October 22nd, 2016

The joys of makeup

Some people are wondering why on earth I seem so taken with makeovers. What’s the big deal?

Besides the obvious desire to get away from the gloom of the election and escape into something seemingly frivolous and entertaining, that is.

For example, “parker” asks:

…I don’t get the ‘makeover’ thing. What is wrong with looking like you are? Gravity and age are reality. Mrs parker is 68, she looks her age and remains lovely to me. Am I missing something?

Short answer: yes.

Less short answer: no, and in fact you are a very fortunate man, and your wife a very fortunate woman. The rest of the human race could learn from you—but alas, it probably won’t.

The even longer answer follows.

There is nothing wrong with looking like you are. But there is also nothing wrong with looking like you are but a little better. Or a lot better. Human beings seem to want to do that, and if you study anthropology you’ll notice that one of humanity’s near universals seems to be the desire to adorn oneself, and it’s not just limited to women.

Tattoos and nose rings aren’t just for youngish hipsters in Seattle; they’re ancient and widespread, and even odder things have existed like foot-binding, lip plates, and neck rings:

The custom of wearing neck rings is related to an ideal of beauty: an elongated neck. Neck rings push the collarbone and ribs down. The neck stretching is mostly illusory: the weight of the rings twists the collarbone and eventually the upper ribs at an angle 45 degrees lower than what is natural, causing the illusion of an elongated neck. The vertebrae do not elongate, though the space between them may increase as the intervertebral discs absorb liquid.

Many years ago I wrote a post on a fascinating book called The Unfashionable Human Body:

[The book] describes the lengths to which people have gone throughout history to overcome their essential boredom with the unadorned human form. Clothes are part of this effort, although of course they have many practical considerations as well. Jewelry likewise, minus the practical. But, especially in areas where clothing as we know it is more or less optional, the body itself became the plastic clay to be molded by humankind’s driving need to not leave well enough alone.

A lot of people around the world seem to agree with Shakespeare’s King Lear that, without extra adornment, man is just “a poor bare, forked animal.”

Makeup is a tame, reversible, easily-undone intervention that gives you an awful lot of bang for your buck, since the face is usually a big focus of human attention. And hair has to be combed and cut or it will grow into a wild and crazy nest, so why not develop hair-cutting to a fine art?

I’ve always been fascinated by makeovers because they are transformative, both in body and psyche. Right around puberty, I spent lots of time in my parents’ bathroom teaching myself the art of makeup (my mother was no particular help; she slapped on some basic cosmetics like rouge and lipstick and called it a day). By the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I used to cut the hair of some of my friends, and also would do their makeup for special occasions if they wanted. I had a very modest business performing those services to friends in my dorm in college, and I was surprised how many college-age girls really knew next to nothing about makeup.

And although makeup products have proliferated wildly since them, there still are a lot of women, young and old, who would like to learn but don’t know where to start. But although the young tend to look fairly good even without it, for most of us who are more “mature” (and without a parker to consider us still every bit as lovely as ever), carefully applied makeup is a big assist in preparing a face to meet the faces that we meet:

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

…and putting on their lipstick.

nefertiti

28 Responses to “The joys of makeup”

  1. Grace Clark Says:

    That last line is better than Eliot!

  2. snopercod Says:

    Inside each older person is a younger person wondering “What the hell happened?”

  3. parker Says:

    I am fortunate. Mrs parker wears lipstick sometimes and up until about 7 or 8 years she dyed her hair to stay a red head, but now that she no longer gets it dyed it is mostly gray with a few streaks of natural red.

    Perhaps for us, and I am sure there are many other couples, being lovers and friends over nearly 5 decades has allowed us to slowly observe the changes aging brings and see the beauty in the process. One thing we both have going for us is we remain trim with very little weight gain. However, we both would appreciate having our 20 year old knees back. 🙂

  4. Micha Elyi Says:

    Inside each younger person is a young person wondering, “What do I have to do to be an adult?”

  5. Cornhead Says:

    So how do tats and nose rings fit into a discussion on makeup?

  6. Esther Says:

    As a teen I discovered people treated me more respectfully when I wore make up. Why, is a mystery.

    Also, unfortunately, between being ghostly pale, having dark circles and puffy eyes and rosacea, well, I can fix that and pretend to look just peachy.

    Likewise, I also can paint my house to achieve similar benefits. (Love me some paint:-)

    The spousal unit doesn’t really notice the make up, he thinks sometimes I just look healthy and ready to go out. But, he is super enthusiastic about the house paint.

