Makeup is one of those things that girls do that guys often fail to appreciate. In fact, we’re often inclined to say “I prefer girls without makeup” when what we mean is “I prefer girls who apply their makeup with more restraint.” Cause few guys really like pimples. Most guys like smooth-looking skin. These are things that makeup provide. Granted, I myself fall into the category of guys that “prefer girls without makeup.” Indeed, my wife rarely wears it and I easily consider the low-maintenance aspect of it to outweigh the visual benefits when she does wear it. A step further, a surprising number of romantic interests in my past and present (Clancy, Evangeline, Tracey, Dharla, Carla, Libby) never pierced their ears (though Tracey pierced her nose some years later).

So a part of me is quite sympathetic to Redefining Beautiful, a club at a Texas high school that go bare-faced on Tuesdays. Well, not just a club of girls, but a club of pretty conventionally attractive girls. Comments Phi:

On the one hand, I’m encouraged that that someone wants to call a truce in the clothes and cosmetics arms race among high school girls. But on the other, it’s not clear that these girls are redefining much of anything. On the contrary, most of the girls in this picture are in the very flower of their natural beauty by its existing definition. What’s changed is that they are not dressing in ways that signal sexual availability, but that isn’t the same thing, and every high school boy knows it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing caught on. I’ve commented in the past about how female fashion seems to be geared towards exclusion. You have tops that look good only on the slimmest of slim girls. You have uncomfortable shoes that only the most dedicated will suffer to wear. If a medium-size girl with an unimpressive chest (and/or a modest pocketbook) looks okay in it, female fashion has no use for it. This is sort of a reversal of that in that any girl can go without makeup, but it’s also an extension of it in that not any girl can look good while doing it. Sort of like how the popular and/or good-looking guys in high school could get away dressing down in a way that the rest of us can’t. Except that in girlworld, this is of greater import.

It gets me thinking about all of the steps that girls must take to define their attractiveness that guys don’t. I mean, like girls, guys have to watch their weight and it’s helpful to put some thought in how you dress. But outside of certain circles it’s really pretty easy for guys to get to that middle of the personal-appearance bell-curve as far as dress and hygiene are concerned. Shower regularly, comb your hair, moderately groom yourself, and you’re right there in the middle. And there aren’t a whole lot of guys out there trying to one-up you by dressing a little bit better. Indeed, we’ve made lemon out of lemonaid. Losing your hair? Just shave it off. Don’t want to shave? Well, we’ve made that okay. And guys that try to separate themselves from the pack by trying to look too impressive? Well, we have words for those people. If we could get the ladies to go along, we’d all just sport large beards and brag about how smelly our armpits are. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one.

Of course, there is another side to this as the RD girls inadvertently demonstrate. These girls can go without makeup and still look good. What about the girls who can’t? In that sense, makeup has a certain egalitarianism about it. With enough effort, it allows so-so looking girls to look a heck of a lot better. The wide array of fashion may make things remarkably more complicated than it is for men, but it provides the underdog girl with options that men don’t have. If a guy is so-so looking, he can’t wear a stunning outfit (because again, we have words for guys that do that). If he has pimples, he can’t use makeup without significant risk. There are industries around helping heavier women find outfits suitable to their figure. Guys are stuck in the same outfit as their peers. And one of the biggest basis of discrimination against men – height – simply can’t be accounted for. The biggest tool in our chest that women don’t have is facial hair to make the chin more distinct, but we’ve already got men calling men out for that, too.

The makeup thing in particular is problematic for the young and pimpled. Makeup will only take things so far, but they do at least make these things less noticeable. Acne was never a huge problem with me, but I did envy girls their makeup when the pimples came. And on a couple of instances I tried to do something about it. But the stigma is enough that even if you use makeup, you have to apply so little that nobody could possibly notice. The closest I came to something working was peach-colored anti-acne cream. At least then I had an excuse because anti-acne stuff wasn’t verboten… but if someone with more social influence than you said it was makeup you were doomed.

It’s sort of the inverse of the yin-yang involving who-asks-out-whom. On the one hand, ladies are more likely to have guys coming to them. On the other hand, if the guys aren’t coming, they are much more limited in what they can do in response. A guy, on the other hand, has the ability to muster up the courage to ask out a thousand girls, learn from his mistakes, get better at it (both the approach and the marks), and overcome it. It’s our responsibility, but also our power.

