In a recent post I touched upon how I don’t normally participate in Facebook memes, but last week I was tagged again to participate in yet another one. This time the culprit was my younger sister, Saundra.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or you don’t have Facebook), you might have seen this meme making the rounds on your own personal newsfeed – it’s the “Natural Beauty” meme. It’s usually aimed at women and what it does is encourage the tagged user to post a photo of herself in her natural, beautiful state – without makeup or other enhancements. The photos are also not allowed to be edited by tools like Photoshop.
Up until Saundra tagged me, I’d successfully avoided participating. Women all over my feed were posting makeup-less, filter-less photos left, right, and center. My feed was full of natural, fresh-faced women, smiling in their selfies.
Every time one popped up, I cringed. Every single one of them was beautiful, but I cringed because I was terrified I’d be tagged. The last thing I wanted to do was post a hideous, “natural” picture of myself on Facebook for 200+ people to see. No thank you.
When it comes to makeup, I was an “early adopter”. Looking back, I’d pinpoint the time I first starting using it around the age of twelve. I started simple, using a colourful eyeliner and Lip Smackers lipgloss for fun, but once teenage acne settled in and took reign of my face I quickly upgraded to using foundation (a non-comodegenic one, of course) and pressed powder. The foundation covered my blemishes but it also washed out my already-pale skin tone, so it paved the way for cheekbone-enhancing blush. Then came eyeshadow and mascara to play up my eyes. I liked experimenting with different colours and shades. I couldn’t draw worth a damn, but I had a knack for working with makeup. For once in my young life, I felt like an artist.
But it was a double-edged sword. I enjoyed wearing makeup, but at the same time I knew I did it to cover myself up. When I was a child, I used to watch my mother “put her face on” whenever she’d go out on a Saturday night. By the time I was fifteen I was “putting my face on” every single day, whether or not I had anywhere to go, because I was embarrassed to be seen without it. I didn’t want anyone to se the mess of blemishes and scarring underneath. I was ashamed of how I looked.
To be honest, I’m still ashamed of how I look. My teenage acne has only morphed into adult acne. I’m almost thirty, but my skin still thinks it’s thirteen. If I have anywhere to be – work, out running errands, even the gym – I make sure my face is covered. You’d think Saundra, my sister, who’s known me for all her almost-24-years of life, would know that there was no way in hell I’d post of photo of myself sans makeup.
But she went ahead and tagged me anyway.
When I saw the notification and clicked on it, I swore. Audibly. Obviously just because I’m tagged doesn’t mean I have to do it. I wasn’t being held at gunpoint or anything. I told Saundra it was bloodly unlikely she’d see a photo of my makeup-less face gracing her newsfeed anytime soon, even though she encouraged me to do so. She’s so kind, my little sister. She told me she loves the way I look without it. She sees the good in everyone – always has, always will. Even though she’s the youngest in our blended family of five children, she is the shining light. She is the common denominator; the glue that holds us all together. Sometimes I think I love her a little too much.
And because she never asks me for anything, I feel the need to oblige her.
It took some talking myself into it. It helped a little when I decided to look at her request as a challenge. Sometimes I like being pushed outside my comfort zone – I find it therapeutic. But, as with most things challenges I take on, I’d rather do it in a go-big-or-go-home manner, so this post was born.
In case your curious, here’s my normal war paint:
This pile of makeup is what goes on my face on a daily basis. The routine takes roughly twenty minutes to complete.
This is the result:
No matter what, if you ever see me anywhere outside of my house, the above is what will greet you. I’m pretty sure I ran the entire Mud Hero obstacle course last year with a full face on, which I readily admit is absolutely ridiculous.
I realize some of you dear readers might think I’m completely ’round the twist to care about what I look like to such an extreme. Part of it is because, yes, I admit my self confidence isn’t at the level I’d like it to be. I was picked on quite badly throughout elementary school and junior high, especially regarding my appearance, and the taunts and teasings have never really left me. I still think of myself as the ugly duckling, never once believing I might now be a swan. I honestly just became comfortable with wearing my glasses out in public within the last two years. That saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is bullshit. I’ve felt ugly most of my life.
But today, even if only for a moment, I’m reclaiming my face. I’m reclaiming my sense of beauty; my sense of who I am.
This is me:
No foundation to cover up the flaws. No eyeliner and mascara to make my eyes appear bigger. No blush to lend my cheeks a rosy glow or gloss to plump my lips. There’s even a blemish on my forehead.
This is me.
This is me.