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.
[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.