Sunday, September 30, 2012

Balpreet Kaur and Why I Will Help My Daughter Figure Out Makeup

I posted about this story a few days ago, but I am still thinking about Balpreet Kaur. I suggest you read the story, but a quick rundown: someone took a photo of her and posted in online to mock her. She found it and respectfully explained why she does not alter her appearance in any way. I have to tell you, I find her reasoning extremely compelling. I have no intentions of electively altering my body or using injections to “keep me young”. I already have white hairs at my temples, and I have no intentions of dyeing it to cover it up.  I could stand to lose some weight and I am working on that, but I also am happy with my curves. To be honest, I really do wish that our society (and me!) could be more accepting of just letting women look how they look. It is easy to agree with Balpreet on things such as elective surgery, but when we get down to daily beauty routines, it becomes more complicated for me.

I shave my legs. I tweeze stray hairs. (Yep. PCOS is awesome in so many ways in addition to stealing fertility.) I straighten my not-curly-or-straight enough hair when I have the time. I wear a little make-up every now and then.  These are things I have done, in some form, since I was 10 without thinking twice… until I had children and they started to watch me do my hair and makeup. Things like “Am I telling her we aren’t good enough the way we were made?” “How can I explain makeup in a positive light?” and “Will this influence his views on women?” began to run on loop in my head. I can talk a big game, but the reality is I started to do these things to feel better about myself.  If my hair was a little curlier or a little straighter, I would nix the straightener routine, but I like my hair to look straight! (For the record I would also LOVE to be able to pull off curls, but my hair does not hold curling iron or hot roller curls even with gallons of hair spray.) I started wearing makeup at 13 because the so called “pretty girls” did and I wanted to feel like I looked my best. (Full disclosure, I look back on photos of us all and laugh. There we are, at a Catholic school that doesn’t allow makeup with foundation lines or looking like we had been hit on the face with white powder, as though we were fooling everyone.)

When I went to a public high school, makeup was more about having fun. I finally was able to wear something to school other than a white shirt and a plaid skirt. I could buy nail polish and wear it without being sent to the boiler room at school to try to scrub it off with paint thinner. I read about how brown eyes should wear purples in YM and so I wore purple mascara. It was about expressing who I was and having fun. I would be a liar if I did not say that some of my self confidence was attached to wearing makeup. Adolescence is tough. You struggle with being a person. I had a grown up body but I was immature and inexperienced in life. Sometimes this still describes me! I was lucky that I had a mom that helped me figure out the purpose of makeup: to enhance. To this day, when I wear makeup, it is a foundation with an SPF, mascara and a little eye shadow. Blushes and lipstick are too crazy for me. None of the things that I do are drastic by any measure of the word, but I still find myself wondering why and how can I explain this to my children without some version of “women aren’t good enough” even if it is veiled or prettied up?

 These thoughts swirl around in my brain at least once a day. I truly do admire Balpreet. She is a strong and confident woman who takes her faith seriously. She believes she was designed perfectly. I would agree and also say that I believe I was also designed perfectly. It was not until recently that I began to evaluate whether my actions showed this. By society’s standards I am no means on the extreme end of the spectrum. I probably fall towards the boring end as I do not even have any tattoos or current piercings. So I ask again, how do I explain this to my children?

I don’t know that I have any solid answers today, but here is what I have so far. Makeup is fun and can give you a boost on days that you really need it, but your self image and worth cannot depend on it. We are complicated people with many interests, goals, talents and quirks that work together. Beauty is not more important than any of these things, because beauty comes from these things. I will teach my children that women and men alike come in all shapes, sizes and colors and that our bodies are different and work differently sometimes. When my daughter asks questions about makeup, I will help her learn how to do it right, not forbid it or pretend she isn’t asking. I will talk to her about why she wants to wear it and tell her that she really is exquisite without it.

As far as putting makeup in a positive light goes, for the time being I am mulling this over: I appreciate how God made me. I do not believe my hairy forearms were an accident anymore than the fantastic eyebrows I was blessed with are an accident. (Seriously, never had to pluck!) However, I do like to put clothes on that compliment my body, and enhance my features a little bit with some makeup. I straighten my hair because it is thick yet fine and really shiny and I consider it one of my favorite things about me even if I do just throw it into a ponytail 85.71% of the time. (I did the math.) All of us should feel good about the things we like about ourselves and strive to feel better about the things we don’t like about ourselves. I am human, and sometimes I need the reminder that I am beautiful, just as God made me.  Sometimes I need an eyelash curler and some black mascara to remind me. Other times it is a phone call from a friend, an unexpected husband compliment, or an email from someone telling me thanks for the great post!

I will end with a challenge. Make an effort to compliment others more often. Not on how they look, but on something else that you appreciate about them. Everyone needs to be reminded that they are truly exquisite.


  1. Interesting thoughts. I don't have any kids, but I never thought of makeup as something that we use to "fix" ourselves. My grandma is the one who taught me how to put on makeup, but she always looks fabulous. I guess to me, it was a bonding, feminine thing. I was never told nor did I think that I "had" to wear makeup. I pretty much only ever wore eyeliner and mascara. I got older and was blessed with horrid skin so now I need to wear foundation to even out my skin-tone. I have straight, thick hair, so the hair thing has never been an issue to me. I think if I had daughters I would teach them that makeup can be used to enhance our natural beauty and femininity, but doesn't need to be.

    As for the compliment, I like that idea! I learned something valuable from my husband about compliments: he always says "that dress/color/top looks great on you!" not the other way around. I don't know if he was taught this or thought it out or what, but I say it that way now. It's like you're saying "you look awesome and your outfit enhances that" rather than "that outfit makes you look better than you normally do." :)

    1. I LOVE the compliment twist! I think that often that is what we mean, but the message does get jumbled. I suppose I had not connected the idea of "fixing" to my own thoughts...though that does seem to be what I am saying with this post. Hmm. Thanks for giving me something to think about! I never gave makeup a second thought until I began really thinking about the feminist movement and the messages women are sent. Today there are more men that engage in beauty rituals, but by and far, men (and others) look at themselves differently than women (and others!) look at themselves. It took a little time but I block that talk out as much as I can. I hope I can help my daughter to do the same.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Paige!


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