I was leaning over the bathroom sink, applying mascara when my three year-old daughter, Zoe, pulled a tube of eyebrow gel out of my makeup drawer and cooed, “Ooooooh Mommy, I just love this! When I grow big and have my own house, can I have this please?”
I blinked several times and got mascara stains under my eyebrows to show for my shock. In the corner of my eye I saw Zoe hugging the eyebrow gel to her cheek and smiling coyly at me. Had she picked lipstick, I may not have had this moment of reflection, but no, she had to pick the eyebrow gel.
“Uh… No, Zoe.”
“But Mommy, whyyyy? I love it!” Her angelic face turned instantly to a pout and then again switched to negotiating mode. “Okay, okay.” She dumped the tube back in the drawer and grabbed something else at random. “What about this one?”
Ah. Ka-BROW! eyebrow cream color, courtesy of Benefit Cosmetics. The moment of reflection deepened, and I thought, What the hell am I doing to myself and my daughters?
I hadn’t realized I was doing any damage; I don’t care much about my appearance and I’ve never struggled with body image. I don’t know how many pounds I have left to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and I don’t use makeup to impress others. Makeup and fashion are just hobbies of mine. I like watching YouTube tutorials and fashion shows, keeping up with certain blogs and browsing Pinterest for new ideas. I’m an adult that likes to play dress-up, and I’m pretty good at it too; I accidentally convinced some friends in the city that I was a makeup artist.
But I’ve brought two beautiful girls into this world, and what is this idle hobby really worth to me? Is it worth the self-esteem of my girls? Is it worth teaching them to steal glances at themselves in every mirror they pass? Because my children do not understand subtle differences of motive behind my habits. They know only to imitate. When my daughter is sixteen and she again asks, “Whyyy, Mommy?” I want to give her a genuine answer that will not turn me into a hypocrite.
Why? We do not need makeup because we were crafted intentionally by the most perfect artist, our Heavenly Father. Because our bodies do not need improving. Because our appearances are unrelated to our worth. Because there is no such thing as an ugly daughter of God. Because it is never worth masking our true selves.
It has been three months since the incident with the eyebrow gel and from that day, I completely stopped wearing any makeup. I didn’t feel ready to let this part of me go, but couldn’t continue rationalizing away the effect on my children. People used to tell me all the time how beautiful I was or that I was glowing, or gorgeous, the “prettiest pregnant woman” they knew.
Since I have stopped wearing makeup, not one single person has told me I look nice. This is a good thing.
I may not have been seeking those compliments, but they certainly colored my view of myself. It shifted my focus away from things that truly matter. Anyways what am I waiting for to pare away the distractions in my life? People now tell me that I look tired. Good. I have a four-month-old baby. I am tired. Now I can be seen for who I am, not mistaken for an art piece desperately seeking to maintain value. More often I will be ignored and this is also good. Again, fewer distractions.
I’ve been in Omaha for my best friend’s wedding this week and I surreptitiously slipped some eyeliner and eyeshadow into my suitcase thinking, maybe I’ll only use it on special occasions. (If you ever need to find a loophole, don’t call a lawyer; I’ve got you covered.) While getting ready for the rehearsal dinner, I made up my face like I used to.
My reflection looked artificial and bizarre. I know that to most people I look better made up, but after seeing my clean, bare face every morning for several months, I got attached to the real me. The heavy eyeliner obscured that. When I choose to do the right thing — even when I don’t feel ready to — I start hungering for those spiritually nourishing choices. The old way can still seem tantalizing, but when I revert it tastes hollow and dissatisfying.
My sweet husband walked into the bathroom and deflated upon seeing my face. “I thought you were done wearing makeup.”
I bit my lip trying to think of a better excuse. “It’s a special occasion.”
Oliver shrugged. “Well, you’re free to do whatever you like, but I don’t think you need it. I think you look great just the way you are and I love seeing the real Veena every day.”
Let that sink in. Yes, ladies, there is only one Oliver Simon and I’m sorry; the rest of you are settling.
I spent five minutes putting on the makeup and twenty minutes trying unsuccessfully to wash it off. Instead of looking nice and made up or nice and fresh faced in my best friend’s bridal pictures, I looked like a panda that narrowly escaped a bar fight. Or in Oliver’s words: “a teenager that got dumped on prom night.”
That’s my man.
And I never again have to worry about mascara stains underneath my eyes.