February 7…Seeing with New Eyes: The Naked Face Project

Okay…so go with me.  This whole thing has thrown me into a space of observing.  I am not reacting nor “proacting” to anything going on around me…just listening and watching.

Funny…everyone (I mean this literally) who has crossed my path today has made mention of “The Naked Face Project.”   Because I am a Charlotte native and because of my work with Girls on the Run, people GET it.  They understand that my intention is not to “pick sides” but to create (as we do at Girls on the Run) a safe space for dialogue around issues that matter.

Which leads me to an entirely different question.  As one fabulous woman wrote me yesterday (you can see her comment on the previous piece) Who cares?  Why does this matter?  Something about this seems ridiculous.

First of all…I know for sure that this won’t matter to everyone.  Women who don’t ever wear make up will probably not be interested in the conversation and that’s totally cool…but those of us who do…there is something weird and uncomfortable about this “mattering.”

Let me share a quick story.  My son is 16 and has this propensity to wear his jeans pretty low on his hips.  So low in fact that his boxers are frequently peeking out from the top of them.  The other day we were heading to a doctor’s appointment and I kindly asked him to “Please pull up your pants.”

His response.  “It doesn’t matter if I wear my pants like this.”

My response back to him…”Well if it doesn’t matter then you won’t mind pulling them up will you?”

I feel the same way about this experience.  If make up didn’t matter then going without it wouldn’t be a big deal…the conversation wouldn’t matter and like I said…for those of you who don’t wear make up…this whole conversation probably DOESN’T matter…but for those of us that do…the ensuing dialogue on it mattering feels awkwardly important.

This morning at the gym I was approached by a well-known Charlotte business woman.  She quietly pulled me to the side, in the locker room.  “This whole conversation has me totally on edge.  I’m successful in my career…accomplished in my field…and tied to my made-up face.  I can’t imagine walking into a professional setting without it.  How can that be?  I can conduct board meetings, stand before our employees, navigate any intellectual conversation within the area of my expertise, but the thought of going naked faced…terrifies me.  I worry that I will not be taken seriously…and worse yet…that I will be passed over for someone else.  Something as silly as whether I wear make-up or not shouldn’t matter that much.”

Today at lunch I went to our local Y to eat in their “home-cooking” cafeteria.  Charlotte’s business leaders congregate here for great food, good talk and lively dialogue at the “round table.”  The wooden round table sits  approximately 18 people, mostly men in their late 40’s to mid 70’s.  I sit at this table everytime I am there.  I love to participate in the debates that occur here.  The round table is safe…politics, religion, “family values,” nothing is off limits.  Respect for varying viewpoints lives here.

Today…all of the men were laughing with me about the project…doling out the much-deserved ribbing.  Many began their “take” on it by suggesting that the project had nothing to do with them.

One man in his late 60’s spoke up.  “I’ve always thought that women who were without make up were absolutely beautiful.  To me…the most beautiful woman pulls back her hair to reveal the complexities of her naturally beautiful face.”

(About 9 of the men at the table were listening in.)

Today there was one other woman at the table…and she was in her late 60’s…early 70’s.  “I don’t know.  Lipstick can really make a woman’s eyes pop.  I’ve told some of my friends that they really need to add lipstick to their daily beauty habits…to improve their appearance.”

I loved listening to the two of them talk.  They were actively engaged in a dialogue on our cultural views on beauty.  Even better, they eventually got into the conversation of relationships, sexuality and power.  The whole thing was absolutely fascinating.  I got pulled into a nother conversation before they finished.  I don’t know how it ended.

But I do know I’ll just keep listening, observing and being in the space.

I do have to report a couple of housekeeping items.  (These are absolutely of no specific interest to the bigger conversation, but just amusing outcomes of going without my daily “beauty habits.”)

