I love make up. I love having a nosey around make up counters (looking at you in particular Urban Decay) and getting myself into a flurry of excitement over the bright sparkly colours. Bright green lipstick? Sure, why not? I mean it looked great on The Hulk. Liquid eyeliner so waterproof that it requires four make up wipes and the ability to scrub for 17 minutes straight to remove? Yeah, go on then.
But what I don’t love is being told by my employer during an ambush intervention meeting that I basically looked like shit without make up. Oh, and that I was also to wear a minimum of concealer, eyeliner and mascara every day to work.
Apparently, my strange behaviour (not wearing make up to work for three days) had caused quite the feeling of mild hysteria in my boss. She politely enquired if I was enjoying my job, if I was happy in the workplace, if everything was okay in my personal life and even if my favourite type of green tea was available in the staff kitchen. In other words she buttered me up nicely before ramming a shit sandwich through my non-lipstick coated lips.
She simply said very matter of fact the following: ‘You need to wear make up everyday to work because I don’t think you look presentable or professional without it.’ This was by no means a joke; it was indeed a genuine request regarding the state of my face. Not my work, or my ability to do the job that I’ve been hired to do but instead I was reprimanded for my decision to not wear make up every single day.
I’m the first to admit – I’m pretty lazy. And I don’t mean your average ‘I’ll have an extra 5 minutes in bed snooze’, I mean super lazy, as in: I can sleep for 15 hours straight without feeling guilty. Obvs if I had to choose between an extra ten minutes in bed or painfully jamming contacts in my tired little peepers and then move on to the regime of concealer, eyeliner, mascara AND foundation every single day well I know which one I would choose.
You may be wondering exactly what exciting and glamorous job I have that requires me to wear make up every day – is she a make up artist? Is she an air steward? Is she a model? Erm no…I actually work in marketing (after my original plan of becoming Lena Dunham’s bezzie mate failed) for a national beauty brand. By beauty I don’t mean make up, by the way, I mean hair removal but we say beauty to make it sound a bit more fluffy.
So anyways, I was fucking outraged and what I really wanted to do what shout the following: ‘So hold up…I’m expected to work over 40 hours a week, plan numerous events and deliver many a campaign, handle work out of hours, and paint my face – every single fucking day?’ But of course this is real life – not a movie, and I’m not rich enough to get fired, so in defeat I nodded politely and shuffled back to my desk whilst resisting the temptation to shed a few tears.
This ambush meeting has effectively taken away my choice to control my appearance, and also raised a few angry voices in my head. Why are women constantly expected to wear make up? Why in 20-fucking-14 do the highest ticks of approval for women still centre on our physical appearance and beauty? Why is it acceptable for my employer to judge my presence in the workplace by my appearance as opposed to my skillset? Why do men not get told to whack on a bit of concealer and lippy? And since when is not wearing make up deemed unprofessional?
The beauty industry does a fan-fucking-tastic job of creating imperfections that we didn’t even know existed in ourselves and convincing us that they hold the key to making it all better. Obviously, the whole “making it all better” goal simply means to get us all looking a certain way to fit in with tightly controlled and unattainable ideals of beauty. It would be really useful if they honestly told us ‘Soz ladies, unless you can Photoshop your physical appearance with a magic wand every single living moment you probably won’t look like the model on the make up poster”, but that’s not in their financial interests, so they keep on pushing the dream.
I used to constantly obsess over my appearance thanks to magazines, the media generally, and looking at filtered snaps of everyone else around me who appeared super gorgeous on social media, but then one day I just stopped caring. Instead I focused my efforts into other things like baking, writing and stalking Idris Elba online. And you know what? When I realised that it’s really not that important for me to have a full face of make up and perfect hair every day I felt much happier.
By being cool with how I looked and my body I got back my confidence and regained some of the self-esteem that went temporarily missing during my teenage years. But sadly it seems that for women the beauty industry, media and society (my employer also) kind of want to take this away from us. Instead they want us buy into the idea that confidence and self-esteem is achieved only through buying into The Beauty Myth (love you forever Naomi Woolf) rather than our beautiful natural selves.
So it looks like I won’t be skipping into the office singing ‘I woke up like dis’ in my best Beyoncé voice, but instead I think I’ll be handing my notice in very soon and finding an employer that values my skills, as opposed to my ability to perfect winged eyeliner at 7am in the morning.