The Eye of the Beholder

"Less is more!" is what my father used to say during his explosive fits over clogged, usually overflowing, toilets.

"Beauty comes from the inside!" is what my mother continually says as she judgmentally watches me Snapchat my friends.

"I'm not taking actual pictures of myself! They only last for three seconds. I'm not that narcissistic!" I always reply to no avail. And I haven't clogged a toilet in weeks.

My parents' wisdom rings true throughout various aspects of daily life, from Charmin Ultra Strong to social media. But their words are specifically pertinent to a change within myself that started approximately six or seven months ago. When transcribing a now-forgotten schedule for this blog, I decided to forgo makeup for one week and subsequently write about my experiences. This one week turned into one month, two months, then three - remember what I said about being lazy? Alas, one morning, I found myself sweeping tinted moisturizer down the slopes of my chipmunk cheeks and rimming my blue eyes with a matching blue eyeliner. A few weeks succeeding this surrender, I found myself forgoing makeup altogether once more, instead resorting to my trusty eyelash curler, Neutrogena sunscreen, and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream to make it through the day.

And I never got around to writing a blog post about my experiences. Until now.

A teenage girl's relationship with makeup can be as complicated and tumultuous as her relationships with significant others. I started wearing makeup in seventh grade when I discovered that I wasn't naturally beautiful (or so I believed). The uphill trek into puberty was beginning and as the breasts blossomed so bountifully on my chest, the stark redness of my cheeks and my hereditary under-eye bags made my stomach churn with discomfort every time I looked into a mirror. My devoting mother whisked me away to the Bobbi Brown counter of Neiman Marcus; I vividly remember sitting in the makeup chair as a saleswoman expertly painted creme foundation from a stick onto my face, dusted my eyes with a lavender shadow, and warmed my pale complexion with fluffy sweeps of bronzer. I insisted on abstaining from any blush whatsoever; the concept of pink cheeks made me want to vomit, as I despised my naturally fuchsia face. I left the department store that afternoon feeling confident, something I had never attributed to my appearance before.

I have always been extremely confident with myself. I come from a notorious family of strong, A-type personalities and like to think that I am just as headstrong and determined as my other "house-mates," although some have referred to me with negative terms falling in the realm of "bitchy." Am I a female dog? I cannot say. Regardless, makeup had and continually has no effect on the way I perceive myself (because seriously - who gives a fuck what anyone thinks of you?). In the years preceding that fateful day with Bobbi Brown, I had only equated my personal pride with my accomplishments. Sprinting the fastest and obstructing the most goals as a defensive player in both field hockey and soccer made me feel confident; getting good grades on my essays and receiving praise from my teachers and peers made me feel confident. But feeling confident by way of looking in the mirror? This was something new that my thirteen-year-old mind was intent on grasping.

My mother made it a point to rarely discuss appearance when I was younger. To this very day, she struggles to feign excitement when I show her my burgeoning abdominal definition or experiment with peroxide (well, that's a lie - she had a little too much to say about her disliking of my white-blonde 'do, but that's a thing of the past). When we escaped to the beauty counter that weekend, I felt as if I had bonded with my mother in a way in which we had never done so before; we were buying makeup together, participating in an act that women around the globe treasure. And to this day, I continue to treasure such experiences. I am a beauty junkie. The saleswomen at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Sephora recognize me and acknowledge me by name every time I venture inside and know that no, I don't need any help. (I like to do things alone.) But even though I am filled with joy whenever I stumble upon a serum that soothes my flushed cheeks or a treatment that reduces my stubborn pimples, I have come to accept that beauty truly emanates from within. No amount of foundation, bronzer, eyeshadow, or mascara (not that I've ever worn it anyway) can instill intellectuality, curiosity, and kindness into your character. 

To address my point, I indifferently affirm that to this very day, I wear little to no makeup. If I have time in the morning or feel like being fancy, I'll rim my eyes in black eyeliner, dust my face with bronzer, and wake up with under-eye concealer. Do I feel obligated? Absolutely not. Life is about living. I don't want to worry about whether my foundation matches my spray tan while I'm dancing with my friends or if my eyeliner has smudged down my lower lids when I am trying to stay awake in class. I have found so much power and exponential confidence in accepting the fact that I really did wake up like this and am comfortable facing the world as, well, myself. Accepting my own sense of natural beauty is an obstacle that, at least for women in today's society, can seem almost impossible. I am living proof that it is an accessible accomplishment to wear acne scars and under-eye circles with pride. Who really cares anyway? If people are staring at me, insensitively picking away at my plethora of imperfections, they are the ones with the problems. I'm flattered that they are staring! At least it's worth their while. Because at the end of the day, I want to be remembered for the confidence in which I carry myself, my dreams, my goals, and my virtues. I do not want to remembered as the prettiest girl at the party. 

Photographed by Maddie Hicks wearing a vintage sweatshirt and absolutely no makeup. I had just woken up.