Deodorant is back on my “have-to” list.  For me deodorant is a hygiene issue.  Go ahead and laugh…but I just didn’t know that I could “stink” so much!  🙂

My eyelashes are almost invisible they are so light.  I had no idea that my eyelashes were so close to blonde.  They are also very thin.  I’m beginning to like the way my eyes look without the make up. My eyes look very kind and tender…I think.

And my legs itch…not because they are dry…but because of the stubble. The stubble bothers me the most when I’m trying to sleep.  Funny to become THAT aware of my legs.  I do have to admit though…that…just like a kid, I’m really loving this experience and delighting in all this new and entertaining information my body is giving me!

This is really hysterical…oh Lawd.  What have I gotten into… From stubble to power.

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19 Responses to February 7…Seeing with New Eyes: The Naked Face Project

  1. Masala Chica says:

    I think the social reasons women have to “put on a face” run extremely deep. This project may seem unimportant to some but I think stripping back a superficial layer in who we ate is huge in revealing us – and why we have this belief that out true form is less pretty than one that is painted.
    Kiran

  2. I am loving watching you experience this. I’m not a make up wearer. If I do put some on, it’s a bit of mascara and some eye shadow. That happens maybe twice a week. But I do shave my legs, wax my brows, colour my hair… it’s easy for me to say that this would affect me because I don’t wear make up, and I could easily go without a hair dryer… but no shaving, no eyebrows… no hair colour? That makes me very uncomfortable. And I’m not sure if that’s because of how *I* feel or because of how I’ve been conditioned to feel (a nicer shaped eye brow makes me look prettier: fact) (but again, pretty as determined by WHOM?). It’s interesting what that man said… my husband feels the same way. He find me most attractive in a pony tail and sports bras.
    Part of me has always felt that the big machine of the beauty industry is turned by men and it’s men who ultimately force us into these ideals. But at the same time, it’s men who are the ones who usually say they prefer women au naturale. Women may criticize other women for various physical styles, but men don’t seem to. It’s the same as the notion that we are so much more critical of our bodies. When we look at ourselves naked, we see buldges and wrinkles. When men look at a naked woman, he sees a beautiful naked woman. He’s too distracted by breasts and lovely thighs to notice faded stretch marks…
    So do we do this to ourselves or is it society? And if it IS society, who’s driving it?
    Like I said, this has been rumbling around in my brain this week too. So thanks for making me think 🙂

    • What excites me most is the ability to share our vulnerabilities with each other and not feel shame or judged. I think this is how we change the culture…we eliminate the taboo from the conversation so that we can just get real with our egos and our vanity…which we ALL have. (I guess unless we are so enlightened…we just don’t ever visit that context.)

  3. Amy says:

    I’m intrigued by this idea. I don’t wear makeup. If I do it’s because I’m bored with my eyelashes so I wear purple mascara. If something doesn’t make me smile or giggle, I don’t bother with it. I chose not to wear makeup in high school because there was too much pressure to wear it. I wasn’t them, I was ME so I wanted to define my style and my life.

    I still notice the pressure to make myself prettier. I have gray hairs popping up everywhere. Friends comment on it and then quickly apologize for embarassing me. The truth is I am not embarrassed by my gray hairs. I don’t think I’ll ever be. My face has more wrinkles, the bags under my eyes have become more pronounced, and I have age spots, but I don’t want to hide them either. It’s me and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me (and if any one thinks there is, they can take it up with God).
    On the other hand, I have to have my scented lotions and I absolutely MUST shave my legs. I know these things started because of society’s standards for females, and I’m not sure if my reasons for continuing each (I cannot sleep with itchy legs and I like smelling good for me) are real or just a result of trying to avoid admitting to caving to society’s expectations for me.
    Just a side note: When I was in upper management (in my 20s) I was told several times by different colleagues that I could use some makeup–after all that was what all of the self-respecting successful women did. It was frustrating to hear I wasn’t good enough unless I hid my imperfections behind a mask. The people who mentioned my “need” for makeup were completely puzzled by my response of not having anything to hide. Some even laughed and said it was “cute.”

