There was an opinion piece that ran in The Independent UK this week beneath the highly contentious headline, ‘Come on feminists, do the radical thing and ditch your makeup bag”.
I was intrigued and horrified, because as a fully committed lifelong cosmetic and skincare junkie I can’t conceive of a life with makeup. It’s not a tool of gender oppression, it’s a joy.
The thrust of the story was ‘I don’t wear makeup and never have and you will feel liberated if you don’t wear it” which is just plain weird. Okay, good for you, sister, but bad feminism is telling other women what to do.
I’ve loved makeup since I was a little girl, and the glorious scent of my Mum’s pink lipstick when she kissed me good night on her way out. My mother’s at-home look was very glamorous – she wore leopard print robes and bedroom mules and turbans and false eyelashes.
We lived in the Shire, but I didn’t I think we were posh just because every Saturday a beauty therapist would come to our house and give my mother a facial using Lancôme products.
French skincare! From Paris! Ooh la la! Mum let me play with her makeup, bless her, so my friends and I would spend hours in her ensuite bathroom (complete with white nylon shag carpet, people), painting our faces, trying on Mum’s platform shoes and parading around like a 1970/s version of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
I spent every Saturday morning in the Grace Bros beauty department in Miranda Fair, and all of my pocket money, on Yardley Pot O Gloss, and Highlight Blue eye shadow, and Mary Quant gel blush sticks, which were probably all highly toxic by today’s standards but who cares.
By my late teens I left the sun kissed suburban beach chick look and the Avon catalogue behind, moved into the city, turned full punk Goth and I have slept in eyeliner ever since.
Makeup is a delightful form of personal expression, a profession, and an art form.
We are not wearing it because we have to; we are wearing it because we want to. I’ve always found the ritual of makeup to be a lovely part of female bonding: my French/Algerian mother-in-law painted my hands with henna for a wedding, and I searched for perfumed oils and kohl sticks for her in the souk in Marrakech.
My friend’s 93-year-old mother was always a huge makeup lover, so I would visit her in the hospice, paint her nails bright scarlet and massage her hands with her favourite Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream.
No one who loves makeup is going to give it up willingly – I feel like getting older gives you the privilege of wearing even more. I chased a very elderly woman down in Bondi Junction last week just to tell her she looked fabulous because she had on tons of hot pink blush that looked heaven against her olive green Mao jacket. My aunt was a showgirl in the fifties, she wore theatrical makeup all her life, and she was stunning.
Rather than ditch my makeup bag, I think I’ll re-stock.