Questions about their thyroid health from strangers

Olga Khazan in The Atlantic on how much money women have to squander on having a socially acceptable face. (Talk about cisnormative…)

The cosmetics industry makes $60 billion each year. The personal-finance site Mint claims the average woman will spend $15,000 on the stuff in her lifetime. It also costs time. My weekday morning makeup routine takes 10 minutes. That’s roughly an hour per week, or two full days per year. Last year, the Today show pegged this number even higher, at two weeks per year per woman.

Lucky me! That’s ten extra minutes I have each day to spend on saying random things on Facebook.

That’s just me though.

It’s true that some women never wear makeup for various reasons. Some look better without it than others do. Some object on principle, or prefer to maintain a vaguely earthy-crunchy vibe. Others simply don’t have the time, can’t afford it, or have jobs that don’t involve interacting with others.

Well all of that treats wearing makeup as the default, and not wearing it as something that requires an explanation – a reason, a causality. That’s silly. The default should be not wearing it, because it’s a very odd thing to do, when you think about it. I have thought about it, and I find it very odd. Put bits of wax and blobs of goo on your face? No thanks – that would be uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do it. Of course I did want to do it as a child, when I was too young to do it for real so it had the allure of being a Grownup thing. But once I was old enough to do it for real I lost all taste for it, permanently.

The part about having a job that doesn’t involve interacting with others is relevant though. My laptop doesn’t give a shit what’s on my face.

Makeup, in short, is a norm, and nothing ruins a first impression like a norm violation. Some women contend they only wear makeup to “boost their confidence,” but the reason they feel less confident when they don’t wear it is that there’s an expectation they will.

Exactly. It’s the same reason we would all feel less confident if we went out without any pants on – there’s an expectation that we will wear pants, even if only the minimal shorts necessary to cover our bums and genitals. The makeup expectation is probably a little bit more expendable.

So, what can be done about it? Workplace policies that allow employees to work from home, where their facial-contrast levels are judged only by their cats, could be an immediate help. So could including more bare-faced women in TV shows and magazine spreads.

For more enduring change, women could just stop wearing makeup. But unless we all did it in unison, it’s likely that the holdouts would continue to reap benefits while the au naturel protesters would continue to field questions about their thyroid health from strangers.

It’s the tragedy of the commons, innit. Always a bear to deal with.

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