Naked face politics

There is no preamble, no set-up. She simply looks at me and says:

“Mom? Why don’t you ever wear make-up?”

And I look back at her, and pause. And ponder. What do I say? It has been years—not decades, but more than a decade, more—since I’ve thought about my always-naked face. What does she need to know? What does she want to know? Should I tell her that I’m too practical-busy-lazy, that when one naps in the middle of the day with babies and toddlers, one doesn’t want to smear mascara-eye-shadow-foundation on pillows? Sort of true, maybe, except I don’t think that’s quite how it happened.

I can’t quite remember when or why I chose a naked face. Or if it was even a choice…

I could tell her it’s because I exercise in the middle of the day and I love that clean up involves nothing but the quickest of showers, a wipe with a towel.

I could tell her it’s an aesthetic thing and choice and preference, one devoid of any merit, because most of the women in her life dress their faces, and I love them, she loves them, and I want her to honour their choice. And, in a couple of years, she will long for mascara and eye-liner and blush and all those things—I wallpapered my face enthusiastically as a teenager too—and I don’t want her to, ever, think that I’m judging her, denigrating her preference of the moment.

If she was older, I might tell her that in my experience lovers always prefer the taste of naked skin to the taste of cosmetics… but no, not now, I won’t tell her that.

I could tell her I like my skin. My eyes. My lips. Just the way they are. And I like to smear on lipstick for special occasions, sure, but it gets on wine glasses and her daddy’s shirts and… TMI. Stop.

I could tell her… oh, so much. Too much. I’m an anthropologist by training, after all, and I know too much about the “why” theories for most of humanity’s quaint customs.

I don’t know what to tell her, because she’s an almost-pre-teen girl in a sick culture that warps beauty and body image and aesthetics and personal choice and turns everything into a weapon, a war, a conflict, an assault on her own sense of beauty and self and joy, and oh, why-does-raising-a-daughter-have-to-be-so-fucking-hard and oh, why-do-I-always-overthink-everything, why-can’t-I-just-say, “Because I don’t want to” and be done with it?

I should tell her… what? What the hell should I tell her?

But then, she answers herself:

“Is it because it wouldn’t be fair to the other moms? Because you’re so beautiful already?”

Flora, my most beloved child, I’ve said before I know I’m not supposed to have a favourite… but at moments like this… it’s really hard for your brothers to compete with you.

I wrap my arms around her. Press my naked face against her naked face. Kiss her. Love her. And she says:

“We’re so lucky we’re so beautiful, aren’t we?”

Flora, my most beloved. We are. You are. Hold on to this feeling as you grow.


N.B. I wrote this post before Avital Norman Nathman of The Mamafesto brought the #365FeministSelfie project, masterminded by Veronica Arreola from Viva La Feminista, to my attention. Naked face, painted face, happy face, sad face, angry face–REAL face. Real people. An aesthetic of the real, as seen-captured by the subject, without a mediating eye. That’s power. And also… play, joy. I’ve been in since Day 2. Come celebrate the reality of you with me, on Twitter or Instagram with #365FeministSelfie–or, you know what? Privately. Just for yourself. There’s power in that too.

The photos, Week 1. Do I love them? One of them is awesome. Two of them make me cringe. All of them are me.

Naked Face Politics Pin

48 thoughts on “Naked face politics

  1. I have a naked face most days now, too. And when I do put on a bit of eyeliner, my hubby always asks me where did I go today…nowhere, I just felt like putting some makeup on. Lol I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself this past year with pictures of me, in general. And I’m finding that even the occasional naked face selfie…usually with the baby on my lap (he loves photo ops), I like the best. I very much enjoyed this post. My daughter turns 16 today and she currently rocks a neutral palette of makeup…which I am secretly happy about. However, she has asked if she can dye her brown hair and I simply tell her “no, it’ll die and fall out.” I’ve also told her she can not pierce her belly button or tongue “just because…I said so.” So far, she listens. So far… *cringe, sigh*

  2. Now THAT is why we have daughters :). Our son’s worship us and adore us and try to find partners who are as much like us as they choose to admit but our daughters know our hearts and exactly what it takes to blend genetics with love. GORGEOUS post. I, too, go sans the warpaint. Can’t abide with the stuff any more and should anyone decide to educate me as to my deficiencies, I have a newly painted deck that just might need someone throwing over to test it’s breachability…SO glad I found this blog 🙂

    • I’ve been struggling (for years) with my sense of inadequacy when it comes to parenting my daughter. It seems to me I’m so much “better” with my sons. And then a moment like this happens, and I realize both WHY it’s harder–and why it’s more complex–and why it’s so different and important to keep on loving, holding, trying.

