I’ve got a confession to make, and there’s no point mincing words about it.
The truth is… I’m a full monty girl.
Not in the “middle-aged Scottish male stripper” way, but in the cosmetic sense.
Make-up. War-paint. Slap. “Putting on your face” as my Nan would have said.
A woman’s attitude towards using cosmetics to highlight or hide various features on their face is as individual as she is.
Some women do the full monty every day, and would never contemplate being seen without it. Others will rarely use it, maybe applying the barest flicker of mascara for a special occasion.
Still more will be somewhere in between the two extremes, muddling along in a way that is comfortable for them.
Whether they choose to wear a little or a lot, the thing that I find fascinating is that most women will have developed their own set of specific “rules” that define in what situations they will wear make-up, what types of make-up they will wear and even how they will apply it.
As I mentioned earlier I lean towards the full monty end of the spectrum, but my attitudes toward make-up are both complicated and ingrained.
They are so much a part of my cultural frame of reference that trying to pin them down is like trying to catch beauty in a butterfly net.
So why have I decided to muddy up the waters of my consciousness to try and articulate my attitudes towards make-up?
My inspiration is none other than the latest viral sensation, Dustin Hoffman’s interview about preparing to play the role of Dorothy Michaels in the seventies classic movie Tootsie.
It’s not Dustin’s rather melodramatic lament about all the interesting women he never got to know because he was too chasing model-slash-actresses.
No the part that rang starkly true for me occurs at 1.53 of the clip.
It’s the part where Dustin – with the arrogance and naivety of someone to whom it has never occurred that they might NOT be – demands of the studio make-up artists, “You’ve got me looking like woman. Now make me a BEAUTIFUL woman.”
And the make-up artist delivers the same crushing verdict that a million women have looked in the mirror and pronounced upon themselves…
“This is as good as it gets”
I know how Dustin felt. The feeling of wanting to do the best with the resources at my disposal is definitely part of the reason I wear make-up.
But it’s not the full story. For me to examine how I became a full monty girl we need to wind back the clock a good 30 years at least.
We need to start with my mother.
Some of my earliest memories of my mother involve me watching her put on make-up. Hanging around in the bathroom in the way that 3-4 years olds do, probably just chatting and getting under her feet while she was getting ready to take us to the shops.
Watching her intricate movements with tiny, obscure looking instruments. Smelling the perfumed scents of creams and lotions. Admiring the bright colours bringing out the sparkle in her eyes and the bloom in her cheeks.
With her thick red hair and glamorous makeup my mother was a “pop” of colour against the backdrop of suburban Perth in the late 70′s.
To this day she is the only woman I know who can wear a tracksuit and make it look stylish.
So for me make-up has always symbolized femininity.
From the mysterious rituals and accouterments to the seemingly miraculous transformation they effected – these things would be my inheritance once I grew up and crossed the threshold into woman-hood.
However in reality this inheritance has been something of a double edged sword. The following two scenarios illustrate this better than any theoretical explanation I can offer…
I attend a work function in northern NSW and which finishes late enough for me to stay in a hotel for the night rather than drive home. The next morning I wake up tired from some fairly intense networking the previous night.
After a shower I contemplate my make-up bag and think “fuck it, can’t be bothered”. So I pack and head to the buffet for breakfast, where I am completely unperturbed about being seen without make-up.
It’s not until I’m on the way home that I encounter a problem.
I realise that I will be passing the home of a fellow blogger who I have become good friends with over the last few months. I am sans children and I think excitedly “I should call her! I could pick her up and we could go for coffee! How utterly RAD”.
And then it hits me. I have no make-up on. And my plans for a surprise visit crumble as quickly as they had risen.
No matter how much my logical mind pleads for sanity my sub-conscious mind will not give in. The internal dialogue goes something like this…
“We don’t meet new people without our make-up on. We have never met this person in real life, but we like them very much and care what they think. Surely we don’t want to meet them looking less than our best?”
The end result? I don’t call, we don’t meet and I am disappointed with myself for the rest of the day.
I work full time and always try to be in early as insurance against those times when I need to exit early due to one of the three S’s – sickness, sport or school related activities.
So I get up before the boys and Brook and start the process of getting myself ready for work. I start to put on my make-up, and instantly the process of metamorphosis commences.
Outwardly I begin the rituals of smoothing, blending and painting, that are now so habitual I almost don’t need to think about them. Putting on my “professional face” so that my external appearance reflects the confidence and conviction I feel inside.
But the internal metamorphosis is just as important. You see I rarely wear make-up on the weekends when I am around the house, cleaning and cooking and nagging and mothering. So for me the process of putting on make-up is a crucial part of changing gears between m two worlds – the domestic and the professional.
So that’s my analysis on why I’m (mostly) a full monty girl, but what I’d really like is to hear from YOU!
I am sure that for some women their relationship with make-up is nowhere near as complex mine, and I would really love to hear more about this perspective. On the other hand there are also probably some women who would think that my version of the full monty is is pretty tame and I’d love to hear more about how that works too.
Linking up with The Lounge with a very dodgy association to the theme of favourite photos. This post does HAVE photos in it after all ;)