My oldest weedling said something really cool to me today. She said, “I like you without makeup.” The context of the statement was that i was sitting in the front seat of her car, poking at a scratch on my nose in her vanity mirror. I looked at myself and realized with a start that i look younger with less makeup. (Note that i said “younger” and not “young”.)
Fast forward a couple of hours. I’m on my patio, gently full with a large artichoke and some fruit salad, sipping a small glass of vinho verde, and wondering how much of life is just like makeup… The harder you try to change reality, the more it backfires. The more serious you take it, the less joy you get from it. The more stake you put in it, the less pans out.
For example, i could have taken that same artichoke, steamed it, baked it with sauces and accoutrements, and elevated it to some amazing gastronomic feat, but that doesn’t mean it would taste better than the way i steamed it with garlic, lemon and butter. The chunked up fresh fruit could have been mixed with sugar and dressings, but honestly, it was really good just by itself. Enjoying things for what they are, or with only the slightest alteration, seems to be the way to go for a lot of things. Tho i suppose it depends what result you are hoping for.
When i do my face in the morning, i am very rarely setting the stage or tone for my day by adorning myself with a colorful mask. Most days i am trying to remove all traces of age, bad habits, and telltale signs of hormonal imbalance. Like most women, i fool myself into thinking that spackling the cracks in my forehead will render the canvas flawless. Then i can paint black lines over my eyelids, saturate my lips with crimson, and transform myself into a Renoir or Degas.
Truthfully, the makeup settles into the cracks making them seem more like canyons, the eyeliner is never symmetrical, i overdo the red, and best case scenario, i’m a reject from Picasso’s cubist period.
Cindy Joseph, one of the first silver-haired supermodels and creator of the BOOM makeup line makes no bones about the fact that women should fight our instincts and wear less makeup as we get older. Well, yes, as i noticed this morning, that is generally true… but…
The fact of the matter is, it’s less about the makeup itself than it is about what we hope to gain from it. Packing it on to essentially make a lie, well, that’s not going to work. We all know the feeling of making up a story to cover a truth we can’t face. We evade and embellish and add and it blows up in our face. No amount of words make a lie the truth, and no amount of lipstick will make me Natalie Portman.
But sometimes we can make up a story just for fancy’s sake. Just because it’s fun to spin a yarn. If i decide to do a spectacular green-eye makeup for Earth Day… Well, that’s just plain happy. It’s not a lie – i’m not trying to convince anyone i’m a tree – so it doesn’t backfire. And maybe that’s the whole point. Sincerity of purpose makes or breaks the effort. Candor with oneself. Acceptance of oneself. Authenticity.
Some things in life take a whole lot of effort: Vocational mastery, raising children, picking a spouse. But those are supposed to take effort because the consequences of a bad result have tremendous impact. Most of life isn’t like that. Everything in life shouldn’t be that taxing. If it is, perhaps we should ask ourselves if we are being true to our purpose. It shouldn’t take an entire bottle of catsup to make a meal taste good. And it shouldn’t take an hour of cosmetic painting to make us feel beautiful.
The effort should just be gilding the lily.
Of course, some of us are more ragweed than lily, but even ragweed has that beautiful color….