Hallowe’en. Let’s call it “Extreme Make-over Day” from now on, shall we? When people play around with their identity, mask their true selves and pretend to be someone, or something, they’re not. Like Katherine, pictured below. Her make-up is impressive, isn’t it? It’s the work of the very creative Emily Boudreau. Em is the girlfriend of my great-nephew Connor. She’s a talented artist… who occasionally uses friends and family as her canvas. Well, on Hallowe’en anyway.
Seeing Em’s shot above started me thinking of all the talk these days about women and the “face” they present to the public. Whether it’s women who are in the public eye, like politicians, broadcasters, and movie stars, who are criticized for what they wear. Remember Hilary Clinton’s infamous pant suits? Or what they look like, and whether they have had, or should not have had, plastic surgery. I’m thinking of Rene Zelweger, in particular, here. Or whether it’s just us regular people. Those of us who put an effort into our appearance each day, and are criticized because we, maybe, stress just a little too much about what we look like when we show our face in public. Or those of us who choose not to stress about our appearance, as long as we are clean and tidy and comfortable.
Okay. Okay. I can hear the guffaws from my family and close friends at my choice of pronouns in that last sentence. Sometimes I would love to be in the latter group. Able to haul on jeans and a tee-shirt, run a comb through my hair, and then run out the door. And not feel like crap all day because I know that I look like crap. Just running a comb through my hair in the morning is not an option I have ever considered. Not with my curly, tendency to frizz, mind-of-its-own mop. And while I have never stayed away from work because I was having a bad hair day… I have been known to go to work… sick as a dog… because I was having a good hair day that I didn’t want to waste. I’m only half joking here; I also couldn’t find a supply teacher to fill in for me. Yep, I sometimes think that the Wonder Bra TV commercial from the 70’s was written for me… ♫ When I look good, I feel good…la la la ♫ And vice versa.
As I commented on Jennifer Connolly’s blog A Well Styled Life
, in response to her post the other day about “Invisible Women
“… I think I’m “hard-wired” to care a little too much about my appearance. I can’t imagine going to work, or out for lunch, or even for coffee with a friend without doing my hair and make-up and considering what outfit would best suit the occasion. When I was a kid and my mum was a single parent raising four of us and working full-time, she never, ever left for work without her hair done, make-up on, and her clothes neatly pressed. She might not have been able to afford the latest styles, but she sewed a new cotton sheath dress and pinned a little scarf to it in the summer, or wore a festive brooch on her coat in the winter. To this day the smell of Adorn hairspray reminds me of Mum standing in the bathroom in the morning, in her slip and nylons, getting ready for work. Like I said, I’m “hardwired” to do the same. Well…without the nylons.
In fact, when I was working, I used to joke to my husband that I was a make-over “before” and “after” shot every day. See.
And I don’t consider myself to be high maintenance. Not like women who have to step in front of a camera every day. Like Australian television personality Tracey Spicer. You’ve probably by this time heard of Tracey Spicer, who made headlines last year with her Ted Talk about eschewing her burdensome beauty regimen. I heard about her on CBC radio last fall. You can read about her big “reveal” and listen to her Ted Talk here
I don’t disagree with Tracey’s overall premise that women are pressured by society to present an unrealistic image of themselves. I do, however, disagree with some of her conclusions. That the time we spend on “grooming” each day cuts into our job “productivity” and ultimately our “earning power.” She quotes lots of statistics, one of which is that women spend an average of twenty-seven minutes a day on grooming. And she suggests that we could be spending that time more productively. Like maybe working? Don’t North American workers already spend too much time at work and not enough time on themselves compared with workers in many European countries? Does everything have to be linked to ones’ “productivity?” Maybe “grooming” is important in other ways.
I don’t know about you, but I consider my twenty-seven minutes a day “me” time. When I had a stressful job, with responsibilities for my students, my department members, multiple committees at both the school and the board level, extra-curricular activities etc etc… that half hour doing my hair and make-up in the morning was quiet time when I could get my head straight and think about my upcoming day and week. Hubby would bring me a cup of tea, and as I waited for my flattening iron to heat, I’d review my class preps, a meeting agenda… whatever. And when I emerged from the bathroom, I was groomed, caffeinated, organized, and ready for my day.
Since I retired, I spend a lot less time daily on hair and make-up. Now that I’m not going to work, most days I sport a kind of “make-under” look. I never wear make-up when Hubby and I walk, or cycle, or hike, or ski. I never wear make-up camping. D’uh. That would be silly, as far as I’m concerned. If I’m doing errands, shopping for groceries, running to the drug store, the library, and the post office, I usually apply tinted moisturiser, some mascara, and a little under-eye concealer. But for shopping downtown, going out to lunch or dinner, to my book club, or to a party I add eye shadow and liner, blush, lipstick… the usual. I always do my hair. Always. And I don’t feel that I’m covering up the real me, wearing armour, or hiding behind a mask. I really don’t. It’s just that I have three faces that I present to the world: my make-up-less, wilderness, fishing, biking, skiing face… my daily running around town in my jeans and sneakers face… and my going out, high heels, dress-up face. I wouldn’t wear my Gortex jacket and my hiking boots to a party, or my high heels on the ski trail. It’s the same idea. But with make-up.
This is a shot of Hubby and me. We’re displaying our cycling/ ice cream eating faces on Île d’Orléans last summer.
I don’t argue with Tracey Spicer’s decision to ditch her arduous hair and make-up routine. I also don’t disagree with her admonishments to society for making women feel that they are judged on their appearance, instead of their actions and intellect. We should be judged for what we achieve and not what we look like. I don’t disagree with Spicer’s idea that unnecessary personal grooming can interfere with more important activities. I mean, she says that she spends forty-five minutes a day on her hair alone; now that is a little extreme. But I also happen to think some situations call for us to take a little more care with our appearance. Maybe not forty-five minutes. But twenty-seven sounds reasonable. I don’t think that makes us slaves to social pressure. Or less productive. Just appropriately turned out.
Like scary clown make-up on Hallowe’en. That’s totally appropriate. Good job on the make-up Em.
So where do you stand on the whole make-up, make-over, make-under thing?