Friday, January 22, 2010

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 25

#25 – “Don't wear too much makeup. It will make other women distrust you."
(The photo of me and my youngest son, Colt has nothing to do with this blog post - I just like the picture)
This one of one hundred things that my mom taught me a million times, is one I’ve purposely put off talking about because I have such mixed feelings! Just reading and thinking about it makes me feel a little on edge, irritated. Why? Because I don’t want to believe it and intellectually know that it is not an absolute, but in a deeper place, I think it is true, sometimes, and that really, really bothers me. It bothers me that I think it is true, and it bothers me that it could be true. OK. Breathe, breathe. Now, let’s just back up and try to take a little less emotional look at this issue. 

Makeup has a sordid and deadly history. We know Cleopatra wore it - you saw the movie with Elizabeth Taylor, right?  Well, what Cleo/Liz didn’t share was that her lipstick was made from finely crushed carmine beetles mixed with ant's eggs.  This sounds pretty disgusting, but then I strongly suspect that my favorite 99-cent Walgreens lipstick is made out of ground up kittens, by a 4-year old in some 4th-world country.

Ancient Greek women coated their face with a white powder containing lead, which over time destroyed their complexion, and in some cases killed them. Women during the Middle Ages didn't wear much make-up, (although blush was worn by prostitutes) until Queen Elizabeth (the one that wore the weird white makeup).  Guess what? That high-forehead hairdo she was so fond of - it wasn’t a fashion statement. It was because the lead in her makeup made her hair fall out.

Throughout history there have been attempts to ban women from using cosmetics: not for their health or safety, but because they were considered immoral or contrary to religious beliefs. Clement of Alexandria, proposed a law that would prevent women from using cosmetics lest it tricked their husbands into marrying them; and as recently as 1770 a law was put forward to the British parliament proposing that any marriage that was entered into with a woman who used cosmetics prior to the wedding day could be annulled.

I can just imagine that with the advent of movies and TV women became much more aware of the contrast between them and glamorous movie stars. I spent a good bit of my teens studying the Lady Clairol boxes and the Cover Girl and Maybelline displays at our local drugstore – daydreaming of looking like Kim Novak or Sandra Dee.

Back to the emotional, political, sexual issues. Are women a threat to each other? When I was younger and not that confident of my looks, nor of the other valuable aspects of my being, I thought that I had to be sexy, pretty, glamorous. And I did it to attract men, but I don’t’ think that I did it to win men who were already involved with another woman.

Let me back up – I did for a short period of time – during my “I hate men” phase. But the 1,000 lb irony was that it was the women that they cheated on that were hurt. And I was hurt. My self-esteem was at an all-time low.

At some point I finally woke up – probably about the time I finally figured out that I was smarter than that – or was it because I’d swum the English Channel of men and was ready for greater conquest – or was it because I was getting older and just too damn impatient, cranky and particular to play the game anymore? I don’t know.

I do think that the qualifier “too much” makes a difference, and I do think that when you see a women over-made up you have to wonder what’s she’s up to, but I also bristle at the idea of women not trusting each other and women not being trustworthy.

How you feel about my mom’s lesson #25, “Don't wear too much makeup. It will make other women distrust you.” I'd really like to know. 



  1. What color is your lipstick? I'd kill for a ninety-nine cent tube! Jane

  2. I buy every color they have! I think the brand is actually NYC.

  3. I have to disagree with this Momyism...I think it's a person's actions and/or body language toward someone's partner that does more damage and creates more suspicion, rather than how much or little makeup they are wearing.

    I also think, unfortunately, until most women reach a certain age or place in their life, they most definitely feel threatened by other women. But, as you know, the bottom line is that we have the power within ourselves to rise above the uncertainty and lack of self-esteem.

    I'm preaching, right? I'll!

    I'm so glad you started this blog site!!!


  4. Thanks for your comment, Lynda.

    You know, mom was subtle. I think that her saying "makeup" was really just a metaphor for inappropriate behavior, and I think that a lot of her "lessons" were metaphors for bigger issues. Like you've heard me say before, she just tossed it out there and let you figure it out on your own.

  5. Did you ever watch the "unreal" Housewives of Orange County? Now there's a bunch of snarky women.
    But, that's for the TV camera. On the whole I think women are more "sister friends", than not.
    Too much make up just looks scary.