But how can you NOT laugh?
I'm mostly just going to talk about makeup in this one. Mostly.
Cue outrage on Tumblr and Jezebel. "Ladies of the Internet Not So Politely Tell Concernmongering Guys to Shove It." I think it's fair to say that some men really do think women who don't wear makeup look better. That's just an aesthetic preference like any other, of which there are an infinite number. It's entirely possible
that Boy In Outer Space meant what he said, a true romantic at heart who also happens to look exactly like the lead singer of the band Fun.
But it's annoying to be told you're insecure when you're not, and it's annoying to be told that you look better without makeup on if you actually don't, and it's annoying to be told that whether you're wearing makeup or not it must be because you're trying to please men, although The Last Psychiatrist has a different take:
The evolution from "enhances sexual attractiveness" to "doing it for yourself" is definitely a regressive step, and by regressive I here mean "regressing to age two", but it's the next step which reveals the presence of a neurosis: recruiting science as a justification for behavior: "Study finds makeup makes you appear more competent." Can't wait to read about that study in a Jonah Lehrer book. Ugh. So here's the evolution of feminist theory, take notes: "I want to look better" to "I want to feel better about myself" to "I want people to think I am better." Madness....
The reason the makeup debate is insoluble is that it's not yours to solute. The choice to wear makeup is no choice at all, I know you think you came to it on your own but you live in America, you don't make free choices here, freedom is a brand. Makeup is an $8B/yr industry, that's face makeup alone, no way is it going to allow you to make a choice that doesn't involve a credit card, fine, if you don't like makeup here's a remover for $30, just remember that you're not doing it for men, you're doing it for yourself.
Mostly, though, I was reminded of two things. One was a story by PG Wodehouse that I can't remember the name of. It was about a photographer who was so jaded by female beauty because he had to photograph movie stars all day that just the sight of a beautiful woman made him depressed. Then one day he saw a plain, freckle-faced girl in a taxi while stuck in traffic and he fell madly in love with her. The rest of the story was how he tracked her down, I think, and his name might have been Lemon. I love that story.
The other was Le No Makeup Movement, which I remember reading about back in the pristine days of Western Civilization before Instagram and dramatic poses were invented. I didn't wear any makeup in highschool or college, so I felt solidarity with the French women who thought that wearing little or no makeup was "youthful" and not "vulgaire." Easy enough to say at a time when heavy makeup wasn't in style, like it is now, especially in the excessively casual and "Yeah I left the house looking this way" San Fran Bay Area.
Sans Makeup, S'il Vous Plait is from 2006 (although I first heard of it in the early 2000s):
This season, the unadorned look is more in vogue than ever in France. The weekly magazine L'Express calls it "Le no makeup" look. French Elle described it this month as "Le bare face," defined as "nude skin, shimmering slightly."
To women in France, the too-made-up look represents something more profound than simply one's taste in skin care. It is also the mark of the desperate housewife type who tries too hard.
"The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion" is the famous quotation of the designer Yves Saint Laurent. "But cosmetics are easier to buy."
Then the economy crashed, and women bought lots of lipstick like they always do in a recession. (Or more nail polish, depending whom you ask. The Lipstick Effect Is Real claims that women make up more in a poor ecomony to vie for the fewer financially stable males left, but I think it's simpler than that, especially since Boy in Outer Space tells us that men don't fracking like makeup anyway. Why not just create the illusion of glamor if you can't afford it? When you're rich, such an idea is "vulgaire," but when you're living an attic and eating oatmeal, a tube of red lipstick will make you feel like a millionaire. Well, maybe not, but it stops being "vulgaire" and starts being retro, an escape into a non-existent movie world where the look in your khol-rimmed eyes has more power over your fate than what you have in your pocket book. And without being able to explain why, I always feel that a generous coating of Boots Natural Collection in Raspberry puts a buffer between me and any intimidating scenario I may be about to face. War paint, I suppose. They can't get you if you startle them with your scary colors first.
And who's complaining? The alternative is mourning; sackcloth and ashes; "go home and wash thy face." I'm going to enjoy wearing crazy bright lipstick until this train pulls out of the station, which it will, because fashion is cyclical and pretty soon everyone will be talking about natural, bare-faced beauty again. Hopefully the economy will get better, too.
Quotes you might have missed:
"A poll in 2003 concluded that 87 percent of French men and women believe that lingerie is an important part of life."
"She admits to wearing makeup even when gardening."
"For Ms. Fitoussi, who wears glasses and little makeup, it's all about choosing. Made-up eyes means wearing neutral lipstick. Red lipstick means dressing in black. 'Makeup dates you,' she said. 'Like a tree.'"
"When she had an upper tooth straightened last year, the daily newspaper Libération labeled it an un-French act. 'The French people's favorite Socialist is now endowed with an American smile,' Libération wrote."
We are not shining stars.