Back on the makeup thing, on the whole I think that guys have the better end of the deal. Of course, I think we do on the who-asks-out-whom deal, too. So maybe I am just the guy from the Chinese proverb picking my problems right back out of the pile. But I do like the fact that there is much less expectation that I am going to spend a whole lot of time and effort on my looks. I additionally benefit from being a nerd wherein by dressing up to the top of the curve gave me a significant advantage in a group that is notoriously cool for hanging out on the left end of it. And it takes a lot of decisions out of my hands, which given my indecisiveness and the fashion errors I make (consciously and unconsciously) is likely to my benefit.

Category: Coffeehouse

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12 Responses to Bare Tuesdays

  1. Peter says:

    Don’t want to shave? Well, we’ve made that okay.

    For men. For women, well, shaving has become mandatory. God damn it.

  2. Clancy says:

    I think Will spends more time fixing his hair than I do. 😀

  3. ? says:

    Living in a house full of females (even the pets), one of the shows I find myself watching is TLC’s What Not to Wear, wherein two fashionistas (the hosts) giving a denizen of flyover country $5000 in clothes, makeup, and hair styling. I’m the one always yelling at the TV, “who cares? she’s still FAT!” But sometimes the results make a big difference.

  4. trumwill says:

    It’s amazing what a makeover can do for a woman. It doesn’t take someone fat and make them skinny, but it can make their fatness less apparent. When on a beach, we talk about “people that look like that shouldn’t be wearing that!” Because, in their case, it would make their flaws less apparent if their fat weren’t hanging over their thong. That’s something. And it carries over into a lot more than swimwear. Women have more option than men in this regard. There’s really something to be said for that.

  5. Mike Hunt says:

    And guys that try to separate themselves from the pack by trying to look too impressive? Well, we have words for those people.

    What sorts of words? Homo? Faggot? Or something more benign?

  6. trumwill says:

    Usually something insinuating femininity or homosexuality. Sometimes euphemistic. Sometimes direct. If they’re a Barney Stenson type, it might be a reference to being a prick or the thought “this is not someone I particularly want to get to know.”

  7. Sexy Pterodactyl says:

    Random advice question for da ladies

    For someone that’s never learned how to use makeup: should one try to learn/try to use it (and if so, how to learn) or just skip it?

    I’m going to get my female typist a makeover, so she can be all hottie like high-quality foreign babe Amy! (in my post “Alpha Male PUA! Roissy Game for Swooping Submissive Foreign Women”)

  8. Nanani says:

    Out where I live, cosmetics for men are common. Things like concealer and other skin-smoothing implements are, at least. You can see them on the shopping aisles in even tiny convenience stores.
    Maybe it will become normal in other countries someday, too.

  9. Maria says:

    For someone that’s never learned how to use makeup: should one try to learn/try to use it (and if so, how to learn) or just skip it?

    Depends on what kind of skin you have, I think. If you have very oily skin it will just melt right off after 45 minutes or so. That’s why I never wore much of it until my skin dried out a little bit when I got older. Now I wear it for special occasions, but not everyday. It’s just too time-consuming and boring to put it on.

    My best cosmetics are semi-permantent: eyelash extensions and well-waxed and dyed eyebrows. They both really make me look glamorous without looking phony (if you go for the moderate look, not the obviously fake Kim Kartrashian look). And you don’t need mascara or eyebrow pencil, ever. Wish I’d discovered that much earlier in life.

  10. trumwill says:

    Nanani, there are actually articles about that this side of the Pacific. I have one queued for a Linkluster or a post on articles of Japan that have been slowly accumulating. The depiction of (young) Japanese men these days is… odd… and not very generous.

  11. trumwill says:

    Maria, it’s amazing what good eyebrows do for a woman. Back when she was trying to salvage things, Libby plucked her eyebrows and it made a remarkable difference. She also started wearing makeup (and wearing it inconspicuously and well), but that wasn’t nearly as noticeable as the eyebrows. Eyelashes are overrated, in my view, though that’s a matter of taste.

  12. Maria says:

    11.Maria, it’s amazing what good eyebrows do for a woman.

    ITA will! It makes more of a difference than anything else, IMHO.

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