As Halloween comes around, it’s a time of year to think about costumes, masks, disguises. About being other than what we are. About trying on an alternate identity, even if just for a night.
The opposite of that, I suppose, is using nothing that alters the way we naturally appear. Earlier this summer, I was challenged to attend a business meeting at work sans makeup. I accepted.
It was a fearsomely hot day in August, the kind that swelters before the sun even rises above the horizon. I’d already walked my two dogs and was back in my air-conditioned home, gulping coffee while frantically running a blowdryer through my hair and wondering just how much more the thermostat was going to rise. I opened my cosmetic bag to begin my usual routine…and I just couldn’t. Too. Darn. Hot.
So I slathered on a little moisturizer and checked my face in the mirror. I hesitated. I looked again. And then, I cheated. A little bit. I dabbed a bit of pore minimizer onto my T-zone and swiped some chapstick over my lips. Then I was out the door before I could second-guess myself any further.
All day I waited for someone to make a comment that I looked tired or ask if I was feeling well. But no one did. During my afternoon meeting, business proceeded as usual.
For a decision that felt bold and daring, an act that flew in the face of workplace conventions, it was stunningly anticlimactic.
Despite the fact that I suffered no ill effects (and a remarkably shortened morning routine) from my makeup-free experiment, I haven’t repeated it. I’m still beholden to cosmetics to allow me to create my workday face.
But as for the weekends – those are the days you’ll find me barefaced, heading to the supermarket or out to hike in the Shenandoah Mountains.
As far as Halloween, I love a good costume, the chance to disappear into a role. And maybe, just maybe, by expressing a dimension of our personality that isn’t part of our day-to-day life, we actually become a bit more honest about ourselves.