      • I agree. I have 2 daughters, now both adults and I have found that where once I pulled out my hair in frustration at how easily they could push my buttons and challenge everything that came out of my mouth (let alone into my thoughts…daughters are mind readers donchaknow? 😉 ), I am now amazed at how easy it is to be with them. I am SO proud of them! They are amazing cooks, adventurous souls and everything that I could possibly have hoped that they would turn into and I get 2 of them? BONUS! Remember the old saying “Nothing that is worth it is easy”. My daughters were NOT easy 😉

  3. “…prefer the taste of naked skin…” Yep.
    As I tell my son whenever he tries to swat me: “faces are for kissing.” No need to smear anything across the kissing surface, far as I’m concerned.

  4. Not going to lie…
    I need to wear it. I mean I don’t need to wear it but I do because I don’t have a smidgen of a positive self image.
    So my hats off to all of you for loving who you are inside and out.
    I want to eat your daughter.
    And you my friend, are naturally gorgeous. No need to cover that beauty up xo

  5. I too am a naked face. I found a freebie lipstick in one of my drawers the other day and put it on just for the heck of it, to see what it looked like. Isaiah took one look at me and said “Why do you have that on?” I told him, “He said, well I don’t like lipstick mommy, I like regular mommy better.”
    Sounds great to me!
    I am thankful that I don’t have to raise a girl, is that insensitive? Although raising a boy who doesn’t look at people as fat or skinny, ugly or pretty is turning out to be hard enough.

  6. Okay, LOVE your daughter’s comment, and your pictures look amazing. I am totally the opposite – I love makeup! I hate being without makeup. I am THAT woman who can’t go to the grocery store or even 7-freaking-30 am yoga without makeup on! So I have the opposite issue – my daughter asks, “Why do you wear makeup?” I tell her I like the way I look with it on. She says she likes how she looks without makeup. So I guess we’re doing okay.

  7. I was reading this feeling a little self-righteous as I too have a naked face. But then I read Flora’s comment and it said it all. I don’t think it will matter if your daughter wears make-up or dyes her hair – she’s already figured out that these things can enhance looks, but they’re not what makes a woman beautiful. You’re raising a great daughter 🙂

  8. First: Did I know you were an anthropologist by training? I am an anthropologist by training. Which explains a fuckload.

    Second: Your daughter is amazing.

    Third: I love, love, love the first photo on the upper left hand corner. I don’t know why, I just DO!

    Finally: I have always been put off by women who CAN’T leave the house without “their face.” I have always been an eye-makeup kinda gal, maybe some lip gloss. But I don’t need to put it on. I put it on when I can, when I want to, when I feel like it. Usually when I go to work. Usually. I heart you and your beautiful face. xoxo

  9. So I loved your last piece, and you have outdone yourself here. You gave me chills. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my daughter watching me put on mascara (the only makeup I still wear) and how I am conflicted about it. I DO feel like people should be able to “paint” themselves. It seems an inherent need within us. But I agree with how our PARTICULAR society has subverted this desire. So…where does that leave us as daughters of little girls? I don’t know the answer, but, now, I won’t wrote the post, b/c you did. A little excited that you wrote it so well, but, also, a little bummed that you wrote it so well, b/c I didn’t! 🙂

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  11. Oh. Flora’s response to you gave me chills. I am really enjoying this feminist theme I’m seeing unravel on the interwebs this week. Just found out about Avital’s Feminist Selfie thing today thanks to Sarah, thanks to you. Love. And speaking of, thank you ever so much for your kind words on my post last Friday. xo

  12. Flora’s my favorite today, too. I love love that she knows that you are both so lucky to be so beautiful. I’m mostly naked face but do use mascara for work because my eyelashes are clear without it and I think I look older. Looking older is sucky. Your photos are gorgeous as are your words. As always.

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