  7. J.J. Says:

    Neo: ” By the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I used to cut the hair of some of my friends, and also would do their makeup for special occasions if they wanted. I had a very modest business performing those services to friends in my dorm in college, and I was surprised how many college-age girls really knew next to nothing about makeup.”

    Interesting. My mother was also very much interested in make up and hair dressing. To the extent that at the age of 17 she had her own “beauty shop.” She was gifted in her ability to see what hair style and make up looked good on various women. I didn’t appreciate that when I was growing up. It was just “women’s stuff” to me.

    As I look back I’ve been thankful that she was able to use her talent to earn a living that provided us with a roof over our heads and three squares a day. (My father left the family to work in the war industry in 1942 and never returned.) We lived in a summer tourist town, so she worked long hours from June to Labor Day, earning enough to tide us over the winter months. I’m appreciative of the fact that women like to look their best and will turn to talented people to help them out.

    Men like to look good too, but in different ways. Some are natty dressers, but then there are body builders, who wear very little. Having participated in that activity for a few years, I appreciate a few things about it. It requires discipline, hard work, and a sense of humor. And make up is involved. Tanning cream – applied to every inch of skin the night before the contest and touched up back stage before appearing. My saintly wife was willing to be my makeup person. We still get some laughs about those days. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity! 🙂

  8. Denton Salle Says:

    Sadly, the people who asked “what is wrong with looking as you are” are also the ones who refuse to be polite because “it’s not truthful.” Both statements deny the reality that none of us are as pretty or as nice as we pretend and a little (lot) of social lubrication makes everyone’s life easy.

    Also looking good makes most people feel better.

  9. LindaF Says:

    There is something about taking the time and effort to “put on your best face”. It lifts your spirits, says to the rest of the world, “you’re important enough to make the effort”, and extends a little more formality to interpersonal relations.

  10. Frog Says:

    The human body is a miracle of design by its Creator.
    As to human refiguring and re-design,
    “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”

  11. PA Cat Says:

    C’mon, neo, how could you overlook the joys of makeup for dudes? WikiHow even has a six-point article on “How to Apply Makeup as a Man”: http://www.wikihow.com/Apply-Makeup-as-a-Man

    And I’m surprised you didn’t link to your buddy Van der Leun’s sidebar on “James Charles, Covergirl’s New Face”: http://americandigest.org/sidelines/2016/10/file_under_norm.html#comments

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    One of the reasons Cleopatra was said to be beautiful concerned her diplomatic skill, bravado or dauntless boldness, and her other conversation skills.

    I definitely myself recall some women who weren’t particularly attractive to me, meaning there was no instant “head lock on” instinct when I saw her face or figure. When I got closer and started talking to them, getting more involved in their life projects or community projects, my perception changed, since I started seeing an aura of charisma or this charismatic projection, that had to do with their passion, earnestness, or some other combination of virtues or other traits.

    I have a partial skill which is shared with eidetic or people with high functioning Asberger’s or other so called ADHD classifications. That skill is the perfect or near perfect recall of facial gestures and captures, which is attached to, in my case, emotions and time lines. In other words, if I focus, my memory is almost as accurate as adrenaline imprinted trauma or experiences from war. I also make a backup copy of the memory, so that when the original memory deteriorates, I will have a backup to compare against the nostalgia. Since people’s memories naturally degrade and fill in over time, what is also known as nostalgia or rose colored glasses.

    There are also people who look nice on the outside, but are poison on the inside.

    If such a thing as the soul exists in quantum and physical dimensions, then people might be capable of recognizing their soul mate or just someone whose soul matches them, irregardless of the instincts derived from evolution and DNA.

  13. parker Says:

    Denton Salle,

    WTF? I am polite with people who are polite. I will admit to having no patience with rude people and simply walk away. You don’t know me so goodbye.

    LindaF,

    I like to think one puts on their best face by being genuinely interested in other people and observing the golden rule. I have nothing against ‘makeovers’, I just don’t get the desire to appear younger than you are. I like to think that I am as handsome and virile as I was 40 years ago. 😉

  14. Ingot9455 Says:

    Many things in life are deeply entwined in ‘playing dress-up.’

    Ask yourself why soldiers wear uniforms? And why police?

    What you wear has an effect on how others see you, and here’s the key… how you see yourself.

  15. JuliB Says:

    Neo said: “There is nothing wrong with looking like you are. But there is also nothing wrong with looking like you are but a little better.”

    Which is why I’m setting up an appt with a plastic surgeon next week. I’m 50, look younger or so I’m told. But…. I ALWAYS look tired. It’s been like that since my late 30s. It’s age. I can see the facial structure of my late maternal grandmother, and it’s time to nip it in the bud.

