Smile Like You Mean It

In the course of running our weekend errands, Guy and I stopped for Chipotle burritos (yum!). Between bites, he looked at me thoughtfully and asked, “What percentage of women do you think wear makeup every day?”

Huh?

I looked up at the people waiting in line for food. Three women in a row appeared to wear no makeup. Noticing them had prompted his question. But from where I was seated, I observed another three women in line, spread out, who wore makeup. So the makeup to makeup-less took an even split.

Turns out, that might be about right. A Google search turned up a study done at the end of 2011 by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Renfrew Center Foundation. They found that nearly half of U.S. women have negative feelings about their face when they don’t wear makeup. Sixteen percent said they feel “unattractive” when bare-faced; fourteen percent felt self-conscious and another fourteen percent described feeling “naked” without makeup. Of those surveyed, one-quarter began wearing makeup around age thirteen.

I thought about my own approach to makeup. I wear it most days, especially if I’m going to work or out socially. I feel more presentable, put-together, confident. At home or around the neighborhood, I don’t bother. And with age, I’m more inclined to run errands with just some moisturizer and lip gloss. Maybe that’s counter intuitive… As my skin ages, maybe I should feel the need to cover its imperfections. On the other hand, maybe the wisdom of age allows me to care less what the grocery checker thinks of my middle-aged skin.

True to statistics, I began wearing makeup regularly in junior high school, as did most of my friends. Then again, as I told my husband, I recall clear as day a church program when I was in elementary school. A room filled with six to twelve-year-old girls taught by a handful of middle-aged women. The moral of that day’s lesson? “If the barn needs painting, by all means, paint it!”

Can you imagine? Under the guise of raising good, God-fearing young women, these babies were taught that our sweet, young faces were akin to barns. And those barns needed some cover-up, stat.

I am so grateful that, at least to some degree, society has moved on. That body-positivity is a thing, and that we are learning to love and care for our physical selves. Not to neglect the body nor to worship it, but to care for it because it is a good gift.

I carried that conversation throughout the day as I interacted with women and men, young and old, attractive and, honestly, less so. And again I became convinced: a smile does everything for our appearance. I have—and so have you—met many physically beautiful people who wear on their face the discontent of their hearts, and they become less attractive as a result.

Yes, I wear makeup most days. But I also smile. And I have watched as the smile on my face breaks through barriers of discomfort or formality. I have witnessed a smile create a bridge between us. I have felt the warmth shared smiles can create.

Whether or not I happen to be wearing makeup when we meet (likely, I will be), I do hope you’ll find me smiling. And I hope you’ll smile back.

Dead Weight

The smallest bump and it shattered to heaps of blue safety-glass shards.Shattered-Tempered-Glass

Because of our bathroom’s tight space, we wedged the scale between the shower and toilet. No room to stand on it there, we pulled it out each time we required its services. For years, it tattle-taled the ups and downs of our binges and purges, our couch-sitting and exer-cursions. Its yo-yo reporting had us just the slightest bit addicted, self-loathing on the upswing and exulting on the downswing.

You might expect I was the hard-core user, the lone female in a house reeking from testosterone, but you’d be wrong. Its whispered secrets enticed us all.

Oldest daughter of the tiniest Viking you’ll ever meet, my pediatrician always found me on the high end of the growth chart. And I blossomed early, so to speak. I felt like a giant in my family and on the playground. Never an athlete, I also never felt comfortable in my own skin. I had no reason, or none that I recognized, to respect what my body could do.

To complicate matters, my mom cooked like a gourmet but ate mostly muesli, what we called “bird food.” Small like a bird compared with her gigantic offspring, early on I developed a love-hate relationship with food and my body. I genuinely appreciate good food and the creativity of cooking, but I’m almost as likely to punish myself by eating bad pizza, with its accompanying greasy guilt, as I am to reward myself by eating healthy.

Both my babies were born in the six-pound range, but neither stayed small for long. Teen competed in the top three for height throughout elementary school and passed up his mama in shoe size and then height as middle school began. An easy athlete, he played most sports hard and fast until in 8th grade he discovered his passion: rugby. Between 9th and 10th grade he grew an inch and dropped 30 pounds, equally due to ADHD meds and his desire to be in his best shape for his sport. Now he spends hours most days of the week split between the gym and the field. He pushes himself until it hurts, complains loudly, and loves it. A tad obsessive, he weighs himself regularly and presses harder until the numbers tip.

Tween’s diapered infant body revealed a barrel chest, just like his dad’s, and one of my favorite things about his dad when we began dating. I felt safely wrapped up in that chest, and I anticipated that far down the road someone else would appreciate that same feature in my son. As a picky-eating toddler he got skinny, and then grew wider before taller. He’s still waiting to hit his growth spurt, which we anticipate any time now. He weighs himself infrequently, mostly to confirm his negative body feelings, exacerbated by comments from peers and a few unthinking adults.

I can’t report on Guy because we don’t share numbers. Which means neither of us feels good about the numbers we know and the numbers we desire, and so…

We have tried hard to fight the body-shaming culture with a body-positive culture at home. Health is the goal. We eat mostly plant-based, unprocessed foods. We expect everyone to be involved in regular physical activity – a sport, the gym, walking, biking, playing outside in the fresh air – because our bodies were made for movement. We discourage negative body comments and counter with, “eat healthy and enjoy moving.”

But that scale…3479588225_de40388083_n

Guy intended to replace it on our next Costco trip. I had mixed feelings, especially when Teen missed it. Our clothes and overall feelings of health ought to be a good enough indication without a number. At Costco today we completely forgot to purchase a scale. I remembered after we’d left when I realized I had bought supplies for a three-day food-based cleanse and wondered how much weight I might drop, at least for a time, as I detoxed my winter indulgences.

Obviously it’s complicated, and I guess I’ll have to listen to my body instead.