A few days ago I was getting ready for work and putting on my makeup. In the mirror, behind me, I saw a very sweet and curious Bee watching me intently. My heart dropped. I wondered how I would answer her if she was old enough to ask me what I was doing, and how I'd explain the societal and cultural pressures of living up to an impossible standard of beauty.
As a woman, she is going to have this lived experience, even if I never explained it to her. She is going to get the message that she isn't enough, that she has to conform to someone else's idea of how she should look, what she should weigh, how her clothes should fit, how her body should be groomed. At times, it seems like an insurmountable goal to raise a strong and confident woman who loves herself, the way I love her. Who sees herself the way I see her. And I can't control that. I can't control that the odds are stacked up against her, or the messages she's going to be exposed to, or the culture that she's growing up in. She is going to be a woman, and she is going to have this lived experience.
Consequently, I made the decision to stop, in that moment, and go to work for the first time in my life without wearing makeup, and I haven't put it on since. It seems almost silly that it's a radical notion worth writing about to just look the way that I look, without covering it up and without hiding it. But it is. That's because women aren't represented in our culture without makeup. In the media, in the work force, in our communities, in our schools, and I can't control that. What's more is that we, in general, aren't used to seeing women without makeup. So much so that it's worth a tabloid story, that people question if a woman who looks perfectly normal is well, that it's worth a discussion at all.
No matter how hopeless, and how far out of my control these facts are, there is something I can control. I can control the messages that she receives from her mother. It's a gift that I can give to her, to face the world with a face that I was made to feel ashamed of until now. The gift of knowing that women are beautiful, even if we don't conform to someone else's idea of what beauty means. The gift of self assurance and self confidence. The ability to love, first and foremost, herself. The way that she is meant to be. The way that I love her.