Mary Kay: Make my Day

So my sister got a call from an old friend this week asking her to host a Mary Kay party so she could do a demonstration. My sis, K., got really excited and called us all up, so I ended up at her apartment last night for a Mary Kay party. Now, those of you who know me know that I don’t wear a lot of makeup. But I thought, eh, what the hell! It’s free!

So I went. It was fun, and interesting. K., our brother’s girlfriend B., and our cousin E. and her friend (F.) all came. We were sitting around beforehand and eating chips and dip, when F., who is athletic and stick thin, said something about how she “had better eat all this dip now because next week she was going on Weight Watchers.” We all replied with mild outrage at the thought, saying that she was so thin, and that’s just absurd. She replied that she wanted to do it so that she could control what she ate. She says she eats “mostly carbs and no vegetables.”

This, sadly, launched a whole discussion about how Weight Watchers was the best diet. I put in my two cents, saying “I think the best diet is NOT dieting.” to which someone said, “Well, Weight Watchers is good because it teaches you how to eat.” I responded, “Hell, I know how to eat. No problems learning that one. I can eat just fine. See?” And proceeded to eat my cookie. My comment about the best diet being NOT dieting merely started everyone into justifying why Weight Watchers was so good. Ugh ugh ugh. What can a fat girl do?

I sorta just sat there and tried to debate a little against it all, but it just got tiresome. So I just listened. I thought it was really absurd. And sad. And I didn’t know what to do.

Next thing I know, we’re all sitting down around my sister’s table with mirrors and makeup in front of us. The Mary Kay consultant (we’ll call her MK, hee hee), is a sweetie, an really believes in this stuff. And thus she began her presentation. Right away she talked about how great Mary Kay is for women, which I believe, and how their sales are good, and make women millionaires. She said:

“The thing about Mary Kay is that, even in times of economic crisis, like right now, our sales are still booming. In times of economic crisis, sales boom on three things: alcohol, cigarettes, and makeup.” We all “Oooo” and “ahhhh” at that statistic. She continued: “Think about it, if I just lost my job, I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna smoke, and I’m going to want to wear makeup to my job interviews.” Interesting. And a little sad.

But I have to admit, their products are good. We did all the cleansing, and moisturizing, and then put on their quick day to day makeup. Their foundation was light (though way more than I’m used to), their eye makeup fantastic, and their lip treatment (including first a scrub for lips that exfoliates your lips, and an oil-based lip balm that lasts hours) was heaven. MK was so great, and really knew what she was selling. She told me afterwards that she really does love the product, and the fact that she can make money off of sharing it with others sincerely makes her happy.

I also got some interesting beauty tips:

1. You should always wash your face and neck in an upwards, outward motion, to prevent wrinkles.

2. For your eyes, you should always clean in an inward, downward motion to prevent crows feet.

3. You should change your mascara once every 2-3 months to avoid getting pink-eye, etc.

Anyway, my sister was delighted. She bought a ton of stuff (after getting a hosting discount). Today she sent an email to my mother saying that my mom should “see how beautiful she looked” and that she really loved hosting a party like that. E. and F. also bought some stuff.

Now I think this post might display some conflict in feelings on my part. And here’s why: I’m all for makeup. I’m all for enhancing what you consider your positive attributes. I’m all for a little bit of glam for something special. But I feel immensely sad that my sister, and a lot of women, need makeup to boost their self image. And it falls back to the usual suspects: low self esteem, trying to fit into an unreal ideal. And it makes me sad. I loved the Mary Kay demonstration, but I hated that my sister has never sounded happier, felt more beautiful, than the day after she bought, and therefore the first day she wore, all this Marry Kay makeup.

I think we need a message to women. One where we’re all clean-faced, fat, and happy. But then, if a bit of makeup makes you feel better about yourself, and how you look, more power to you. I support anything that makes people happy. I just wish that the superficial weren’t it.


14 thoughts on “Mary Kay: Make my Day

  1. The cigarettes, alchohol, makeup bit is definitely true. My dad owns a bar, and he always said he’d make it through any kind of economic times, because “people drink to celebrate when they’re happy, and they drink to drown their sorrows when they’re miserable!” depressing, but true.

  2. I gave up wearing makeup years ago; I didn’t have the money to buy the stuff and when I did, I felt fake. Not me. I stopped washing my face with any kind of soap and voila! My pimples and mild acne disappeared. I stopped putting on foundation and all the other crap around the same time and guess what? My skin has never looked better. Today, if I wear any cosmetics, I stick with a close-to-my-lip-colour lipstick, a dash of eyeshadow, maybe mascara. I *know* I’m beautiful, so why cover it up? 😉

  3. Hello!

    Well, I try not to post about make-up on any of the blogs I’ve read. This is mainly because I sometimes feel that I’m out of step with the group, and because I have an MK business of my own (that I’ve let lapse, but I do have it). That was, until your post brought me out of the woodwork.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the Skin Care Class, and that you had an excited Consultant and Hostess! I’m doubly glad that you found the products great, and I have to tell you that I agree that it’s a crying shame that we don’t appreciate ourselves as we are — we need to ‘change’. Where I don’t agree with you, is the relationship of make-up with low self-esteem. I’ll leave aside the WW part (I think you’re learning how to eat demo was SPOT ON)…

