My grandmother never gave me much beauty advice, but the one tip she did offer still rings vividly in my head. “Never leave the house without putting on some makeup—you never know who you are going to meet,” she would tell me while applying her trademark fuchsia lipstick, dispersed evenly between lips and cheeks for a blush effect. (This was '90s Russia, so resources were limited.) To this day, at 87 years old, she won’t accept company or go on her routine walk before ensuring that her staple lip is in place and her hair is assembled to perfection via a tedious, daily hot-roller process.
She is not the only one—many of my friends received similar advice from their female relatives. One Latin mother even resorted to a telenovela-inspired “What if you’re about to get run over by a bus and the man of your dreams saves you?” scenario. Discussing this, my girlfriends and I are mildly confused as we hardly remember the last time we met a romantic interest outside of an iPhone application let alone while walking down the street. We conclude that the world may have changed from the time my grandmother was in her 20s and happened to bump into my grandfather in the public library. And yet, does this mean that our daily beauty routines have changed as well?
Not necessarily. Although I’m hardly about to primp myself for the off-chance that the love of my life is waiting for me on the metro, this isn’t to say that I don't wear makeup on a regular basis. Unless I’m headed to the gym or braving a serious heat wave, I usually take the time every morning to ensure that my hair is clean (I’m not one of those girls who can pull off the whole French dirty hair thing, nor do I want to be) and my face is game-ready, which involves a carefully calculated regimen of La Roche-Posay's Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Éclat to cover up my permanent under-eye circles, Laura Mercier's Invisible Pressed Setting Powder to blot out the shine, an eyebrow pencil to give my brows character where there is none, and a swipe of Benefit's They're Real Mascara.
Ergo, like most women I know, I regularly use about five products in order to look like I’m not wearing any makeup. However, I can say with certainty that this is in no way a ploy to meet or seduce man. Instead, this is simply the best face that I put forward to brace the outside world, whether it is my boss, a client, a potential suitor, or the guy at the Parisian coffee shop who always gives me a hard time. This is my look, my beauty comfort zone, just like fuchsia lipstick is my grandmother’s. And if this is anti-feminist, then so is wearing high heels and trendy clothes or going to the gym or anything else designated to making a women look and feel more beautiful. And making rules about what women can and cannot do is hardly what modern feminism is about.
I also happen to believe that, in our era of normcore and gym ponytails, we occasionally forget the value of spending those extra few moments on ourselves, and with ourselves, on having a bit of selfish-yet-therapeutic “me time' of building a certain self-appreciation that ultimately reflects in everything else we do. Because it's not about pleasing anyone else—it's about looking the way we want to, however that might be. And if you do end up almost getting hit by a bus and meeting somebody nice in the process, so much the better.
Photo via Getty.