Here we are: June 1, 2014. One year ago, I traveled to a giant, muddy field to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament; I returned a new woman. Spurred by a conversation one of my teammates and I had about the amount of makeup one of our friends usually wore, I was moved to accept (and advertise) a challenge: go the entire month of June without makeup. If this seems like a rather mundane declaration, know that at the time, it terrified me. I was skittish to look others in the eyes, nervous to leave the house, and unenthused to be the subject of any photographs. I felt vulnerable, exposed, and insecure. After the first week, I regretted having been so vocal about the challenge – if I cheated, everyone would know about it and I would die ashamed. But with each passing week, I heard from more and more people who said Natural Beauty Month made them think about makeup and beauty in a new and different way; this was certainly the case for me. I began to see makeup, not as a part of my morning routine, but as a thing that some people used, a thing that I too could use, but opted not to.
By the end of the month, I had become accustomed to my naked face, a face unobscured by lines and coatings, unblemished by coverup, unmasked by mascara. The thought of putting makeup on was almost scary, as I thought I might forget how secure I had become without it. Since last July, I sank back into the habit of wearing it – but not with anywhere near the frequency or dedication. In general, I reserved it for work and fancy occasions. This morning, I awoke to catch a plane to Nashville, to visit a friend and meet her friends. As I collected my toiletries for the trip, I paused to look at my eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow: they stood comfortably snuggled in their black leather container on the shelf behind the mirror, and there they would stay. I closed the mirrored door, and, rather than feel separation anxiety, I felt a wave of liberation. The people I meet will see me as I am; this makes me happy. When I speak with these people, I will not waste time wondering if they notice how small my eyes look or how short my eyelashes are (for, if they are thinking these things, they are wasting their own time). I will not avert their gaze, or make a stupid face to conceal my natural smile. I will simply look them in the eyes, listen, and be present. Indeed, if eyes are the gateway to the soul, one would hope those gates are not locked or obstructed.
If the idea of Natural Beauty Month intrigues you, I invite you to join. If it frightens you, I urge you. And if there is simply no way you could ever do it ever, I implore you: at least tell your friends. I’ll be standing with you.