    I won’t be bringing in any pictures (of a younger me, or any celeb) – I don’t want to change *me*, I just want to look like a better me.

    Same thing with make-up – I’m not trying to change my looks – just play up my good features.

  16. Yukona Says:

    I recently discovered your blog and I’m enjoying it. And quoting J Alfred Prufrock-you are learned indeed!
    Anyway, I think it’s silly to not improve one’s looks provided there is no health downside. Makeup and push up bras? Can’t live without them. I draw the line at cosmetic surgery as there are real downsides with anesthesia; and also some of the folks using a lot of fillers and botox look…strange.

  17. Fausta Says:

    The best make-up on me is done professionally but I do not look “painted.” I just look vastly improved.

    Yukona,
    “some of the folks using a lot of fillers and botox look…strange”
    Yes, and in the long run they all end up like a deer-in-the-headlights/Joan Rivers family reunion.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Fausta:

    I’ve previously described that very phenomenon here.

  19. n.n Says:

    Longer answer: yes. It is a human imperative to strive. Class changes (e.g. appearance) within reason are welcome.

  20. parker Says:

    Mrs parker and I had a long conversation about this topic. It boiled down to her comment: So what happens when it comes down to when the makeup is wiped away and washed off?

    “Is this a lasting treasure
    Or just a moment’s pleasure
    Can I believe the magic of your sighs
    Will you still love me tomorrow?”

    If the moment’s pleasure has a void after date, it was not love, it was just the empty promise of the lust of the moment. We have nothing against lust, we still feel that passion, but we have something between us that even death can not void. So, yes we are fortunate.

  21. snopercod Says:

    Yet another reason to fall on our knees and give thanks that we live in the times that we do: The beauty routine of a Victorian woman was anything but glamorous

    During the weeks between baths, the Victorian lady would wash off with a sponge soaked in cool water and vinegar. Sitz baths, in which a woman sat down in a shallow dish of water, were also common.

    She rarely washed her hair, as the process was involved and not terribly pleasant. Women were advised to dilute pure ammonia in warm water and then massage it through the scalp and hair, like modern shampoo…

    …If a woman was skeptical of the ammonia treatment, she could always reach for the alternative: onion juice. It didn’t necessarily work to cleanse the hair of grease, but it was believed, at least by some, to make tresses long and shiny.

    Of course, onion juice stinks. As did a woman’s clothes — she never, ever washed her gowns, because the fabrics and embellishments were just too fragile. So she only scrubbed her white linen or cotton (crotchless) undergarments. There was no deodorant, let alone disposable razors, so some women placed half-moon-shaped “dress shields” between their clothes and their hairy, sweaty armpits.

    But really, the most surefire way for a lady to deal with body odor was to wear perfume — a lot of it. The most popular scent was ambergris, made from fluid retrieved from a dead sperm whale’s intestines.

    Even if a Victorian hardly bathed and doused herself in fermented whale poop on the regular, she could still have the appearance of flawless skin. That’s because she had access to cosmetics with a secret ingredient: lead. The process of “face enameling” removed imperfections; in Oneill’s words, “the result would be rejuvenated, smooth skin whose pores were clogged with both a youthful vivacity and a lethal mineral imbalance.”

  22. Artfldgr Says:

    The earliest days of makeup were used to show who was a prostitute and available for $$$ deals… which is pretty much the same as the clothing of prostitutes become the norm for the average woman… so makeup, became everywomans way of attracting the hated and oppressive men… then came thigh high boots… which also used to be mostly for sex workers and in private, but now is high school clothing post pretty woman (the hooker so many women wanted to be)… then tatoos, especially tramp stamps… and then tongue studs for better oral sex also… and so on.

    now the average woman dresses worse than a prostitute in the past, and thats that…

    yet… she wants to be loved for her mind…

  23. Artfldgr Says:

    maybe whites can wear blackface so as to be allowed to benefit from tax money taken and redistributed to the protected classes? [sba8a, college entry, housing, and on and on…. ]

    To follow up on the story of the Norman, Oklahoma high school class that was taught all whites are racist, here is the video that was shown to students and inspired one of them to take out her phone and start recording

    Unboxing Mistreatment of Native Americans
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7p7l87YK28

  24. sdferr Says:

    Heh. Ambergris is most assuredly vile vile vile — in consideration whereof, anyone who happens upon a lb. sized chunk while strolling the sea-shore may box that chunk up (wear gloves!) and send it to me with my promise I’ll repay all shipping costs said mortificant may incur, as well as an additional benjamin for finder’s fee.

