Over the past 48 hours, my Facebook feed has been filled with close-up images of women’s faces. Some are friends, some are acquaintances, some are just friends of friends all over the world who’ve been tagged into my timeline. None are wearing any makeup.
I’m not good with makeup. It isn’t that I think I don’t need it; more that my colouring and (lack of) skills always make it look weird. It masks my freckles, it clashes with my hair, it (increasingly) sinks into wrinkles and clings to little hairs and generally exaggerates what it’s supposed to conceal. I do wear a bit, but it’s applied more as a tribute to the god of grownupness than in any hope of looking better.
I know there’s debate and disagreement about the value of the bare faced selfie as an awareness raising stunt; less so about the money which it’s undoubtedly raising for cancer research. That’s not what will stay with me though, long after the photos and their male counterparts (far more disturbing!) have gone from my page.
Instead, I’ll remember women looking softer, younger, more vulnerable. I’ll remember natural skin with its flaws and imperfections, tired eyes, pale lips and creased cheeks. I’ll remember the expressions: nervous, proud, happy, reluctant. Smiles at a camera turned to a self portrait or smiles at a loved one behind the phone. Intimate. Exposed. Honest.
Everyone looked different, but everyone looked beautiful. We lacquer ourselves so much when we go out in the world that it is touching to be forced to realise and remember that there’s a real person behind the veneer. What strikes me is how many women post an apology alongside their picture: humorous or heartfelt, there is an almost universal self-deprecation, a disclaimer that they are only showing themselves for a good cause and that normal service will be resumed soon.
I suppose it just makes me sad that all these women, in all the myriad roles they fill which keep our world turning, are fairly unanimously agreed that they’re only acceptable when they spend their precious time, money and effort on looking different. That their natural state is unacceptable, ugly, even frightening. Why is it taboo to be ourselves?
I don’t have anything against makeup. Who doesn’t want to be more beautiful; who doesn’t want to take what they’ve been given and improve on it? I just want to tell all those gorgeous, pallid, lashless women that they don’t need it and they don’t owe it to the rest of the world to cover up. To show them the beauty they have. To tell them that they’re worthy of occupying their space just as they are. Because they’re worth it.