Makeup in Middle Age or Why I Got My Daughters Make-Overs

A few months ago I read in a ladies magazine that if you’re middle-aged and still doing your high school make-up  routine, you’re in trouble.

Uh oh, I thought, I’m in trouble.

Not the look we’re going for here

Now much of my work and life resides in what folks fondly call The Republic of Cambridge.  In The Republic of Cambridge, many women go au naturel, whether in the make-up department, the bra department, the dying one’s hair department or even the shaving legs/underarms department.

And there’s a lot godly I find in this Republic of Cambridge attitude.  After all, God cares about our insides, not outsides.  Jesus loves me no matter what I look like and so should you.  Vanity’s a deadly sin, and overemphasis on appearance wastes a lot of time, energy and money.

Unfortunately, even if Jesus loves me just the way I am, most likely you don’t.  Outer appearances matter more than any of us like.

This is why I found myself colluding with my sister to get my girls makeovers.  (Actually, I think this was my sister’s plot to get me to move away from my high school makeup routine—brown eyeliner on top, blue eyeliner on bottom, too often smeared.  As she kept saying, “As we get older, we have to work harder!”)

One girl has been using makeup regularly and does an excellent job.  The other girl can’t be bothered.

Which is fine.

I couldn’t be bothered either—hence 4 swipes of eyeliner and done for the last 32 years.

Yet more than sheer laziness was involved.  In college, whenever I went all out with makeup—foundation, eyeshadow, powder, blush, the whole nine yards—I looked dramatically better.  So much so that my best friend kept saying I should do the whole shebang every day, it made such a difference.  But I noticed folks (especially men) reacted so positively to my “makeup face” that I felt they weren’t reacting to me, the real me.  I didn’t want to go outside without “my face” and have someone recoil in horror seeing me au naturel.  As it was, every time I forgot my eyeliner, friends said, “Hard night?  You look tired.”

How makeup can dramatically change a look

So I wrestle with what makeup should mean to my girls.  On one hand, in our beauty and youth obsessed culture, I don’t want them to over value their physical appearance.   I don’t want them to become vain.  I don’t want folks to love and appreciate them just because they’re beautiful outside, and I don’t want artificial beauty where true beauty resides.

On the other hand, it’s important for a woman to know how to make herself look extra polished, a little more fancy, or even dramatically more beautiful when she wants—whether that be for senior photos, prom, or an interview.  After all, for good or bad, beauty is part of our power—and if you can look good, feel confident and get a boost, why not?  Weird to say in The Republic of Cambridge, but learning how to do one’s makeup is a life-skill for American women.

So 3 of us got make-overs, with even 2 eye-brow waxes thrown in for good measure.  My sister and I each treated a girl to a beauty product, and when senior photos came along, we knew how to enhance my daughter’s beauty.

As for me?  My new routine uses approximately 6 more products than before.  I’ve honed it down so I can get it done in 10 minutes rather than my former 10 seconds.  But it’s worth it.  Because in middle age, apparently I just have to work harder.

  • Bev Wafford Morris

    I’m old enough and confident enough in myself that I understand I don’t need make-up, just a neat appearance. I agree that, if your kids want to wear make-up, teach them to do it correctly. I don’t worry about myself, as long as I’m presentable. Why not squeeze out every single moment of sleep that I can? :)