Sunday, 27 January 2013

Why I choose to put stuff on my face

A friend of mine recently raised some money for charity by going a day without wearing make-up.  As she was a make-up ‘connoisseur’, if you will, this was pretty traumatic for her, especially since the day she went without make up involved a fancy ball.  It’s been a while since this event and it’s just occurred to me that I have no idea what went on.  I hope she didn’t die.

Anyway, it got me thinking a little about why it is that girls wear make up in the first place, and how BLOODY ANNOYING it is when men think that girls only put it on because we are terrified of being seen as we really are, or something.  There was a meme going around a while back that followed this kind of theme; I will replicate it here (though it is obviously by no means original):

And it was met with various responses along these lines:

Almost all my past boyfriends have said to me that I actually look BETTER without make-up on than with it.  I don’t know if this is because I’m terrible at applying make-up or if they are being genuine, but, while I know they mean well, it can actually get a wee bit annoying, especially when I've made an extra effort to look nice on a special occasion.

The thing is, I like wearing make-up.  It’s fun.  Just the same as I like wearing pretty clothes and doing my hair all nice.  A lot of men seem to believe that when girls dress up and put their faces on, it is purely for their benefit.  They then, because of their utter benevolence, think it appropriate to assure us that we don’t need to make an effort.  “You’re beautiful as you are,” they’ll say, as if we’re some crippled butterfly that needs 24 hour self-esteem maintenance.

I have got into a few arguments about this with men; I assure them that the reasons girls like to dress up and such are far more numerous and complicated than simply getting a man; we may want to look smart, for example, if we’re going to work and having a massive spot in the middle of my face just looks a bit messy.  When I’m on stage I need to accentuate my eyes.  Often we want to show off in front of other girls, or, most likely for me, it’s because I think there may be people taking photos and I want to look good in them so I can look back at them in 40 years and say- “CRUMBS I was a stunner in those days!” And laugh fondly at the memories.  Apparently, though, this is all just in our heads, and really, subconsciously, unless we’re lesbians, it all comes down to impressing the opposite sex.  “Duck…” I’ve had said to me several times, “that’s may be why you THINK you’re doing it, but, subconsciously, it’s all about impressing men.”

This argument is especially frustrating because there’s no possible counter to it.  Perhaps they’re right and it all is just subconscious, but if we’re saying that, it reduces almost every human behaviour to being sexually, or, at least, romantically motivated.  A lot of cynics actually do believe this, and perhaps they are right; again, there is no possible argument against it, but by GUM I hope they are wrong.  Humans are special and wonderful beings, regardless if you believe in a higher being or not; the amount of  things we have created and understood in our relatively short stay on this earth, is utterly staggering.  Perhaps all this behaviour can be reduced to sexual foreplay, but that is utterly depressing and I’d rather not believe it.  Surely we are more advanced than animals, as cute and as fluffy as they are? Surely?

Which gets me back to make-up again.  We have a wonderful gift in this day and age in that it is not necessary for us to go about dressed in dirty sheets and only washing at weekends.  We have the tools that allow us to be creative; not only in things like art and music, but with ourselves…we can make over our bodies and minds and we have the luxury of having time to do this; at least, the luckiest of us do.  Why throw all of that away for the sake of appearing insecure? Of course, when people have about 26 separate operations in order to make themselves look like a cat (which HAS been done) I am inclined to believe there is a line somewhere, but I would not try to define this line myself.

So when I walk past a group of men wearing a colourful minidress with my hair in curls because I want to look FABULOUS for the sake of looking fabulous, I don’t expect to be received with rudeness when I don’t thank them profusely for the whistling and cat-calls I hear.  Don’t get me wrong; compliments are great- it’s always nice to know that any effort I have put in has been observed, not necessarily because I want to impress anyone, but simply in virtue of me having put in an effort.  It’s very difficult, however, to react when you’re whistled at; usually I just smile weakly and carry on walking, but I have no idea what the men actually want me to say and do.  Once, as an experiment, I did the following:

This was proof to me that, at least sometimes, when girls are whistled at, it’s not for the benefit of the girl, but in order to look a certain way to other males.  It, surely, can't be about sex at all, because they must know it’s not particularly endearing to girls and can sometimes make them feel very uncomfortable.  One could argue that it all essentially boils down to sex because the men want to assert dominance in their ‘pack’ in order to attract the best women, but, again, this is a wee bit depressing.  These men seem affronted when a girl doesn’t accept the ‘compliment’ they have given, but if they DO accept the compliment, the men are utterly bemused.  It’s a great tip for confusing people, and I’d advise everyone to have a go.

Just in case I get accused of being sexist, let me tell you that I don’t enjoy women whistling or yelling at men, either, and would certain not partake in that kind of activity myself.  As a girl, my experiences will be restricted to having experiences that girls have, so my writing may seem a little biased at times. Whistling or cat-calling is not something positive, but something pretty negative in my opinion, and, rather than making me feel empowered, it generally makes me feel insecure, as if because I’ve managed to dress in a certain way, do my hair and maintain my weight, the people qualified to judge whether or not I have achieved this to a certain standard are congratulating me, assuring me of my worth as a human being, as if I didn’t know I had worth already.

The issue of girls wearing ‘sexually provocative’ clothing is a whole other kettle of fish; do girls ‘ask for it’ if they wear a low-cut top? I don’t think so.  Often, girls WILL wear low cut tops and short skirts to show themselves off to the opposite sex, as men might do with certain clothes as well to show off to women.  I’m not denying that at all.  What I object to is the notion that you can tell EXACTLY what a girl is thinking and what she wants by the clothes she is wearing.  We are much more complicated than that.  Besides, even if we DO wear clothes purely to attract the opposite sex, we're not necessarily saying that EVERY MAN/WOMAN WILL SUFFICE, we could just be saying- "hey; I may be looking to get lucky tonight, but not necessarily with YOU." Or alternatively, "I am poor and the only top I own has shrunk in the wash, and someone spilt orange juice on my skirt which is why I turned it up to make it shorter."  There could be a whole host of reasons.  Today, for example, even though the only person I talked to was somebody in McDonalds, I spent a large proportion of my afternoon walking around my room and sitting on my bed with the bottom of my jumper twisted and pulled through the neck (you know, like we used to always do at Primary school…) so as to reveal a healthy dosage of tummy to anyone looking.  Nobody, apart from a couple of my soft toys, noticed my fashion statement, and I couldn’t care less.  I did it for fun.  Sometimes people do things because they are fun, as unbelievable as that is.

The trouble with make-up and particularly extravagant clothes is that they appear to be some kind of mask; in the case of make-up, that is almost literal.  I admit that if I were to see a girl plastered in fake tan with massive false breasts I would be the first to assume that she ‘must have some kind of insecurity in order to do that to herself.’ The fact is, though, humans are ridiculous creatures and the reasons why we do what we do are a total mystery.  Perhaps the girl is incredibly insecure about her looks, or perhaps she wants to look that way because it’s fun.  Perhaps she fell into a vat of gravy and absorbed a pair of melons into her chest; we will never know.  I will endeavour not to judge people for the way they look, but this is a hard task when our minds naturally want to find similarities between people and perhaps notice patterns of human behaviour when there aren't any.  There doesn’t need to be a reason for me choosing to wear neon pink make-up and a wedding dress to McDonalds; if I want to do it, I jolly well will.

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