Whether Or Not You Think I'm Attractive, I Expect You To Treat Me With Respect

Photo: Rebecca Jane Stokes
photo of author with and without makeup

When I first started dating my boyfriend Rob, he professed to be one of those men who doesn't like makeup on women, regardless of anyone else's ideas about beauty standards,

"Stinks for you!" I said merrily as I got work applying my foundation, creating the face I most typically present to the world.

Rob doesn't care what I do with my face, my hair, or my body. He thinks I'm beautiful no matter what. This is something that I have a hard time accepting, and I'm sure I'm not the only woman out there who struggles with this.

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How many of you reading this have been told by your partner or someone else that you look even more beautiful without makeup, and privately thought that they were full of it? 

My self-esteem has never been great, but now, at the age of 34, I'm in a pretty good place with my feelings about my body and my face.

They are what they are. No matter how I try to alter them, who I am is never going to change. I can alter the packaging in the hopes of appealing to people who don't otherwise know me, but I'm never going to fully trust those people because of the fact that in order to garner their interest I had to change what is essentially just my god-given packaging.

It's like when you go to a store like Anthropologie and spot them selling a copy of some book by Hemingway with a cute, fancy cover. You don't like Hemingway, but you buy the book because you like the way it looks on your shelf, and because you like knowing what having a book like that says about you to anyone who sees it. 

Despite having a boyfriend who doesn't care what I do to my face, hair, or body, I keep trying to do different things with them all, because that's just something I do.

Lately, however, when I play with my hair or don a new shade of lipstick, I find myself doing so for different reasons than I used to.

When I curl my hair, I'm not doing it so that someone will pay attention to the things I say and do. I'm doing it because I like the way doing it impacts my mood.

It's the same when I wear red lipstick. 

I'm no longer doing it to attract attention from men, but because it draws attention to my mouth, and I want you to hear what I have to say because I am silly and amazing and humorous and if you don't hear me you'll be tragically missing out on my general awesomeness.

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See? Even talking about wearing red lipstick brings out my sassy side.

Yet, for all my love of playing with beauty products and cosmetics, it's rare that I wear a full face of makeup when I venture out into the world.

That's often because I'm running late, or more likely, I looked at myself in the mirror before putting any of it on that day and felt that my face went with my mood and I wanted to embrace that.

It is not, however, because I've "given up," and it is not because I am lazy.

And that's why the reactions I've received lately when I do go out with full hair and makeup are so darn galling.

On days when I don't wear makeup, my friends treat me no differently than usual, and get to kind of glide through life without really being noticed, approached, or harassed by strangers.

When you don't use the typical lures women have to use in order to try and succeed in life socially and professionally, you'd be amazed at how quickly men simply overlook you.

When I do put on a full face of makeup or do my hair, it's far more likely that people will tell me I look beautiful ... and it's also far more likely that a man will interact with me in a way that clearly shows he sees me as an object without any conscious realization on his part whatsoever. 

Frankly, I don't know which is more ludicrous, the fact that when I don't wear makeup like I'm "supposed to" I become invisible, or that when I do wear makeup, people seem to feel they have some sort of all-access pass to talk to me about how I look, including ways I could look better, as well as which aspects they like about my face, and which aspects they don't.

I host a biweekly advice show on YourTango's Facebook page, during which I offer people my perspective on whatever they have cooking in their love lives. Usually, I put makeup on for the show, because hilariously, when I don't, my number of viewers drops. 

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Last night, I went all out, as reflected in my increased number of viewers (LOL/sob), and it was pretty exhausting to have to deal with the sea of mostly strangers talking about my face and how it looked.

In fact, one woman watching the show became so annoyed with the conversations about my face that she actually said, "Get off yourself and answer my question."

I hadn't spoken about myself anymore or any less about myself than I have any other night, but the fact that I was dolled up apparently inspired her notion that I must be stuck up.

As women, the way we present ourselves to the world has an undeniable impact on our lives, and it sucks.

Because I'm fortunate enough to have a platform to talk about this stuff, I feel like it's really important for me to say this: with makeup and without makeup, we are all people who deserve to be treated with respect.

Society has conditioned women to present themselves a certain way, and men have been conditioned to react to this accordingly. That doesn't mean, however, that we have to buy into any of it.

It doesn't matter what your packaging looks like.

Be your best, authentic self and the people who deserve to spend time with you will separate themselves from the people who wouldn't give your makeup-free self a second look. 

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango, and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows, and many others.