Last night, Dior.com hosted a launch party. It was a great event – there were drinks flowing and even a counter where you could get free makeovers. I decided to give the makeover thing a try. I don’t wear a lot of makeup during the day (mostly out of sheer laziness, not any sort of noble response to female beauty standards). The artist used Airflash – a form of foundation that you can spritz on a brush or sponge and feels really light and natural – as well as some smoky eye makeup and heavy liner. My friends kept telling me how great I looked. It was sort of like the rush you get after a really great new haircut – you’re still you, just a more happy and confident you.
After the event, I headed over to a party. A lot of my friends were there, and I got compliment after compliment about my makeup. “It’s great that you’re trying something new,” said one. “Your eyes look so great,” said another. This morning, I even got an email from a friend telling me how much she enjoyed my new look and how I should totally do it more often.
It’s a funny contradiction: I’m the editor in chief of a website that focuses on fashion and beauty, but I usually show up barefaced to work every day. Part of that is that I don’t trust myself with a mascara wand before I’ve gotten any caffeine into my system, and part of it is that I often test products that come into the office. But I live in New York City, where it’s not uncommon to take the subway at 9 AM with women who look like they just stepped out of Vogue. Even when I’m rocking a new outfit and having a great hair day, I don’t expect to be the most attractive woman on the block, let alone in the city. In a way, being surrounded by attractive women has given me a sense of peace – if you’re never going to be #1, you can focus more on being a really great version of you. But last night, something changed. Despite all the compliments and kind comments from my friends, I started second-guessing myself. Am I only pretty with a faceful of makeup on?, I wondered. Are they trying to tell me I usually look like I just rolled out of bed? When a cute guy at the bar offered to buy me a drink, I almost recoiled, thinking that the same guy would never have noticed me if I wasn’t professionally made up. When I got home, I scrubbed my face until it hurt. This morning, I put nothing on my face but moisturizer and lip balm (hey, it’s cold outside). I checked the mirror and made sure I still recognized the face looking back at me. Even without eyeshadow, I was still me.
Ultimately, there’s nothing shameful about feeling beautiful. What’s shameful is only caring about beauty. It was great that my friends liked my new look, but I know that they also hang out with me because we have great conversations and enjoy spending time together. I want to feel beautiful, but I also want to feel smart, funny, and like a good friend. A friend complimenting you for a new makeup look is like a friend complimenting you for a new hair color or a really cool outfit – they’re not saying you had no value before, they’re acknowleding you tried something different and succeeded at it. The only reason I went home and felt so negative was because of my own insecurity, not because of anything my friends said or did. And I ordered some of that Airflash. I’m not going to wear it to the office, though.