10: Going Naked

10: Going Naked

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Going Naked

Whether I’m wearing lots of make-up or no make-up, I’m the same person inside.

~Lady Gaga

It didn’t happen quickly. First, I stood in front of a mirror for several long minutes staring at my naked face. There was not a trace of make-up on it. And I was about to meet the outside world this way.

I’d been wearing make-up since my mother finally allowed it in the ninth grade. First it was just lipstick — a shade called “Pixie Pink” that made me feel like the most grown-up, glamorous creature on the planet.

As the years went by, I experimented with other delights like eye shadow, eyeliner and — the big one — mascara. Things got better when I mastered the art of getting that sticky stuff on my eyelashes, not in my eyes.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think of going to the supermarket without at least some make-up. I’d spend at least five or ten minutes each day in front of the mirror putting on various products that promised me miracles. I have dozens more of these products rattling around, virtually unused, in drawers and closets.

I would probably think twice about going to the library, the cleaners or even the gas station without hiding behind some make-up.

But recently, I had seen two TV shows that got me thinking.

One was a documentary about the men and women who chose to go back in time and live as folks had in pioneer days. They had no creature comforts, no conveniences.

And what did one woman weep about during those first few weeks?

Her loss of make-up.

Then one of the talk shows did a segment on three women whose cosmetics were taken away for a week. Their reactions ranged from mild hysteria to a sense of release and relief.

It all gave me pause. I figured this was as good a time as any to try liberating myself from the shackles of cosmetics.

My husband, who is still basically clueless about what is in those jars and tubes, thought it was a terrific idea.

My daughters couldn’t believe I’d actually leave the house without eyebrow pencil.

And my fifth grade granddaughter proclaimed all make-up “yucky” and told me she’d never, ever wear it.

Well, I did it. On a recent day, I went to the mall in pants, a blazer, fairly fashionable boots — and not a drop of anything else on my face or lips.

Initially, I felt exposed. Utterly vulnerable. And in my view, I looked like I was dying.

Miracle of miracles, nobody stared. Or gaped. Or even seemed to notice.

The saleswoman in the department store was happy to sell me four blue bath towels. The man behind the counter at a jewelry store to whom I handed a necklace to repair didn’t look away in horror.

I even got brave enough to walk into the hair salon, where beauty is a sacred rite, to schedule a haircut appointment. There, the receptionist did seem to do a double take. Still, I held my head high and scheduled my next trim.

By day’s end, I’d almost forgotten that I was moving around in the world minus my mask. Back at home, my husband stared a bit, then asked me whether I was feeling all right. He’d forgotten, of course, that this was Experiment Day. To him, I just looked weary.

Okay, what have I learned?

First, that I can do it. I can leave home without even a trace of lipstick. Nobody cares.

Next, that I am definitely a woman who looks better with make-up than without it. Perhaps it is decades of training my eye to see myself that way. Maybe it’s the hype I’ve absorbed from a culture in which women spend billions to gild the lily.

Finally, I’ve decided that every once in a while, just to test my own confidence, I’m going to come out from hiding and go au naturel. Uncomplicate at least one part of my overloaded life.

It’s probably good for the skin.

And it’s surely good for the soul.

~Sally Friedman

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