It's What's Wrong With Trying? week here at Byrdie HQ, where we're taking a break from no-makeup-makeup programming and celebrating the beauty of looking like you made an effort. Go ahead; call us try-hards.
It all started like this: I began seeing a guy who, I felt, was refreshingly honest. His directness was unprecedented in my romantic endeavors. Our conversations were staggering, often indulgent experiences in which we talked about ourselves (and each other) like a book that had been blown wide open. We had a certain back-and-forth, a charm to our time together that was not at all contentious but fun and facetious.
As tends to happen, we ended things after just a few months. Though, I always looked back on our relationship fondly and hoped to keep up every so often. It’s not every day you get to verbally spar with someone who’s just as willing to do it as you are. I felt he knew me—understood my insides as well as what I was representing on the outside. That is, until recently.
We got together for a drink to catch up after about a year of silence. I was happy to do it, excited about the stories we'd tell, and the insight I’d get from those months spent apart. Instead, while we waited to order a second drink, he dropped a judgmental bomb I never saw coming.
"You wear too much makeup," he told me, with almost too much ease. "What?" I practically yelled back at him, flustered from the assertion, and repose with which he delivered it. I was immediately self-conscious, trying to remember what I had put on ahead of our date. Was my concealer creased? Is my subtle highlighter not entirely subtle? I continued, "You mean today or all the time?" He answered, "No, all the time."
I was stunned. I sat silently and could barely blink at him, annoyed at the accusation, and utterly miffed he felt he could voice it.
When he got up to go to the bathroom, I took a second to think and sip my drink, honing in on why it bothered me so much. When he came back, I brought up the first and clearest deduction: the obvious chauvinistic undertones. I told him how problematic it was as if I had applied the makeup for him specifically, and he was doing me a favor by telling me he didn't like it. It was like the prose version of patting the top of my head.
His comments, whether he knew it or not, were meant to make me feel small and him powerful. It's the same way men have been interacting with confident women for decades—knocking them a down a notch in order to remain dominant.
His comment made me think of people who say, "I like a girl who can eat." When really, what they mean is, "I like a naturally slender girl who can eat whatever she wants and not gain weight." They celebrate traditional beauty ideals but balk at the means available to get there (e.g. a clean diet or, in my case, a little bit of foundation). It's a fundamental brick in the miles-long wall of ingrained, deep-seated sexism women are inherently meant to take and accept as fact. Wear makeup, but not too much. Eat, but only if you still look a certain way. The list goes on.
The ironic part is his portrayal of me was completely misrepresented. I don't wear makeup about 90% of the time. But I do love putting on makeup when I go out and especially when I'm seeing a boy I used to like for the first time in a year. Even then, I do it for me.
Celebrating the power of a product and looking like you put in the effort is allowed, illustrious even. Makeup is a fun, expressive outlet. Going bare-faced is equally as cool (and in my opinion, a nod to exceptional skincare). I can do both. And I don't need anyone, especially a romantic interest, to feel he has a place in those decisions.
The fact of the matter is, I can look however I want—be it applying a full face of makeup (which, scientifically speaking, is also a great all-natural way to fight anxiety) or going completely bare. And regardless of his thoughtless conjecture, I'm going to continue to wear makeup—or forgo it—for as long as I damn well please. Thank you very much.
On that note, if you're interested in a few of my favorite makeup products, keep scrolling. Or if you're looking for more dating content, read about the confusing, painful way I finally let go of my non-relationship.