Chock full of righteous indignation following going to work one day without makeup on and the questioning that followed, I made a decision. It was time to dial it back. Time to desensitize the world (and myself) to my naked face. I felt pretty good about it. I was proud, of myself and the statement I was making (even if nobody really knew what I was doing). I was ridding myself of the literal mask I had been wearing to protect myself from the world, rejecting the unrealistic expectations of my outward appearance. I was king of the wooooooooorrrrrllldddd!!!!
It lasted less than two weeks.
It was a little bit rocky in the beginning. I felt like crap, to be honest. I felt naked, ugly, awful. When I looked at myself in the mirror I thought I look exhausted (although in a lot of ways I guess I was). I thought I looked like a child. Like I had scrubbed and sworn off every last fleck of what made me a woman. I know, I know. Of course rubbing some pigmented powder on my face doesn’t make me any more or less of a woman, but the fancy psych degree on my wall is reminding me that feelings don’t always have to be grounded in flawless logic.
The questions continued for the first few days. And like I mentioned before, I know they all stemmed from genuine concern, but that didn’t really make me feel any better. The message I was still getting was that something was wrong. My naked face was cause for concern. How the fuck was I supposed to feel about that? Now that I’m a little more removed from the situation, I can see that the problem wasn’t with my face itself, it was with the difference. No one cares what I really look like, it was just that I looked so much different than I normally did. But anyway.
Eventually people stopped asking. This was the new normal, as far as my face went. And once people stopped talking about the fact that I hadn’t done anything to my face, I finally had the room to start becoming ok with it. It isn’t that I stopped judging myself for how I looked, not at all. But the criteria on which I judged my face changed. Instead of scrutinizing how expertly I managed to smear some black shit over my eyelids, I started looking more at my skin. I washed my face more frequently (which is funny, because I should have been doing that way more when I was wearing makeup constantly). I tried to get more sleep because I knew I couldn’t do anything about circles if I woke up looking like a raccoon. Without the option of real-life photoshopping the bits of me that didn’t look good, I had to start actually taking care of my skin and my face and myself as a whole.
In a phenomenon that shouldn’t have surprised me (but totally did), within a few days I swear to god my face fucking glowed. My skin was clearer than it had been in a LONG time, and I started to just feel good. It was me. It was what I really looked like. And it didn’t matter to anyone else. I didn’t suddenly become invisible or less-than. I was still me. I still mattered. So then what happened?
I was on my way to see my ex (I can hear the collective groan from the world, even as I type this), whose opinion I was still pretty invested in. I gave a fuck what he thought of my face (I haven’t bothered to sit down and workshop that one yet, but whatevs). I’m confident, but not too confident. I’m still a little worried.
When I worked in detox I used to remind my patients that the relapse happens in your head long before you pick up a drink or a drug again. This was eerily similar. I had my makeup in the car with me. I didn’t need it, clearly, but I just wanted it. Even if I told myself I wasn’t going to use it. Sure enough I found myself pulled over on the highway looking at myself in the mirror. Just a little foundation, maybe some powder, I told myself. No eyeliner, though. I still had my integrity. Ha.
After that I found it easier to use more and more. In the days that followed I would slowly add blush, eyeshadow, mascara. I would let myself slip back into the practice I had been so proud to rid myself of.
This isn’t about me beating myself up. This was a learning opportunity. It showed me that I can have confidence in myself if I really force myself to, but it also showed me how quickly and easily I can let myself cling to the security blanket that is pigmented gunk.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be all one way or the other. Maybe I’m just an all or nothing gal.
Either way, I’m a gal that knows a little more about myself than I did before.