Boys and Make-up

After a post celebrating our family anniversary, any subsequent post is virtually guaranteed to be a let down.  So let’s really scrape the barrel and talk about boys and make-up.  Well make up at least.

There have been a few changes I’ve dealt with since my hair has been purple. Although I still spend the majority of my time with hair scraped back and no make-up, I find I care more about how I look than I have done for a long time. I have no idea if this is a sign that I am beginning to wake up a little after the stress of my mother’s illness and her death or if people looking at you more (they do!) makes you want to look your best (or a closer approximation to it than I’m used to) or if just that purple hair makes you look a bit more washed out. So this week, and at this point those of you who know me in real life might want to sit down and hold on to something solid, I’ve been thinking about and wearing make-up.

Before I totally mislead you I should add that I’m talking some lippie, mascara and, on a wild day, maybe eyeliner and a touch of primer. I’m not exactly rivalling the Kardashians with contouring and sculpting and other such stuff. (Did that sound credibly like I knew what I was talking about?)

There are problems with this new-found interest in war-paint.

The 1970’s radical feminist inside me is lying down under the table next to me as we speak, doing deep breathing exercises. I really object to the societal pressure for women to wear make-up, to look their best, to rip all socially unacceptable hair out by the roots.

But, but, but, but… lipstick. Lipstick looks sooooo pretty. Or at least it would if I could find a lipstick that goes well with purple. It’s a mission I’m on.

Oh but, but, but, but… I hate the fact that watching the standard boy/girl presenting pair on breakfast TV, he, although obviously made up for the cameras looks natural whereas she has multi-hued eye make up perfectly blended and long goopy lashes and glossy red lips. She looks beautiful and perfect in a doll-like way. Her co-presenter is a handsome young man obviously a cut above your average man’s looks but still… not painted nor perfect. Both represent an unattainable and unrealistic picture of perfection but somehow her’s is just more… well, just more.

I don’t quite understand how we got like this. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in the era of glam-rock and the new romantics and punk and skinheads. Girls with bleached skinheads mixed effortlessly with eyeliner’ed boys wearing strings of beads and lacy shirts. Of course there have always been and will always be people who ignore gender norms in their era but this WAS the norm in the 70’s and 80’s. If you had asked me then, I would have predicted that by 2018 there would be only a marginal difference between what was socially acceptable dress for each of the sexes. That both would be wearing makeup if they chose, that colour and embellishment would be acceptable across the board.


And yet here we are in 2018 – equality is vastly improved in many ways from the 1970’s when my mother could not have got a mortgage without either her father, husband or brother also signing it but gender roles seem to be more entrenched than ever.  Men wear less make up and less colour and are more outwardly bloke-ish as a group than they have been since the 1950’s. Whereas women are more made-up and more judged by the amount of body hair they display. There is even pink lego. It doesn’t escape my notice that the wave of teens at Daniel’s school who are coming out as trans, which is explained to me as that they feel like a boy/girl (delete as appropriate), seems to be increasing at an exponential rate as we are retrenching into much more gendered behaviour/dress/toys. It’s not difficult to see why so many find it hard to reconcile their sex with what it’s deemed that sex means.

But how do I reconcile my liberal views of supporting the right of any person to live as they please without harm or discrimination with my dislike of reducing this “feeling like a woman” to a grotesque cartoon of heels and makeup and of what girls do/boys do?  I do not feel like a woman. My experiences of being a woman revolve mostly around biology or the sexism that seems to attach to the biology – of sexual abuse and harassment, of worrying about periods, and lack of periods and the relentless tick of my faulty biological clock, of reassuring employers that, no I’m not about to leave and have babies, whilst watching the young men around me move on to pastures new for reasons which are unquestioned. Of being asked to pour the tea in meetings.  Though to be fair as you don’t actually need a uterus to pour tea, that one could fall out of the “I feel like my biology” theory.  Now that I come to think about it, it would make more sense to use a penis to pour tea, thinking of shape and teapot handles, so it’s a conundrum.

It has made me realise that I’m just as much a product of my upbringing as everyone else – expecting girls to play nicely and look pretty and defer and make way.  And I’m particularly aware of this when faced by the Kazakh bemusement over our insistance that pink is for girls and blue is for boys – evidenced by the number of photos I have of Daniel in fetching pink outfits in his first year, much to his horror.  Neither in other places nor in other eras nor in other animals do you see this insistance that colour is gendered, nor that make-up is feminine nor that adornment is frowned on for men and body hair is frowned on for women.

So I have a cunning plan – that men opt on the whole not to embrace the fun that is make-up is not my problem, and should not preclude me from dabbling and I shall do so without deference, without playing nicely or making way but whilst challenging and asserting and being my own kind of woman.  With lipstick when I choose.

If this is the “Make-up” post then will the next one have to be the “Boys” post?



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