There’s been some recent (at the time I started writing this; publishing may take a few days) political “scandal” regarding Hillary Rodham Clinton not wearing make up that one time. My first response to this was, “The fuck? I would like to have so much free time that I had time to fabricate drama where none actually exists.”
Seriously. I go without make up all the time. In public. To work. Even to formal events. Granted, my job is not so spotlightish as is the Secretary of State’s, but still, my make-up-less face has not brought public education in the US to a screeching halt. (Or maybe it has and that is to blame for this whole thing, NCLB be damned.)
Not only am I comfortable with my make-up-free face, but I actually don’t think I look any worse when I’m not wearing it. Further from the standard of “magazine beautiful,” sure. But that’s one type of aesthetic preference, not universal truth. Not, as it happens, even an aesthetic preference that I generally share.
On a good day, that is.
When I’m feeling healthy, energetic, and relatively pain-free, it’s easy to look in the mirror and be happy with the face I see. I’m generally in good humor, and my face is expressive in a way that pleases me. On a bad pain day, however, there are lines. There are dark circles. There’s a dullness and a permanent strained look to my eyes and jaw.
Those are the days I’m more likely to wear make-up, as a mask to cover up the pain.
I can’t make myself look healthy, I don’t think. I can’t cover up the pain so I don’t see. But I can paint myself, quite literally, to signal that I am at least playing the “magazine beauty” game. Often when I do this, it’s a plea asking others not to look too closely. It’s a sign that I’m trying to conform — hoping I’ll go unnoticed, that I’ll fade into the background. That I won’t have to explain myself when others look at me.
Which is why I really love that picture of Secretary Clinton — and every picture and mirrored reflection of me not wearing make-up. Because to me, they look like all the days when I don’t care what other people think. And yes, I get how wonderful and fearful a thing that is to the world.