My mom used to tell me about watching her own mother put on makeup before going dancing with my papa.
She remembers watching her in girlish awe, marveling at my grandmother’s beauty.
I put on makeup in front of my own daughter nearly every day. Not all days, and sometimes not until 2 in the afternoon, but she very typically watches me put on mascara.
I don’t wear a lot of makeup, just a few key pieces. It’s not because I want to cover myself up either, or because I think I’m boring. (Ironically, as I curl my lashes, I often consider that the stick-straight shape of them more properly suits my face.)
From a “beauty” standpoint, I feel I look my best after a workout, with nothing on my face at all but a blush coming from the inside, and some glistening sweat across my cheekbones.
Yet as I’m wiping the mascara from my face tonight, I find myself suddenly telling my daughter something that I think about all the time, but never actually say. It just blurts out to her.
I offer up, as I remove the day’s colors from my eyes, that I enjoy putting it on because—through makeup—I’m able to draw and paint, but just on my face.
I’m able to find some creativity in a mundane morning, by swiping a touch of blue mascara across my outer eyelashes. I can precisely add gold to the inner corners of my eyes, and a hint of bronze shimmer across my cheeks. While, surely, these things brighten up my often tired mother’s features—making me appear much more rested and calm than I sometimes feel—this is not why I put them on. (I rarely even spend time with people above waist-height.)
I’ve also been the girl who didn’t shave her armpits or legs.
I’ve been the girl, too, who hates wearing dresses, as well as the girl who loves them.
The older I get, and the more I grow into my individual self outside of and within being a woman, the more eager I am to embrace these aspects of my femininity that I choose.
Frankly, this feminine embodiment shifts and changes and is somewhat moody, like I am.
Some days, my version of sexy is leopard yoga tights and sweat-dripping during weight lifting. I feel raw and charged as a human being, and as a woman, by owning my power. Other days, I put on my favorite blue flowy dress and a pair of slightly heeled shoes—that I can comfortably walk and chase my small children in—but that make me feel tall and feminine the instant I slip them onto my feet.
I’d like to teach my daughters, when they’re older, that makeup is something that can be fun, but, conversely, I want to make sure they know that they are beautiful without it. I want them to know that makeup is playful, but not necessary.
I welcome calling myself a feminist. To me, being a feminist means honoring my innate equality with all others walking across this Earth’s landscape. It also means I feel free to make my own choices.
I am no less of a feminist and no more feminine of a woman because I occasionally have neon fuschia lips and golden eyelids.
I am no more of a feminist and no less feminine because I can regularly be found tilting my head back, roaring with laughter and talking loudly.
I want to teach my girls that being a woman is wonderful, but that there are many kinds of women. There are many kinds of people.
There are those of us who pretend we’re Picasso as we break out our makeup bags in our bathrobes—but putting on a dress and makeup isn’t what makes me a woman, and it’s not what defines me as one either.
I’m a cackle laughing, occasional dress wearing, regular fuschia-lipped feminist, and I’m thankful for being able to express myself as an individual. I’m equally hopeful that my daughters will find comfort in self-expression, but never feel compelled to be labeled by it.