The cashier at Winn-Dixie stared at me as my roommate and I checked out. It was the first day of No Makeup November, and my pink embarrassment went unconcealed.
"You look exhausted," she said with concern.
It was close to 11 p.m., and I had been swapping apartments all day. The fact I was tired was obvious.
Throwing off her maternal worry for my well-being, I felt hot annoyance.
"So what if I look tired?" I thought. "Who is this stranger to point it out?"
I had earned the exhaustion with each boxful of books and clothes lifted into my Toyota Corolla and hauled to my new condo.
I'd felt strong and capable all day and was claiming the well-earned pizza-and-beer reward.
It is only now, some days later, that I can see I took her comment way too personally.
The bubbling retaliation was unwarranted because it was my own insecurity surfacing to fling mental stones at her.
In a split-second in my mind, I had translated, "You look exhausted" into the insult, "You look really unattractive."
My anger was fueled by continual stimuli promoting youth and beauty as goals to strive toward when women are, in all honesty, aging every second.
An airbrushed model printed on a page of Vogue will stay young and well-rested forever because she is just that -- static and glossed-over, not made of flesh and blood.
Even as the model herself ages, her flawless doppelganger will remain exactly the same.
The cosmetics industry has done a superb job of capitalizing on the insecurities women feel about their looks.
Leading cosmetics manufacturer L'Oreal has raked in $7.5 billion worldwide, so far, in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal. Forbes listed Macy's and Sephora as the top grossing cosmetic retailers with $3.25 billion and $2 billion, respectively, in North American sales this year alone.
The pitch is easy.
Fill a woman's head with the idea she is inferior because she doesn't look a certain way, then sell her the products that will make her feel like she adds up.
Show her how she can become what she's been taught to view as beautiful and you have a customer for life.
Keep her on her toes though, and throw new trends at her monthly or, better yet, weekly.
And get her started young -- stunt a growing mind with images of perfect princesses who always, always end up happy.
Be sure to make the wicked witch as wrinkled and ugly as possible, and have her meet an awful fate.
The only way I see to combat this self-depricating mind-control is to step back and say "no."
We don't have to accept capitalism's version of beautiful.
It could even be as simple as not buying that tube of mascara or trying a day without lip gloss.
Or challenge yourself, and don't look at your reflection for 24 hours. See how you feel by the end of the day.
The strength I felt after lugging boxes and suitcases was real, and didn't require looking in a mirror.
It involved sweat, Gatorade and accomplishing a goal. And, it was a gorgeous feeling -- the kind of feeling you can't put a price tag on.
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