  4. Rob says:

    Molly, I have decided to take a small action related to your project. My daughter Anna, adopted from China, had a major facial deformity at birth (severe cleft lip and palate). She has gone through 5 surgeries for repair. Before her surgeries, her cleft created a HUGE smile. I’d grown so use to it that I had to readjust once it was repaired. For each of the 60 days of your project I am setting aside $5. At the end I will give the $300 to Smile Train, which will help provide cleft repair surgery to a child in a less fortunate country.

    The YWCA reports that American women spend $7 Billion (yes with a “B”) on cosmetics each year. If my math is right, that amount could provide something like 200 thousand cleft surgeries.

  5. Jen says:

    Molly, let me just say that I love what you’re doing. I love the experience that you’ve created for yourself and I thank you for inviting all of us along for the ride. There are some very interesting ideas surrounding what you’re doing and I am excited to hear what you learn about yourself and others during your adventure.

    I don’t wear makeup and haven’t shaved my legs for over a year (and maybe only once or twice a year before that). That said, this conversation ABSOLUTELY DOES matter to “people like me.” I’m thrilled that the idea of not wearing makeup is beginning to be “not so taboo” and that people are considering that yes, it makes a difference if I wear make up, and yes, it makes a difference if I don’t wear make up, but it’s a conscious choice to either “do” or “not do” and no longer a “have to.” Perhaps it’s moving into the realm of no longer being a social obligation or self-imposed archaic construct. Hooray!

    Please know that what you’re doing makes a DIFFERENCE to you and those around you. I admire you, Molly, and thank you again for inviting us along on your journey.

    P.S. I use deodorant, too.

    • So…I can just say it then…this is kind of scary…Not going without make up or any of my other beauty habits…but challenging the beauty constructs we’ve become SO accustomed to…we don’t even know we are accustomed to them. I am typically a very strong woman…but I have to say…in this case I’ve come up against some fear of pushing buttons or not be “liked” by everyone. Your words mean a great deal to me and I appreciate your encouragement. I mean it.

  6. Ashleigh says:

    Molly,

    I’m finding this conversation particularly intriguing as I just started wearing make-up of any kind a few months ago. I previously felt very strongly about not wearing make-up, but I bought some mascara and eyeliner for Halloween, liked how it looked, and now wear it almost every day. Exploring how my feelings and opinions about make-up, myself, other women, and beauty in general have changed (or not changed) has been interesting. I’m grateful you’ve opened up this space for conversation so I can learn from other’s views as well.

  7. fromcheaptherapy says:

    Molly,
    i’m right there with ya re: the power of ‘observing’ during the Naked Face Project. i’ve been VERY surprised that (so far) by not paying as much attention to my own “mask” i’m paying much better attention to what’s behind those around me.
    am SO loving this!
    lisa

  8. NYT article says:

    There was an article a few months ago in the New York Times about how women who wear makeup are perceived to be more competent.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/fashion/makeup-makes-women-appear-more-competent-study.html

    An interesting article that made me rethink my morning makeup routine. The opposite of the NFP, this article made me increase my work makeup routine.

  9. Nadine says:

    I’m loving the discussion, and self reflection. For me, of all the things you and Caitlin decided to go without (for now, or forever), deodorant was the one thing that I knew I could never do. I’m sure there are more natural alternatives one could choose, but, to go without….unfair to the people around me! I never wear makeup on the weekends, without giving it a second thought, I just never have. So, I definitely have a made-up work face, you’ve made me think about the ‘why’ that is.

    Aside, GOTR has FINALLY come to my neck of the woods, and I’m SO excited to watch it grow!

    • Nadine…so you know…deodorant is back in my gym bag. I wa sin yoga last Friday and I was thinking “Good gosh…someone needs deodorant. I didn’t realize for several minutes…that it was me. So out of kindness to the people around me…it’s back on!

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