A Month of Plain Jane

First off, I want to acknowledge that today is the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. I wrote about my experience on that day last year, and my feelings are still very similar, so if that’s what you want to think about and reflect on today, please click here. I want to make sure not to be insensitive.

Now we can move on with pretending it’s yesterday and I’m not posting a day late.

You know how sometimes, when you notice someone saying a certain word, you start to hear it all around you, almost like the world is trying to give you some sort of sign? For example, you learn what “limn” means and all of a sudden it’s like the word is following you around. It’s not, of course; you’re just noticing it more.

Right now, for me, that word is “beautiful.”

For example, did you see that video of the guy waking up from hernia surgery and not remembering that he was married to the pretty lady next to his bed, only to be overjoyed when he found out that he was? It’s a sweet video. My first reaction, however, was to the clip’s title: “Man wakes up to realize he is married to a beautiful woman,” or something like that. I mean, that does sound nice, but is that really the defining “jackpot” in a spouse? From the title I almost hoped it was a spoof video–you know, a guy wakes up, turns over, sees a knockout sleeping next to him, and she opens her eyes and smiles at him and then asks him to get the paper in the most annoying voice you’ve ever heard.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to date or marry an attractive person, but even just from the title, this seemed a little one-sided for me. The idea of guys wanting beautiful (or “hot”) wives is not new or surprising, but it seems to me that the analogue isn’t quite the same for women–we hear more about looking for a guy who’s funny, who’s sensitive or kind, who truly loves you. What women are looking for, the culture agrees, is more flexible than what men are looking for.

And also: I know, I know, cut the guy a break, he’s on drugs and he’s had a bunch of surgeries, but he’s so much more excited about having a hot wife than he is about having a wife who’s by his side on his sickbed and who’s helping him eat a cracker and drink some water and generally being a pretty great person to him. Maybe you just expect that from a spouse, I don’t know. The priorities just hit me as a bit “off.”

I of course try hard to look my best most of the time. I’ve written about discovering makeup and my ambivalent relationship with it–it does make me feel more put-together, confident, even skilled, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m not good enough without it. I’m much more proficient with makeup now than I was in high school or even college, and I wear more of it on a daily basis. Regardless of who I’m going to see or what I’m going to do, unless I’m sick or something, I put on eyeliner, concealer, blush, highlighter, eyeshadow, and usually some mascara. Maybe some lip gloss or even some lipstick if I’m feeling adventurous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Having said so, I’m not going to do it for a month.

This idea has come from a few different sources. One is that I’m starting to miss my monthly challenges and experiments. Remember a year ago when I didn’t use shampoo or conditioner for a month? Those were good times. I’m interested in shaking things up again.

I’ve also been reading a lot of articles in a pretty condensed amount of time, many of which have dealt with the perception of women. I may or may not have watched “Miss Representation” on Netflix Instant. I did certainly read the New York Times article about women in Harvard Business School and the challenges and rewards of tailoring the program to better support them. But a big part of it is sheer curiosity. I’ve been wearing makeup, at least concealer and eyeliner, for the better part of ten years now.

I’m interested to see if anything noticeable changes when I don’t.

So, here are the rules: We go for one month, September 11th to October 11th. Not a month start-to-finish like all of October because I want to be able to wear lipstick for Rocky Horror. I do not wear makeup and even try to avoid colored lip gloss, although Cherry Chapstick is okay. Every day I post an unfiltered picture to social media–my Facebook account, maybe my Twitter, not Instagram unless there’s no filter.

Here it is for today:

photo (8)


And then I think about whether or not I notice any changes.

The idea here, really, is to hold myself to the standards I hold my male friends and romantic interests too. I’m not going to stop bathing or wearing deodorant or even perfume; I’m going to keep shaving my legs and armpits and plucking my eyebrows, partly because I enjoy having smooth legs and big eyes and smelling nice, and partly because that’s in the realm of feasibility for men to have to take care of (aftershave or cologne, shaving the face, trimming other body hair, etc).

Maybe some guys wear concealer these days, and I know at least one who wears eyeliner on occasion (David), but most of them don’t, to my knowledge. So I’m not going to either.

We’ll see if there’s a grand revelation or not. I’ll say that no one at work today seems to have noticed or cared that I have no makeup on today, and I don’t think I look particularly hideous. So that’s actually a pretty good sign–it seems like maybe I don’t have some kind of body dysmorphia and that I’m not being held to draconian standards of primping.

Anyway, if you’d like to join me, the official hashtag is #monthwithoutmakeup.

See you in a month–and you’ll be seeing a lot more of me.


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