When I think about the lessons I hope to teach my daughter someday, there's a common thread that runs through each of them: choice. I want Luna to know, from as young an age as possible, that she has options; that there is no one set way to be a kid, a young woman, or, simply, a human. She can love boys, girls, or any person of her choosing. She can study astrophysics, fashion design, sound engineering, or the art of French cuisine. She can shave her head or grow her mane down to her butt. She can follow her intuition. So to the concern trolls out there, no, I'm not worried about wearing makeup in front of my daughter.
Because I hope to instill that sense of choice within Luna, I cannot say that I'm concerned about wearing makeup in front of her. I understand that the social pressures placed on young women to present a certain way are pervasive and harmful. The acquisition of beauty (as defined by mainstream, arbitrary trends) is an unfair demand thrust upon contemporary women in the way that the acquisition of homemaking and etiquette skills was thrust upon my grandmother. That we expect our girls to show an interest in makeup is just one way that we culturally work towards eradicating autonomy and individuality. Fun stuff, right?
Makeup allows me to reclaim my femininity in a world that often tries to strip me of it. As a plus-size woman, I am frequently told that fashion and beauty are among the things in this world that are not for me.
But it's the expectation that girls and young women wear cosmetics that I find a problem, not the products themselves. Beauty — even if it is regularly deemed a frivolous pursuit for shallow people (and more specifically, for shallow women) — has brought me immeasurable joy. I do not know whether the same will be true for Luna, but the choice to explore makeup, or not, is ultimately hers.
Separating beauty from beauty standards is undoubtedly impossible. I'm certain that there will always be a prescriptive recipe for what is and isn't supposed to be considered attractive fed to us by glossy magazines and trend reports and celebrity how-to's alike. In 2017, for example, I know that contouring my face, highlighting my cheekbones, and filling in my eyebrows are guaranteed to make me look "beautiful," as per many an Instagram beauty blogger.
As I've grown older and less concerned with fitting into prescriptive recipes for anything, however, what I've learned is that makeup can offer much more than this. Not unlike fashion, it can be used for good if and when we allow it. It can be used for the exploration of the self. It can be used to accentuate and draw attention to the features we most love about our visages. It can be used as an art form: The face serving as the blank canvas on which to throw paint, glitter, and rainbows. For some folks, it can even be a tool that allows them to proudly showcase their true identity to the world.
Personally, makeup allows me to reclaim my femininity in a world that often tries to strip me of it. As a plus-size woman, I am frequently told that fashion and beauty are among the things in this world that are not for me. They fall on a made-up list with love, sex, professional fulfillment, travel, healthcare, and basic human decency. I have long been taught that I do not deserve pretty things until I actively work towards providing them with a pretty package: In this case, a thinner body.
By wearing makeup — by accentuating my plump lips, throwing glitter on my eyelids, coloring my chubby cheeks, or highlighting my skin in statement-making holographic hues — I often feel as though I am taking back some control. I feel as though I'm reclaiming a space far too many people don't believe I should occupy.
All that said, I try not to rely on cosmetics for the entirety of my self-worth. I frequently spend time with my bare face, so as not to forget that it is beautiful, too; that my dark under-eye circles, the creases around my mouth, or my poorly groomed brows are a reflection of my reality. The circles are a sign of the sleepless nights that come with raising an infant. The creases are a sign of growing older. The brows are a sign of a lack of me-time. It is all a sign of growing up, growing stronger, growing older, growing (hopefully) wiser.
My daughter sees me bare faced just as frequently as she sees me made up. I cannot imagine that this will change as she becomes a little girl, a teen, or a young woman herself. And this, in and of itself, should hopefully serve as a reminder of her choices. She can wear makeup, or not. She can wear it sometimes. She can wear it frequently. She can wear it loudly; alternatively. She can paint her lips black, purple, blue, pink, or red. She can wear it only very occasionally, when the mood strikes and it feels right.
So no, I'm not worried about wearing makeup in front of my child. I know that much of the world will try to teach her that she must follow suit. That she must always work towards being "pretty," however the word is being defined by the time she's old enough to care about such things. What I hope to teach her, instead, is that "pretty" is her own to word to define or to reject entirely. I will tell her honestly that makeup does help me feel strong, empowered, and beautiful, but that I have learned to feel just as strong, empowered, and beautiful without it.
I will tell her that, for me, makeup is but one means of self-expression. It is but one way to have fun with my body, and to take up the space that I've been taught I should not consume. Even so, I'll make sure she knows that it's OK to feel differently. It's OK to find her own means of self-expression. It's OK to make decisions that differ to those her mother made. It's OK to rock a bare face. It's OK to choose.
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