  25. Artfldgr Says:

    now, women want everone to pay for their pads, and makeup too.. because men oppress women by liking them with makup

    since the feminists made everything political, there is no place to og to get awayh from it. but only pretnd to… like here, with makup…

    ot Without Her Makeup (Oppression of Western Women)
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=104×838232

    NEO is just helping to oppress women
    [but6 dont worry, its really mens fault, everything is]

    …I soon discovered I had to conform to the dress code everyone else followed. I had to have my hair highlighted and defrizzed. I had to spend between fifteen ad twenty minutes every morning brushing it and putting on clips and hair ties. I had to make it into a ponytail one day, a braid the next and a bun when I went to dinner parties. I was coerced to wear short skirts and tight tops, with a push-up bra to give me cleavage. My legs had to show, smooth and unscarred, and everyone had to be able to make out my waist.

    SNIP

    These poor women must shampoo, condition and colour their hair in order to legitimise themselves. They need the perfect curl, the right bounce and the shiniest colour. Their value to society is directly linked to their hair…A woman is required to perform the ceremonial ‘going out’, which can span any period of time from a day to ten years…All the men she goes out with are allowed to touch her and sleep with her…status and acceptance in society is determined by how many of these men she has accommodated..young girls have little to contribute to their own identities. Their identities derive from who they go out with and how many boys they go out with…cannot legally marry until she is eighteen years old without parental consent. It is socially expected, however, for girls under eighteen to lose their virginity…accepts these girls as mothers before eighteen but does not allow them to have husbands, who could also take responsibility as fathers to the children born. While women must bear the responsibility of parenthood, men can get away with it…Marriage requires the woman to play multiple roles. She must be wife, mother and often a breadwinner of the family. She shoulders the responsibility of taking care of her husband and children at home while also earning money not only for herself, but also for the family. Whatever she earns is not solely her property. Unlike Islamic societies, her husband and her family have a claim to her income and she even pays for groceries!

    but my favorite is this:

    Often, she is not given the choice of whether she wants to stay at home or work. The society she lives in enshrines materiality and money..she must go out and work and make her family richer.

    On top of that, her position in society is judged on her ability to work outside the home. She must suffer the greatest burden in society. She really does not have the right to choose. Can you imagine a life where your identity is judged by everything you have and not everything you are?…the widespread cultural practice of women changing their surnames to that of their husbands’ once they are married….in previous times, this act symbolised the transfer of all of a woman’s rights and property to her husband from her father…denied the rights that are basic to any Muslim woman….They do not even know of their plight…educated Muslims – have begun programmes to educate others around them. They are asserting themselves by breaking out of the confinement, wearing loose clothing and denying just anyone access to their sexuality. I see their efforts as a glimmer of hope…

    So now not only does neo oppress women and according to her repalcements is oppressing them, but now, feminism forcing women to work is also oppressing them.

    oh, there is no way for any women to be happy…
    they are the most miserable of things on the planet.
    No sooner than you remold society to their liking, they think its ucsk and want it changed back… is it any wonder they treat society like furniture that the man must move around the house to see what it looks like so that she can decide it looked best where it was?

    you should see what they say about high heels!!!
    they want men to walk in them… race in them..
    even the military has the men try

    and why?
    because we force women to wear them
    just as we force them to wear makup
    just as we now force them to work, when before they got to stay home
    both conditions being oppressive…

    [as i said, a movement that contradicts itself gives power to the leaders to do what they want, and means nothing other than the transfer of power]

  26. sdferr Says:

    Everyone ought to have a place to og. ‘Twould make for mankind’s best politics, ever.

  27. Artfldgr Says:

    The discussion got started when someone said that she liked to wear makeup and did it for fun on special occasions and didn’t feel like she needed it to be pretty, she just liked it. To which I said, that even Jessica Valenti herself admitted to wearing makeup and enjoying it. As long as doing something like that is really what makes you happy and you do it for that, not because you feel like you have to for some gender role demand, then more power to you. Feminism is about choice.

    really? then again…

    And what whould life be without feministing telling women what to think
    cause women are so independent they need a movement to dictate thinking

    Makeup Oppression and being yourself
    http://feministing.com/2011/09/12/makeup-oppression-and-being-yourself/

    Next thing I know, I am bombarded with people saying, “But what if you only THINK you like wearing makeup, and it’s REALLY part of some deep-seated psychological need to fit into the patriarchal demands of gender roles?!”

