I have been trying to think of how I feel about my naked body and I can come up with nothing new or interesting. I haven’t always had body confidence but this isn’t something I struggle with. But there is one part of my body I still can’t bring myself to strip off completely – my face.
At 12 years old my friend and I were absolutely fascinated with our French teacher. She was gorgeous and had perfected the art of liquid liner with a lash like flick to accentuate her eyes. She said it just took a steady hand, and after years of practice this is something I have become expert at. I am now something of an amateur make-up artist. I know the best ways to apply mascara, tricks with illuminator, and the smokey eye look. All this knowledge I have acquired by wearing make-up every day since I first tried to copy my French teacher with the only exceptions being bed-ridden sick days. But it has only been recently that I have discovered an art it will take another few years to perfect – the art of feeling good bare-faced.
Each morning I had a routine; shower, shave, wash hair, dry hair, straighten hair, get dressed, clean skin, put on foundation, put on powder, put on blush, apply eye-shadow, mascara, pencil eye-liner, liquid eye-liner, apply more mascara. I used to envy those who could get away with minimal make-up and still look flawless (although now I suspect they were actually wearing even more make-up – I didn’t much like wearing glasses). I would try to just put on my eye make-up, trying to convince myself I looked ok without foundation. But then the light would change and I saw the massive dark circles under my eyes and caved in. I once went to a counter at Boots and asked one of the assistants what I could do about those dark circles (at the age of 20). The woman just looked at me and told me there was nothing I could do about them, I had them because the skin under your eyes is thinner than the rest of your face – it is not some flaw of your complexion, it’s how your face is meant to look!
It wasn’t until fairly recently that I started to question why I thought I couldn’t leave the house without make-up on. What was I so scared of? So I gave it a try. I spent the day trying to fend off comments about how “tired” I was looking. So, of course, I shovelled the stuff back on the next day. The sad fact is your night’s sleep isn’t all that is questioned; women who choose to go bare-faced have their sexuality questioned – she must be a prude or a lesbian. We are led to believe that our ability to form relationships with men will be hindered because they won’t find us attractive. Female MPs feel they can’t be accepted within their profession until they look more “feminine” and a woman’s mental health is even questioned when her appearance starts to slip. It isn’t just a “pressure” that we experience when we get ready in the morning, it is a lack of reasonable alternatives.
Some women claim that make-up can make them feel empowered but where does this empowerment come from? Empowerment from a successful attempt at trying to conform to a narrow and impossible beauty ideal is not empowerment. I want to leave the house in the morning with nothing on my face but a smile and still feel as confident as if I had spent that 45mins on make-up when I was 15. And, slowly but surely, bit by bit, I am. I am starting to believe I am beautiful in the nude.