Wow, okay this title sounds like a quote that could easily have been lifted from Zoolander 3, and uttered whilst looking into the back of a spoon, but I promise you it’s not. If I added up how much time I’ve spent getting ready to go out over the years I’d probably feel a searing shot of pain, a bit like a slap to my freshly contoured face. And if I could add up exactly how much time I’ve spent worrying about how I look, rather than, you know, actually enjoying living and making memories etc, I’d probably feel it twofold.
This week the news hit that Zadie Smith only allows her daughter 15 minutes in front of the mirror each day because she is “wasting her time”. Her brother, on the other hand, throws on his shirt and goes out of the door – no messing, straight into the day. She implemented the rule to prove a point about time-saving. Zadie’s daughter is only 7 – and the fact she’s spending that time getting ready at that age is a whole different blog post on the pressures the young girls face today – but besides that, it certainly had me thinking about my own attitudes to getting ready.
A few of my friends have began to drop the makeup thing, citing “it gives me way longer in bed each morning and sleep time is precious” – bra-fucking-go, girls. Seriously! As when an early morning meeting calls my name via the screaming alarm clock, 9 times out of 10 I’ll have set it a good 30-45 minutes earlier just so that I can spend that time doing my hair and makeup. Who’s the sucker? Me, when I’m then also spending an extra £5 each day on extra strong lattes and a further £20 on even stronger concealer (it’s a bitter, bitter cycle, can’t you see?)
But leaving the house with no makeup on comes as no hassle and no drama for me. I still usually feel confident and comfortable in my own, imperfect and untouched skin, bar for the times I’m suffering from a hormonal breakout (if you could pass me a paper bag with two eye holes cut out, that’d be great thanks.) For the first time ever, I have no problem taking off all of my makeup in front of the men I’ve dated when they slept over for the first time. I literally couldn’t care! And this may not seem like a big deal to many of you, but it’s all a far-cry from the Sophie pre-2014, that would spend at least an hour going hard on the eyeliner and shadow each day, layering up full-coverage matte foundation to no end and maybe throw in strip lashes for good measure. Just to go into uni. That Sophie spent whole relationships going to bed with makeup on as if it was normal and acceptable (and coincidentally, that Sophie had seriously shitty skin too…)
Although none of those relationships lasted, my relationship with makeup, on the other hand, has. And like all relationships, it’s been a tricky one to work out at times. The truth is, like I know many of you do, I quite enjoy applying makeup. It’s fun getting creative! It’s a bit like painting – and I was good at art in school. I definitely enjoy feeling my absolute best – which I do, without a doubt, when I’ve got a little bit of foundation and mascara on (although of course, if we didn’t have these standards imposed upon us of what’s beautiful and what isn’t, would I feel this way?) And Studies have shown that women who wear makeup and “look more groomed” tend to earn more money and do better in the workplace (but if you look too made-up, people think you’re unprofessional and often a bit stupid – it’s a fine line of fuckery only us women get lumped with). Plus, when you work in a job like mine – one where your face is weirdly such a big part of the job – of course there is the pressure to look your best at all times.
I can’t deny the joy makeup can bring – in terms of artistry, creativity, and above all, being able to enhance confidence – especially of those who suffer from bad skin or scarring on their faces. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, and I’d never shame anyone for their choice to or to not wear makeup. But it’s the bigger picture I’m looking at now – the amount of time we spend looking at ourselves, rather than looking to the world.
In one hand, makeup is wonderful, as it’s one thing that women have to enhance and create and own, that men simply do not (without facing harsher judgement from the shitrags of society). But it is absolutely a curse, as it’s something we face criticism for no matter our choices – too much makeup/ not enough makeup – fine lines of professionalism and looking “too made-up” yada yada. And that’s something men don’t have to bother with. Like Zadie said, bar perhaps a quick slick of some form of hair product and plucking a stray stubble hair, they’re out the door into the world, living their lives instead of preening and perfecting, whilst we’re here rubbing coloured creams on our faces to no end.
That time we spend in front of the mirror does add up. British women spend an average of 38 minutes a day doing their makeup. That’s 4.5 hours each week. That’s 10 whole days and nights every year. And if we take the average life expectancy of a woman – that’s 2 whole years of your life spent applying makeup and getting ready. Two whole years you could have spent doing something else, something more worthwhile.
So then, what happens if I stop wearing makeup? Well, I’m not about to find out, because I’m not going to go cold turkey on it just yet. But what I am going to do is start to be more mindful of what I wear, and how long I spend in front of the mirror. Right now, my desk doubles as a dressing table, so I’m constantly faced with my face whenever I’m trying to work. And it is distracting. Not bc I’m so pretty, obvs, but because I do look up and think “ugh my pores are huge and my eyelashes suck right now and I’d look so much better if I did X” – like a clip from Mean Girls, acted solo by moi. And instead of working on that killer blog post I’m looking into exercises to shrink a double chin or adding £££ of beauty products to my basket. This post is probably going up 15 minutes late as there’s a spot on my cheek I can see and I can imagine I’ll keep staring at it until I decide to waste a further 5 minutes trying to pop it – sorry!
I’ll never, ever stop doing something that makes me feel like the best version of myself. And if that’s wearing a bit of makeup, so be it. But perhaps, for now, I should remove the mirror from my desk, so I can continue writing instead of obsessing over my monobrow situ, and of course, spend less time trying to look good, and more time actually living.