After dressing for class in my disheveled room, guzzling coffee and then brushing my teeth, the pause provided by the care it takes to apply lipstick felt like a sigh.
Leaning over my bathroom sink and focusing on my reflection behind small splatters of toothpaste, I saw imperfection -- the blemishes I had tried to conceal, the stubborn dry spots and the bite I left on my bottom lip after wrestling for the right words to finish an article overnight.
It bothered me.
But as my lips rouged to "Rum Raisin" by Maybelline, the anxiety eased.
The effect was akin to Clark Kent changing in a phone booth. I squinted my eyes and there she was: this sharp, confident woman who's able to walk up to anyone and start a conversation, aiming at her goals with sharpshooter precision.
I wore lipstick like an emblem of fearlessness and sophistication.
Something uneasy brushed me as I gazed at my proud reflection. I realized the lipstick wasn't magic -- the confidence lived inside me all the time, but I could only, for some strange reason, draw it out when I felt I looked attractive.
As a Southern woman in my 20s, I have become an expert illusionist.
I know which heels I should wear to elongate my 5-foot-1 frame, I know how to cinch my dresses with a belt to create a waistline and I know how to contour my cheeks with blush to create "instant cheekbones!"-- as is written on the back of my CoverGirl blush compact.
A deep-red lipstick makes me feel like Wonder Woman, and changes the way I carry myself.
Pride sizzles through me with each application of this stuff -- this tasteless stick of chemicals.
But what is wrong with me if the poise vanishes when the makeup comes off?
Do I value other people's opinions of me so much it dictates how I feel about myself and approach others?
And why can't I feel kick-ass without makeup? The feeling obviously exists somewhere inside me.
What I do know is this: Wonder Woman is beautiful. She was painted by a man to be an ideal. She has an ageless face, small shorts and huge breasts.
And I can't relate to her at all.
To me, she is not a feminist icon because not a single woman I know looks or acts like her.
She is just art.
She's a doodle on a page acting out masculine stories.
What I want is more than that. I want to discover who I am without hiding behind a mask our culture has drawn for me.
No Makeup November is an experiment in confidence. It is a search for answers.
I pledge, here and now, to not apply makeup (or society's definition of beauty) to my face for the entire month.
I predict it won't be easy, but the goal in this is to learn about myself and ideas of beauty.
So, if you are reading this and you want to give it a shot with me -- even for a week, or a day -- email me sheehrk@Auburn.edu.
We can get coffee and talk about our journey together. Solidarity, sister!
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