To Make-Up or Not To Make-Up: Whose Call Is It Anyway?

The wedding was just a week away. Despite it being one of my closest friends’ wedding, I was dreading it. Weddings meant shopping and dressing up – neither of which was something that particularly interested me. In fact, it made me anxious sometimes. 

Like with most other people, I (almost) always believe that I am a lot more confident when I feel good about how I look. There is no undermining the impossibly high beauty standards that have become all pervasive these days, thanks to capitalism and movie stars who make us believe that they look that drop-dead gorgeous as soon as they wake up (Dark circles and acne? What are these terms you speak of?)

My tryst with beauty and make-up has come a long way. As a teenager, I had acne issues and would constantly be conscious of how it made me look. After repeated visits to the dermatologist and what felt like a lifetime of using a special, medicated facewash, I had to go through three years of undergrad in a women’s college surrounded by people who would look incredibly attractive in just about anything and everything. At that stage, I was also struggling with body image issues as a short person – I would constantly find myself buying heels or other similar footwear just to appear a tad bit taller. 

Luckily, I grew out of that phase soon enough. I realized one’s height and general appearance really do not make much of a difference. It wasn’t easy getting there though. It’s been about 5 years since I completed my undergrad and now, you would rarely find me in anything except flat footwear.

My idea of make-up is smearing kohl on my eyes and, if I am feeling extra dressy, maybe some eyeliner. So when I was at a close cousin’s wedding last year and a relative asked me why I didn’t wear any make-up before hastily adding that I “looked nice even without it”, I wondered what gave her the right to make such a statement. When did make-up become such a mandatory requirement of our lives? 

In a largely material world that thrives on sporting luxurious looks and wearing wealth on our sleeves, it is hard to say no to anything in silk or leather. Why do we need silk to show off wealth or just make things grander? I get a standard “Are you insane?” look when I tell people that I do not want to wear a silk saree even for my own wedding.  

There was a period when I put on weight thanks to all the yummy free food my office let me gorge on. It became quite common for me to be asked “Hey, have you put on weight? It shows” quite often. Then came a phase when I went through some appetite issues and lost a lot of weight in a couple of months. People were at it again, only this time around they were asking me if there was something wrong with me since I looked so thin. Perfect example of how people will keep commenting on your physique no matter how you are and how it is up to you to be content with your body type and own it like a boss. 

I remember when “Tashan” released and the whole country was going gaga over Kareena Kapoor’s size zero figure. I found it hard to wrap my head around such a concept. I remember Googling it and then wondering what size I was. Looking back, I wonder why I ever thought that size matters. But then again, that’s precisely what our surroundings make us do – measure our sizes and use them as an extension to measure our self-esteem as well. A lot of times, fashion pageants make me wonder if they are regressive and toxic instead of being empowering or glamorous. Maybe it is merely two sides of the same coin? It’s alarming how such beauty standards have given rise to an increasing number of eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, which are extremely harmful to our bodies and adversely affect our mental state of mind. 

All of these put together may make it sound like it is very hard to ignore this capitalistic, marketing-driven world of cosmetics and beauty. But surprisingly enough, it isn’t, at least for me. Though it has taken me a few years to become confident in my own skin and accept the fact that there are hardly any dresses for short women or that all the mannequins in stores are tall, I know it doesn’t matter. I know I look fine just the way I am. Even without the occasional eyeliner or lipstick, I fit in just fine. 

About the Author

Nanditha Ravindar

Currently a research scholar based out of Chennai, Nanditha believes in the saying “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. Passionate about development communication and teaching, she loves writing and is part of Tale Weavers (an educational, storytelling initiative for kids). Having worked in an MNC for a while, she realized the corporate field did not interest her and shifted her focus to academia and development communication, working with various marginalized communities over the years.