February 28, 2007

Naked or Covered?

Beloved just did a “reveal post” that reminded me of the culture of makeup. She lives in Vermont and wears makeup. When I was in college in western Massachusetts, most women didn’t wear makeup. In fact many women didn’t shave their legs. Doing either of those was yielding to false expectations of male-dominated society. If you had any self-respect at all, you didn’t need makeup (was the rhetoric).

One of my buddies from New England was interested in a woman from Atlanta. His biggest hesitation was that she was a Mary Kay rep and he was concerned she lacked self-confidence because she always wore makeup.

I replied, “Look, in New England if you are in public and wearing makeup, it means you have no self-respect. You’re hiding behind a mask. But the further south you move in the US, the more makeup culture changes. If you leave the house without makeup below Mason-Dixon, then you don’t respect yourself. Living in Baltimore, if I showed up for a client meeting without makeup, it showed I didn’t take myself seriously as a woman.”

I’ve noticed that in Korean culture on the east coast, makeup equals self-respect. Now that I’m on the west coast, the north/south rule seems to still apply. Seattle? No make-up. Bay Area, mixed. LA? Makeup (+ plastic surgery) or die! As a tomboy, my default option is no-makeup. I’d rather happily surprise when I wear makeup than disappoint if I get lazy… Fortunately, here at work, I’m surrounded by Asian women who mostly wear no makeup. Phew!

What do women do where you live? What do you think of makeup? Spawn of Satan? Groovy Fun? Necessary as water for survival?


Rachel said...

I like makeup. Maybe it's because I grew up in the South. I don't wear very much, but I feel sort of naked without any at all. I don't think the choice to wear/ not wear makeup has anything to do with self-respect. People have been decorating their skin and bodies since the beginning of time.

Beloved said...

I'm so glad you blogged about this. My makeup addiction has evolved over time. I hardly ever wore any until I moved to Korea. And well, you might know Korea is pretty much like L.A., so it's do or die! Korean women feel that it is disrespectful to others if you don't look your best and of course, looking your best includes makeup (this applies for men too, meaning they all shave, have their hair cut very regularly and wear nice clothes). Women who don't wear makeup in Korea (at least when I lived there) are considered lazy. When I read your post I was expecting you to say that all of the Asian women you work with wear makeup, but I guess they're Asian American, huh?

I agree with Rachel, that makeup doesn't have a lot to do with
self-respect here in the U.S., but I personally wish I didn't depend on it so much. It can be a lot of fun but I've gotten to be a bit of a slave to it ever since Korea.

Anonymous said...

I wear makeup and I like it a lot, more than I should. I do live below the Mason-Dixon, now, but used to live in NY, born and raised there. In Virginia, at least the city I'm in, there's a good mix of both types of women of which you speak. I don't wear a lot, the mary kay reps I've met are a bit scary....I'm a fool for Clinque really, love the cleaning products, I like to do cleaning masks and scrubs a lot.

This past week my sister came for a visit, she left with my makeup bag on accident, I went 3 full days with nothing but mosturizer and a bit of foundation and chap stick, it was liberating to see that few people noticed, women did, men didn't.

Snickollet said...

I grew up in Oregon, went to college in Oregon, only wore makeup for special occasions. I find that here in Boston, it's a real mixed bag. The student population tends not to wear makeup, but professionals do. I didn't until recently, when, after my twins were born, I just started to feel old and tired and found simple makeup was a real pick-me-up. Let me tell you, my Korean MIL and sister-in-law were THRILLED when I started to wear makeup. They both definitely feel that you are being disrespectful to yourself if you do not make an effort to look your best at all times. In their eyes, looking your best for a woman includes makeup.

OTR sister said...

I only wear makeup for special occasions or dates with my husband (which are the same thing right now). Ironically, he doesn't like when I wear makeup, much prefers the natural look so I'm not sure who I'm putting the makup on for. I think it does help me to feel I am more put together.

The older women I work with in Seattle do not wear makeup, but the younger ones do. I think it is also a generational thing.

Mama Nabi said...

I don't wear any make-up... it feels literally suffocating to put stuff on my face. I also don't really know how to use make-up (i.e. foundations, cleansers, whatnots... I sort of know where they go - mostly on the face, right? - but not which order).
However, I wish I felt more comfortable with makeup on my face or that I knew how; a co-worker saw my wedding picture, didn't even recognize me at first, then asked why I didn't look like that every day. D'oh! So apparently, I'd be prettier with makeup. It's weird but here in Minnesota, makeup seems often correlated with political leaning, i.e. the more makeup the more conservative. I usually feel safer among women with little or no makeup, at least here.