in the morning that apparently says a lot more about who you are as a person before you’ve even been given the chance to make that impression yourself.
The way people look at the role makeup plays in someone’s life says a lot about how we view other people’s actions as ours to judge. Take, for example, that trend on Twitter of insisting that you should “take a girl swimming on the first date to see what she actually looks like” — what this trend demonstrates is this larger idea that the girl (or guy!) you’re out with “belongs to you.” You, in insisting a girl is “prettier without all that makeup,” “too high maintenance” because she takes an extra half hour to get ready in the morning or “lying to you” when she wears foundation out on a first date, have decided that you own the right to another person’s actions. What someone else does is now no longer a manifestation of who they are as a person, but rather who you think they are.
What frustrates me most about the perception of makeup in society today is not just what it says about how view others, but rather how we choose to view forms of self-expression. Photography, painting, sketching — these are all common forms of expressing one’s thoughts that are taken at face value as a way to portray yourself and your thoughts. Makeup, however, somehow is twisted into a form of self expression that is narcissistic in its appreciation of itself. The working woman that wakes up an hour earlier to perfect that cat eye before she heads out the door is no longer a woman that is trying to express herself in a workplace that dictates the same kind off dress — she’s someone that cares “too much about how she looks.” The mother of two that watches makeup tutorials on her free time and buys that 40 dollar bottle of foundation when she can is no longer a woman that wants to teach her kids what it means to feel good about yourself in the morning by example, but rather someone that doesn’t care more about her kids than she does herself.
For some reason today, makeup has warped into a practice that says more about who society thinks you are rather than who you want to express yourself as. Someone mentioned I wasn’t high maintenance because I didn’t spend an hour on getting ready in the morning, and even while the intention of that statement was good, the implication was something I fundamentally disagree with. Would I be high maintenance if I did spend an hour getting ready in the morning? If so, when did how I feel confident in the way I present myself open itself up to your judgement on who I am as a person?
The difference between 14-year-old girl that spends an hour in the morning spot concealing her dark circles and the 45-year-old woman that rocks a smoky eye at 8 a.m. is not a difference you, or anyone else really, has the right to read into. Sometimes practices are not yours to speak on simply because they are not yours to judge — sometimes, a thing just doesn’t have an implication greater than itself simply because it is not your thing to draw an implication from.
Hebani Duggal is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.