Drag Queens, Coke Bottle Glasses, and Self-Esteem

I don’t normally wear a lot of make-up.  Powder, blush, mascara, lip balm.  Sometimes no mascara since eye make-up bothers my peepers.  Oh yeah, and concealer for the dark undereye circles I’ve had like forever.  Truth be told, even when I had the time, I was never really good at applying face paint. In my twenties, I had a stunning girlfriend who could rock magenta lipstick and smokey eyes like no one’s business.  But she also had bronzed skin, midnight hair and espresso eyes.  I’m pale.  Way too pale for any respectable Italian.  Even my eyelashes are blonde. Heavy make-up looks clownlike on me.  Worse yet, an unfortunate misunderstanding at the M.A.C. counter on the morning of my wedding resulted in me looking like a drag queen for my big day (no offense to drag queens).  FYI, if the make-up artist tells you he’s going to give you a “dramatic” look, he might be prepping you for your debut at The Birdcage.  My friends and family attempted to console me, “It’ll look good in the pictures.  Don’t worry.  No one will notice.”  They did. Every.Freaking.Person.  The priest even did a double take as I walked down the aisle and I’m pretty sure it’s because he thought he was going to be breaking some rules by marrying us.

Here is a picture of me on my wedding day.  I don’t have black eyes by the way.  They are green but I don’t think you can tell under all that charcoal.

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Here’s a nice shot of the entrance of the theatre where we had our reception.  It has no relevance to this post, I just think it’s really beautiful.

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But I digress. The past week, plagued with a hardcore sinus infection and pink eye, I am make-up free.  None whatsoever.  And I’m wearing my glasses. I honestly wouldn’t mind my glasses except that my lenses could be used as replacements for the Hubble Telescope.  Did you know that, apparently, there are men with a high-myope fetish who furtively photograph women wearing coke-bottle glasses?  That’s just a weird, random fact I discovered that I needed to share because it made me feel all creepy.

Anyway, back to the whole no make-up thing.  Not having to apply makeup or insert contacts has freed up a bunch of time in the mornings.  On days when I don’t have to wash and style my hair, I feel absolutely liberated.  It dawned on me that this is what men must feel like.  Ok, so I look deathly pale and people think I’ve contracted some awful disease.  “Wow, you are really ill.  Look at you. You look so pale and sickly!”  Um, that’s probably the lack of blush.

I know a lot of moms don’t bother with makeup, and if I weren’t so damn vain, that would be an excellent trend to jump on.  My makeup routine probably takes less than five minutes tops, but for some reason, those five minutes feel like a drag on my morning.  I always vacillate when it comes to the topic of grooming and what’s expected of women.  Part of me wishes I could wear a monk’s robe (although maybe in a less itchy fabric than burlap, something with a nicer hand, like jersey knit or something), tie my hair back in a ponytail, and be makeup free everyday.  Part of me likes to dress up and look pretty, even if that requires a bit of effort.  Ideally, I’d prefer that there is no expectation and that I get to choose when I fancy myself up or if I want to go au naturale.

I see how Miss Fancy Pants watches my morning ritual.  I wonder if she will grow up thinking that women have to carefully apply makeup to be considered attractive- or even just to avoid being told one looks unwell?  As a three-year-old, she’s totally into dressing up, tutus, and her hair.  Is it just imaginative play or is she beginning to internalize society’s message that women need to be attractive to be acceptable?  Did I inadvertently contribute to this internalization with my constant admiration of her beauty?  “Do I look pretty?”, she asks.  “You look beautiful!” I gush.  I do try to focus on what she is capable of instead of her appearance. “I love to watch you build that tower!” and “You are such a great little chef helping Mommy to cook!”  I scold family members who may comment (albeit sometimes innocently) about her weight and what a good eater she is.  Having spent the majority of my skinny childhood on a diet or obsessed about my appearance, I’d like to avoid the same fate for my daughter.

Even on days when I’m feeling “fat”, you won’t hear me complain, at least not in front of MFP.  When she called me “beautiful” in my glasses and sans makeup, I didn’t deny the compliment like I normally would with an adult.  I heartily thanked her and then we danced uninhibitedly to her favorite song.

I’ve read research on the topic.  Academics will assert, “Don’t tell your little girls that they are pretty.  Tell them they are smart or strong or creative…”  But then other research will point to not telling little girls that they are smart because once school work becomes challenging, they will already have associated being “smart” with effortless ability; thus equating needing to work hard at academic tasks with [their] lack of intelligence.  Instead, praise girls for trying hard, for overcoming obstacles, and for persevering in the face of adversity.

In parenting MFP, I’ve taken a more laid back perspective.  Certainly, I focus upon working hard and feeling proud when one achieves a difficult task. Often MFP will hear me say (upon completing an arduous chore), “It may be hard, but I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get it!”, a phrase I now hear her repeat as she goes about her day.  I offer sincere and specific praise when she tackles the challenges she encounters, big and small. But when my little smarty pants is dressed in her tutu and tiara, wondering if she looks pretty, I’m not afraid to tell her she looks beautiful.  But I do emphasize that she is beautiful inside and out, and that her beauty does not depend upon what she’s wearing.  She doesn’t quite get the concept yet, but one day, I’m hoping she will.

However I realize that, more important than what I say, is what I model for her.  If I comment upon other women’s appearances (good or bad), complain about my muffin top, and spend hours grooming, what message am I sending?  If I want the focus to be on what her strong body and clever mind can achieve, then my actions need to reflect that message.  Afterall, I’m more than my pale skin and high-myope lenses. We all have gifts to share with the world, no matter what the package looks like.  If we put more focus on those gifts, maybe our girls will too.

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One Comment

  1. Reply
    Sarah March 24, 2014

    Beautifully written! Love it! Such great messages to send to MFP!

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