    “But what if there’s someone who wears makeup because she thinks she needs it to be pretty, and sees you wearing makeup! You’ve just reinforced the oppressive values of objectifying women!”

    they just cant win…

    National Women’s Liberation: What we want, what we believe
    http://www.womensliberation.org/index.php/about/what-we-want-what-we-believe

    [note the link, these are YOUR unelected leaders that speak for you in the larger sphere… cause mostly you have no voice – but watch as some will claim they do]

    We want to be loved and respected for who we are as people. We are enraged when we see that a woman’s weight, clothes, age and hairstyle are more important than her ideas, words, or accomplishments. Women are sexual beings, but sex isn’t all we are. It shouldn’t matter if we have a few wrinkles or a few extra pounds. We don’t want to crash diet, bleach, straighten/relax, shave, pluck, and wear make-up to get attention and affection from men—or even to be thought fit to be seen in public. On the other hand, we don’t want to be ridiculed, judged or told we are stupid or vain when we do alter our appearance. We want an end to the contempt for women’s true selves.

    We want full control over the decision to have children. We want free and full access to all forms of birth control, including contraception and abortion. We want to make these decisions without pressure to have children, to go on Depo-Provera, to take hormones, or to get sterilized. We want men to do their share of pregnancy prevention and disease prevention by wearing a condom without being asked, paying for birth control and/or getting a vasectomy. We want doctors to ask men, not just us, what they are using for birth control.

    [but dont want the man to ahve any say other than be a ATM… ergo MGTOW and the self extermination of people with such beliefs over time… ]

    We don’t believe that women are brainwashed or conditioned, or that we oppress ourselves. Rather, we do what we have to do to get by in a world that is still run by and dominated by men. Wearing make up, acting flirty, even getting plastic surgery or botox—all are the result of our oppression, and a way of coping with it, not the cause.

    We don’t put on make-up because we feel compelled to due to advertising, but rather because we are treated better when we do. We get compliments and attention—and when we don’t wear make-up people tell us we look tired or sick. Beauty magazines don’t brainwash us into dieting, dressing up, or making up—rather, they are how-to manuals on getting by, getting love and getting jobs under male supremacy.

    sorry NEO, but your an oppressor who loves makup and your sisters think your brainwashed… even more so if you think you can get awayh from politics by delving into something women do or desire or dont do or dont desire. because for women, everything is political till you gals fight these women from making it so

    MGTOW is the solution…

    MGTOW used to hate the likes of Rush and Hannity. Not anymore…not anymore. When Khan died suddenly…it seems like everyone else became like him. The fashion photographer from NYC used to be my favourite, something like artfldgr, followed by the ‘technocrat kaczynski anarchist’ Biomech. I really didn’t follow outliers enough to know why it changed, though. Left for two years on business and then they were indistinguishable from the Tea Party and /pol/ when I returned. Some time around ’06 they really radicalised.

    its nice to be remembered for the movement i started with others, and then was kind of taken over by the vultures for money… but hey! anyone else here start a political movement when they tell me i dont know what i am talking about with political movements?

    According to columnist Martin Daubney, members of the MGTOW community believe that legal and romantic entanglements with women fail a cost–benefit analysis and risk–benefit analysis

    Jeremy Nicholson writing for Psychology Today similarly described MGTOW as men frustrated with the lack of incentives to date who choose to opt out of dating and focus on taking care of themselves

    Kay Hymowitz has stated that some self-identified MGTOW express discontent because they see women as hypergamous and manipulative

    Business Insider reporter Dylan Love wrote a “fully-realized MGTOW (there are levels to it) is someone who shuns all relationships with women, short-term, long-term, romantic, and otherwise. He eventually shuns society as a whole.” MGTOW use the word “gynocentric” to describe conditions that favor women to the detriment of men, and are opposed to such circumstances

    According to Roselina Salemi, writing for La Repubblica, the Japanese concept of herbivore men is a subset of MGTOW Mack Lamoureux writing in Vice sees herbivore men as a consequence of Japanese socioeconomic conditions and MGTOW as an ideological choice

    the only way to win is not to play the game.
    men are very much used to not having children in society
    women? not so much
    but its funny watching the mvoement i help started go all off
    must be a lot like L Ron Hubbard and scientology..
    eh?

    🙂

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    parker:

    Most of the men in my life have said that they like me with makeup and they like me without makeup. That’s what happens when the makeup comes off.

    They’re no dummies. Of course, they could be lying.

    I think people often let their hair down, so to speak, with their loved ones. Makeup is more for the world at large, and also for going out with a loved one. I do know women who won’t be seen by anyone without their makeup, though, and I think that would be a definite red flag.

    Nevertheless, I have little doubt that you and your wife are indeed fortunate.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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