When I turned 12 my mom got me a large pink book called “The Big Book of Girl Stuff.” It detailed everything from how to talk to boys, to those quizzes that predict your future career, and of course, how to put on makeup.
It actually wasn’t as misogynistic as I’m making it sound. It advocated for being natural and it joked about how fake barbies were, but it also explained what mascara did to eyelashes and how some people got nose jobs because they didn’t like their facial structure. It was weird. What was even weirder was that I coveted that book. It explained everything I didn’t have the guts to ask my mom. And it was how I discovered the power of primping.
Since then, I have perfected the cat-eye eyeliner and sometimes I’m even confident enough to wear hot pink lipstick to dinner. Primping has become something of an art and despite its obvious girlyness, I embrace it for what it is.
As I’ve grown up, and embraced my “version” of feminism, I’ve occasionally faced backlash over my makeup choices. There’s a vein of feminist thought that argues if you wear makeup, you can’t be a feminist.
I think that argument hinges on the assumption that I’m contouring my face or highlighting my cheekbones for men. But, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I throw on a full face in the morning because I’m good at it. It’s a combination of art, color theory, technique and skill that gets me ready to take on the day. I’ve never had a man come up to me and say, “Wow Rachel, that contour is popping.” It has nothing to do with men, and everything to do with me and my ownership of my body.
There’s a lot in our culture that creates a relationship between looking great and feeling great. Sometimes that’s bad and sometimes it isn’t. In this case, my primping for hours gives me a way to feel confident and powerful.
Every time I look at my painted toes for the next three weeks, the varnish reminds me to shine. When my hair is soft and fluffy, I feel great. While I may hate waiting for 45 minutes while the blow-dryer attacks my locks and gives me heat damage beyond belief, if I can find the time to look good, I know I’ll feel good.
Whenever I was little and cried, my parents would tell me to go wash my face. It would clear my skin and make me feel so much better. Primping might not always be the most productive and useful thing to do, especially on the week before three crazy midterms, but after I go through the process, I really do feel more ready to tackle any challenges that lie ahead.