Thursday, 9 June 2011

Beneath The Mask

The face is often described as a mask. A mask demonstrating or hiding pure emotion. In our beautiful trend, the mask is now the new face – our property to be worked on and improved. Make-up or cosmetic facial procedures liberally applied. Permanent reconstruction, or temporary disguise removed away from prying eyes. Women taught early on to perfect: camouflage blemishes and enhance their best features. Natural skin tone covered up, foundation trawled on with a truck, and eyeshadow/lipstick to match their ensemble. This, our bid to comply and be flawless. Women perceived as if they belong to society. Is it too late to revise the damage already done?

A vivid memory remains to this day - my Nan disappearing upstairs to “put her face on” before venturing out to the shops. Whenever asked where she was, I'd reply, “Putting on her mask”. This ritual, a running joke between us. Funny to me at the time as I didn't understand the concept. I thought she already had a face! Nonetheless, a fascinating process to watch – quick dab of powder, lipstick and scent. Mum not following this fashion. My experiments with make-up started young, long before others in my class. I wanted to be grown up as well as cover up what I conceived as a flaw – my face. The wrong shape, uneven fair tone, and freckles. My face undesired by myself or those I admired. Make up, was also a huge confidence boost. Skin tone evened out, blemishes covered, I was ready to face the world, or answer a knock at the door. There were still plenty of times however when my head was kept decidedly down. People avoided, the world shut out of view.

I was one of those, like so many others, an awkward, self conscious and self obsessed teenager, but I have made progress. I'm much more self possessed. Make-up no longer so important for I made peace with my face. Cosmetics pared down to the minimum – real skin left to shine through. Who cares if I do or don't meet the set criteria? I'd rather be an English rose, than look like I've been tangoed. Make-up has its place. It can help you through those gawky and ill at ease years, but it shouldn't become your identity. I worry this trend to conceal has become overly inflated. No longer a choice, but an automatic necessity, like mannequins churned out of a factory.

We need to be rid of this sense of shame to just be who we are. A beautiful face and outlook lies beneath the mask.