war paint

This morning, hidden in the usual infotainment glob that passes for news, I heard an intriguing story. A group of teens at a Texas high school have declared today a “No Makeup Day”. The say they want to focus on inner beauty and they are encouraging their female classmates to go bare-faced for a full 24 hours.

What struck me was that the girls explained that they spend 1-2 hours every morning doing their hair and makeup. What? I looked up from my caffeine and, sure enough, these high school students were coiffed and painted like they were ready for a photo shoot for the cover of Vogue. When I was in high school, “makeup” was a little blush, a swipe of mascara and, if you were feeling particularly frisky, a sheer smear of flavored lip gloss. Hair styling was a quick brush. 10 minutes – tops – from start to finish, because teenage girls look great without a lot of embellishment. That’s the perk of being young.   How can any young woman think that she requires hours of “repair work” to look presentable enough to go to school?  What’s wrong with us?

Even more disturbing was a comment one girl made about how the boys at her school had never seen a girl without makeup. What a startling thought. Teenage boys today do not know that women’s eyes are not naturally rimmed with heavy black lines? They do not know the actual color of lips? They think every female has straight hair? Could this be true? Looking at these girls, I believe it.

While I was shaking my head over this insanity, it occurred to me that I had actually apologized – twice – to neighbors last week for not having makeup on when they stopped by. I never leave the house without makeup. I even put on makeup to garden or mow the lawn. I call it my “war paint”. It’s the mask I show to the world; very minimal compared to what those high school girls are wearing, but I must have it on or I don’t feel like “me.”

Several months ago I went back to freelance work from home and I started skipping the war paint. I’m not used to seeing myself without makeup. The war paint goes on right after the morning shower and off right before bed.  The face I wear all day isn’t actually me.  At first it was a shock, but I eventually came to respect, even appreciate, the well-worn woman in the mirror. There’s a certain weathered stability about her. I’m not ready to take her out in public, but I know she’s there. I still need to paint over her to face the world.  I probably always will.

In our society, a woman with a “naked” face is newsworthy.  I hope today’s no-makeup experiment gives those girls in Texas – and the startled boys around them – a chance to get acquainted with the woman under the war paint. Maybe it’s time for all of us to consider what battles we should be fighting.

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