Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eff-Off February

Thought I'd give you all an update, now that I'm more than a week into the make-up-free month of Discipline Year, Face-Off February.

With the exception of a few desirous twinges, I've adapted shockingly well to this challenge. About two days in I got a lovely little break-out on my chin…was my complexion suffering from withdrawal? Nah, this is a pretty typical monthly annoyance for me. Who still gets break-outs in their early thirties? Me! Anyone else out there? Now I wouldn't say I was tempted to cheat and dab on a bit of concealer, but I certainly wished I were allowed to.

I've now been seen without makeup by strangers in the street, acquaintances at the gym and local shops, and beloved extended family members, and as any rational person would expect, no one's batted an eye. Walking around in public sans makeup after half a lifetime of daily usage is an interesting experience… As I told someone on Twitter, I feel simultaneously invisible and conspicuous, at least for the first few minutes. I feel like no one's noticing me, and everyone's noticing me. I'm all naked up in the face, and it does feel that way now and then—naked. A mix of vulnerable and liberated. Mainly liberated.

Since going makeup-free I've changed in a few subtle ways. I care less about what people think of me. I've adopted a bit of an "it's my face so fuck right off if you don't like it" philosophy. Hence the title of this post. This is what I look like, deal with it. Of course, nobody cares except me, so perhaps that eff-off is aimed at myself. It's working! I no longer fear being seen without cosmetics. Granted, if I were still single I suspect this challenge would have been a lot more trying. I hate how pathetic and borderline sexist that sounds, but I'm being honest.

Another thing that's changed is that my efforts to look put-together have shifted, now that the cosmetics have been culled from my girliness tool kit. Before this experiment (and at the start of it) I had bronchitis, and I'd pretty much given up on wearing real pants. My body was so grumpy and uncomfortable, I threw it a bone and lived in yoga pants and pajama bottoms for two weeks. But after the makeup went away, loungey pants were one sin of schlumpiness too far. I took a hard look at myself that first morning in my flip-flops and novelty tee-shirt, PJs on a weekday and a bandanna over my hair and thought, "I have become a living cartoon, exemplifying what it means to stop trying."

And so I've been dressing more carefully and wearing more jewelry, even if it'll be covered by my coat when I leave the house. I've been shaving my legs more frequently, a chore (oh yes, a chore) which normally falls by the wayside a bit in the winter. [Before you judge, I am blessed with the transparent-Irish-leg-hair gene. It's a fair trade off for also possessing the go-directly-from-albino-to-sunburned tanning-ineptitude gene.] I've been playing shoe dress-up, clomping around the kitchen in heels, obviously fiending for a hit off the old what-it-means-to-be-feminine pipe. I've also discovered a handy crutch. If I wear my glasses (which have fairly bold, dark frames), they take the edge off the conspicuously-naked-face sensation. Almost as if I don't feel like there's enough going on with my face, on its own. But toss some glasses on and I feel I'm more adequately accessorized. Face-jewelry.

I've also been taking more care with my hair, which I normally just allow to air dry if I don't think I'll be seen in public without a hat. I'm compensating, clearly… Yet it doesn't feel like an obligation I'm striving to fulfill. I just miss the little dress-up routine I indulge in each morning when I do my makeup. Though I'm not a glammish woman, I do miss getting gussied up in my own small ways.

But overall, this has been a interesting and liberating experience so far, if not dramatically life-changing. No major revelations have struck me yet, just a growing sense of adequacy in my natural state. Which is all I could have hoped for, really. I know I'll be going back to makeup when the month is up, but now that I know how un-traumatizing it is to live without it, I suspect I'll be far more likely to skip it now and then. I recommend this challenge to other Camp Two makeup dependents…though I wouldn't push it on someone who isn't intrigued by the prospect. It took me years to get to a point where I was curious enough to try this, but now that I'm here, it's cool to know I can sneak into Camp One whenever I like, and pass for a native.


  1. Reporting from Camp One, my attempts to feel like a card-carrying Camp Two person have thus far been unsuccessful. Oh, I have tried. I've at least been getting actually-dressed, instead of just loungewear dressed, for my own Face-on February. But I just keep forgetting (yes, honestly just flat forgetting, because it isn't any part of my normal routine) to do actual makeup. Sigh.

  2. Gotta rub it in, my eye allergy - then infection attack is officially over.

    My contacts went back in and I wore 4 shades of eye shadow + upper and lower eyeliner today. It feels good to be me again!

  3. I have terrible dark circles and the palest Irish skin imaginable (dark circles courtesy of the Italian half of the parents) so I have not been seen outside my house without at least concealer in my own state of MA for decades. I do have an exception though, when traveling by car outside of my home state on extended road trips I have allowed myself an occasional makeup free pass. I guess my reasoning is I will never run into anyone I know in a Walmart in a state 800 miles away from my own. So I apologize to any poor souls in random stores up and down I-95 who saw a raccoony looking woman scuttling up and down aisles in their local Walmart clutching paperback novels and bags of snacks that was type II me indulging in my anonymous day of freedom!

  4. This is only tangentially related, but I was in Ulta last night to replace my old mascara and I have to express how infuriated I become in that section of any makeup store. WHY are there 25 kinds, just by one brand, of mascara?! Why can't they just make one super version that lengthens, volumizes, enhances, thickens, and is also waterproof? Why do I have to stand in front of a wall of mascara like an @$$hole for 20 minutes agonizing over which quality is most important to me. KNOWING full well that none of them are going to do the job that effectively.

    Anyhow. I think you have the right idea, MM.

  5. There is only one reasonable mascara, in my opinion: Maybelline Great Lash (pink with a black or lime green wand/cap). Next time you're vascillating in the cosmetics aisle, just look at its cost per volume against any other brand and product—it's insane how much cheaper it is. And it does a nice job. Ohhh, I miss it!

  6. I totally forgot you were doing this! I think mascara is the only thing I'd miss since I don't wear much makeup anyway...well that and chapstick but that's not makeup, lol :) Very impressed with you!