Making up is easy to do
But would you be willing to go bare-faced in front of the world?
You know how they say that no matter how tired (or drunk) you are, there are certain things that you do on auto-pilot. Take off your shoes before collapsing into bed. Put your wallet into your bedside drawer when you get home. Keep the car keys on the table just beside the front door.
Well, in my case, the auto-pilot works best when I am leaving the house. A squirt of sunscreen to smear over my face and neck. A slash of kajal on the lower and upper eyelids to (as all those make-up artists promise optimistically) ‘open up’ my eyes. A dab of concealer to banish the dark circles earned after decades of reading much too late into the night. A dash of lipstick. And then to round it off, a fritz of perfume.
And voila, I am ready to face the world.
Now I know that this sounds ridiculously low-maintenance to all those ladies out there who start off with toner, go on primer, then slather on the foundation and blend, blend, blend. And for those who wear eye-shadow and mascara as a matter of course, my amateurish attempts with kajal and concealer must seem laughably crude.
But however slapdash the process of putting it together, this is my work face. My world face. This is the face I must put into place before I have the courage to face the world. And even though it isn’t all heavy-duty pancake and lashings of blusher, I still feel naked if I venture out without it.
And with good reason. On the few occasions when I have sailed out to face the world without kajal/kohl/eyeliner (say, after an eye infection) I have always been greeted with such solicitous stock phrases as: “Have you been sleeping well?” “You look a bit tired” “Are you feeling all right?” “You look a bit pale; all well?”
At first I played fair. No, no, I’m fine, I would assure everyone. It’s just that I’m not wearing kajal today. Yeah right, they would say, stopping just short of rolling their eyeballs, all the while wondering why I couldn’t just admit to being a trifle out of sorts. So now, I just play along and say that I’m feeling a bit under the weather and resign myself to the pampering that follows. (If you can’t convince them, hoodwink them.)
But if these experiences have taught me anything, it is not to be ever caught without my face on. It’s really not nice to scare little children. Or, for that matter, to make my friends believe that I am secretly suffering from some terminal disease.
So, you can imagine the awe I felt when I saw the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, leave off her face when she made her recent trip to the sub-continent. There she was in Bangladesh, without a scrap of make-up on her face except for a slash of red lipstick, her eyes hidden behind large, black-rimmed glasses, her hair pulled back in an untidy ponytail, laughing away as if she didn’t have a care in the world – and certainly didn’t care what you thought she looked like.
Oh my, the bare-faced effrontery of it all! (And how I wished I could be half as brave.)
Clearly, I was not the only one to be gobsmacked because Hillary’s no make-up look even warranted a mention in her interview to CNN. When asked why she had left off the gunk, Hillary laughed and said: “I feel so relieved to be at the stage I’m at in my life right now...if I want to wear my glasses I’m wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I’m pulling my hair back...at some point it’s just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention. If others want to worry about it, I’ll let them do the worrying for a change...It’s just not something that I think is that important anymore.”
That, of course, spawned reams of commentary on what this aversion to make-up (open itals) really (close itals) meant. Was it an indication that Hillary was finally ready to call it a day as far as politics was concerned? After all, why else would she no longer palpably care how she looked to the American electorate as she traipsed around the world as their representative? Did it mean that she was too old to bother with ‘tarting’ herself up? And what did this augur for other women of her age who were still in the public eye?
Was it okay to give up on grooming after a certain age? Or was Hillary letting her sisters down with this I-can’t-be-bothered-with-make-up attitude? Didn’t women have an obligation to themselves to look as good as they could? Was giving up on make-up a bit like giving up on life itself – and all its glorious possibilities?
It all seemed a bit bonkers to me, but then I live in India where our women politicians can’t really be bothered with dabbing on the foundation and slapping on the lipstick. Whether it is Sonia Gandhi or Sushma Swaraj, Sheila Dixit or Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati or Jayalalitha, none of them has ever bothered with putting a full face of make-up on before facing the cameras.
But all this psycho-babble in the Western press prompted me to conduct a little experiment of my own; a strictly unscientific survey with an entirely unrepresentative sample of the ladies on my Twitter timeline. How many of them, I asked, would be willing to face the world without a shred of make-up?
And what did I learn over the course of the day?
One: most of the ladies on my timeline were happy to go bare-faced. But that’s only because they didn’t seem to regard powder, kajal, eyeliner, lip gloss, lipstick and bindis as ‘make-up’. Without anyone quite saying so, it was apparent that to them make-up meant eye-shadow, foundation, mascara, blusher, and other such heavy-duty, face-altering products.
And two: all the women on my timeline looked absolutely gorgeous when they finally agreed to go bare-faced on a dare. After I took the plunge and posted a make-up free display picture of mine on my Twitter profile, all the ladies joined in like the good sports that they are. And very lovely they looked too!
Yes, I know this is hardly a novel idea. Such celebrities as Demi Moore and Terri Hatcher have beaten us to it. We’ve seen Terri’s Botox-free forehead straight out of a shower. We’ve seen a bare-faced Demi in bed. But hey, these women are stars and are expected to look beautiful even without any help.
But it’s a special moment when women like you and me dare to bare ourselves (just our faces, I hasten to add) to the scrutiny of an often cruel world – and live to tell the tale. And it’s even more special when that path to a happy ending is paved with compliments and kind words.
Make-up? Meh! Who needs it?
You know you are a prisoner of make-up when
a) You refuse the leave the house without making sure you have kajal and lipstick on.
b) You hide behind a giant pair of sunglasses if your eyes haven’t been ‘done’.
c) You panic when you discover you have left your make-up bag at home and can’t affect repairs through the day.
d) You cry for days when your favourite make-up brand discontinues your favourite lipstick shade.
e) You stock up on your favourite foundation/eyeliner/mascara just in case they phase that out as well.