Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Sacred Ritual of "Making Up"

When asked what their opinion is of women wearing makeup, many man and women I talk to will give me the standard, "It's a mask that hides what is really underneath." And most of the "nice" guys I know will even add that they prefer when women don't where makeup because they find women beautiful just the way they naturally are. AWW. How sweet. However this is assuming that women wear makeup only to make themselves appealing to men. Hmmm not so sweet. But to be fair, a lot of women do wear make up and look nice only for that reason, to appeal to men; and once they are in a relationship or marriage, they stop wearing make up all together and just throw on jeans and a t-shirt and call it a day. A past boyfriend was often frustrated that I always dressed up and made myself up regardless of the fact that we were dating because he argued that, "since I already had him, who else was I trying to impress?" and he became jealous. Which yes, is preposterous. Because the fact was and is, I like dressing up and wearing make up... and not for anyone else but for myself, and here's why:

To me, putting on make up in the morning is a sacred ritual. Women have been wearing makeup for centuries since the time of the Egyptians and even further back still. When I put on make up, it is a way for me to really study my face, love my face. I don't put on eye shadow to hide my eyes, I pick colors and shades that enhance them.... colors that would not enhance another person's eyes. The same goes with lips and cheeks and eyebrows. It's a way for me to enhance and my natural features and love myself

In her poem, "Making Up", among the many thing she does with this poem, Eavan Boland suggests that applying make up is a sacred way for women to connect with women everywhere in the past present and future. It is a ritual that liberates women and their femininity rather than oppresses them. She's a fantastic poet, and I highly recommend reading some of her work.

(Eavan Boland)

Making Up by Eavan Boland

My naked face;

I wake to it.

How it’s dulsed and shrouded!

It’s a cloud,

A dull pre-dawn.

But I’ll soon

See to that.

I push the blusher up,

I raddle and I prink,

Pinking the bone

Till my eyes


A rouge-washed

Flush on water.

Now the base

Pales and wastes.

Light thins

From ear to chin,

Whitening in

The ocean shine

Mirror set of my eyes

That I fledge

In old darks.

I grease and full

My mouth.

It won’t stay shut:

I look

In the glass.

My face is made,

It says:

Take nothing, nothing

At its face value:

Legendary seas,


That up and stuck


Of thigh and buttock

That they prayed to-

It’s a trick.


Are made by men.

The truth of this





Of a face

From the source

Of the morning

Is my own:

Mine are the rouge pots,

The hot pinks,

The fledged

And edgy mix of light and water

Out of which

I dawn.

A really good article by Jody Allen-Randolph which looks at many of Boland's feminists poems including "Making Up" in the last few paragraphs.