Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Fresh Faced and Almost Fancy Free

Today is the first day I’ve ever gone to work totally bare faced. And I thought I was going to feel more liberated.


Here’s the story. I woke up tired, with a headache, the remnants of an ear infection. I didn’t feel awful, but I didn’t feel fantastic. I brushed my hair and I brushed my teeth, and I looked in the mirror and I just thought ‘not today’. And I watched the news for 15 minutes instead. I don’t wear very much make up on the best of days, and I don’t look hugely different without it; and I’m still wondering whether anyone noticed that I looked a bit paler, my eyes looked a bit smaller and the bags under my eyes were pretty obvious. At least no one said ‘are you ok? You look ill’, because that seems to be the go to when women who usually wear make-up have a free skin day.

So as I sat (stood, who am I kidding) on the train this morning, watching one lady try and do her liquid eyeliner, and another try and blend her foundation in the flattering light of the Victoria line tube, I felt pretty smug that I was fresh faced and feeling…fine. I won’t go as far as saying I felt liberated, because hell I was only going into work make-upless, and then I saw a man sexually assault a lady on the escalator, and that brought my feminist pride crashing right back down. But my face, my appearance, didn’t feel like a big deal.

And then I get to work. And for some reason, I keep poking a spot on my face, and rubbing my eyes, and Christ I feel tired. I feel like I want to crawl right back into some pyjama bottoms and hang out on the sofa. It took me until about 4pm to realise, but without my make-up, I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel concentrated, or ready to do work, but lazy and tired. And that annoyed me, until I realised that it wasn’t about the make-up but the routine. Every morning, before work, I get up and brush my teeth, and get dressed, and sit on the sofa for 10-15 minutes and do my make-up and watch tv. Until this morning, I’d never really thought about doing anything differently. It wasn’t about not having any mascara on, but that I hadn’t gone through that normal routine, that process which reminds me that I’m ready to go to work, rather than ready for a morning of Jeremy Kyle and Traffic Cops. 

In the last couple of months, I've seen a lot in the media about women's obligation (or non-obligation) to wear make-up to work. There are lots of contentious questions being thrown around about how it impacts your perspective of someone's professionalism; whether 'looking after' your appearance suggests that you're more of a go-getter; and whether there are certain jobs or industries where it is and isn't ok to show up to work fresh faced. And although I've always been of the opinion that a woman can do whatever she damn well wants with her face, work or no work, it made me want to think about the reasons I always wear make up to work. Today showed me that it's not because I do or don't care about my eyelashes, and not because I do or don't care about my work and how my colleagues react to my mid-week eye bags - it's because it makes me feel more awake, more alive, and less in the mood to spend my day curled up in a ball. It's also shown me that, if I did it more often, I'd probably be more functional without my concealer. 

Next time I oversleep, I'm sure as hell not going to be getting tube germs in my mascara. Or the next time I feel like my face needs a day of polluted London air getting up close and personal with it, I'll oblige it that privilege. Because, ladies, our success in the workplace is  not ruled by our BB creams, our almost matching, over-defined eyebrows or our third favourite lipsticks. 
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