    People in all cultures use body adornments to make themselves beautiful (within their cultural norm) or to signify something like social status or membership of a subgroup. Think, for example, tattoos or ritual scarification, or pierced body parts. I happen to wear make-up frequently for a number of reasons: If I’m doing a Mary Kay event of some type, if I’m going to a party, if I’m going to work. I don’t wear make-up to work out or to go to a spa, or anything where it might get in the way, or to run around the apartment (if that’s all I’m going to be doing). I don’t feel bad about it at all. When I wear it, I wear it to enhance my best features, and to project a certain image. It is not a mask, or armor, but adornment. Yet… My wearing makeup becomes (within the circle of blogs I read) — a political issue.

    As a feminist, I would be praised for getting a tattoo on my boob, but not for wearing eyeshadow and lipstick. Why? The function of the body decoration is exactly the same. The difference is that one is permanent and the other not. Another difference is that the “business world” (for instance) will react to me better if I’m wearing makeup, and they would have no business seeing a tattoo on my boob anyway (if I had one). A fair question here would be — is the “business world” reacting to the make-up, or to how I project myself if I know that I am well adorned? I think it’s a fair guess that my own reactions are part of the process.

    We imbue make-up with so much angst, and it really shouldn’t be. It’s adornment. It’s a tool. The cleansing and such helps one keep one’s skin clean. I agree that some women seem not to feel good about themselves except after they’ve had some pampering (like your skin care class or a great session at the spa). I would submit, however, that in some cases, the issue is not the make-up or the waxing (or whatever) ITSELF, just the fact that they have taken some time out for themselves, they have received attention, and someone has told them they look great.

    Solution — we should tell each other how great we look — whether or not we are wearing make-up. We should encourage each other to take time out for self-care. We sould advocate for clothes that make us look good and feel great whatever style we prefer and whatever size we are. We should patronize stores that help us feel good about ourselves, and not ones that don’t (and we should tell them why).

    Just my 2 cents’ worth…

    –Andy Jo–

  4. Andy Jo, I totally agree with most of what you said. I don’t wear makeup very regularly, but I understand how you use it, and what you believe it means for you and for others. And your solutions are SO IT!

    But, I don’t think most women think about makeup like you do. For a lot of women makeup is a mask. It is something they use to COVER their blemishes, etc. I appreciate makeup when people use it to accent their features, like you do. But I know A LOT of women who use it to cover up their features, or change how they look.

    I’m not anti-makeup, and I’m sorry that your makeup-wearing stance would be attacked by many. I hope you didn’t feel attacked here.

    I wonder if maybe the whole makeup thing comes back to the same idea of whether wanting to be found attractive by a others is a bad thing or good thing. I talked about this when I talked about My Biggest Fear, ending up alone, and I still don’t know whether it’s non-feminist or not. For instance, Andy Jo, when you were talking about the tattoo vs. makeup. The tattoo is a private adornment, meant for your viewing and those close to you, maybe. Whereas makeup, for many, is mean for other men and women: i.e. the business world, in your example. Is it a difference of what we do for ourselves, feeling good for ourselves and our convidence, and what we do for others, wearing makeup because we want others to see something?

    It’s the for me vs. for him/her idea. Is one better than the other? Is one more or less healthy?

    I think that’s the root of this question. I’m arguing that in makeup, I’d prefer if women did it for themselves, not for the “sake of others.” Andy Jo is talking about her experience with wearing it for herself. I think we run into trouble when we’re talking about women who are doing it for others.

    Thanks for your comment Andy Jo. It really got me thinking…

  5. I went to a Mary Kay party last night too; I got some eyeshadow and mascara. 🙂

    I always feel kind of bad for women who feel like they have to wear makeup, or who feel imcomplete without it. I love wearing makeup because it’s fun and is a form of self-expression (I’m famous among my circle of friends for my ecletic eye makeup). I think I came to the realization that I didn’t need makeup about a year ago, when one of my guy friends told me I looked beautiful with and without makeup. I finally realized that I look good either way, so now I just have fun with it. 🙂

  6. I wear makeup purely as a mask. I’m not particularly girly, but I’ve been wearing makeup since my first bad acne hit when I was 13 or so. It wasn’t bad enough to have serious treatment, but more than enough to get me [more picked on than I already was], so I used it in self-defense.

    I just turned 28 and still use it exactly the same way. My acne never went away (thanks, genetics!), so every morning it’s the same deal. I know I’m not fooling anyone – anyone with eyes can see I have acne – but it makes it a lot less noticeable and makes me a lot less self-conscious.

  7. Hey Chrissy! No… I don’t feel attacked at all here… There have been quite a few threads featuring make-up prominently recently, and lots of trashing of the stuff as well as the industry (but that’s a whole other thread I think).

    I think here we have (in the totality of the comments) a number of ways that people wear make-up. I can certainly understand Caffeine wearing it as a mask. As a teenager and young woman I also used to do that myself. Once my PCOS was diagnosed and taken care of (and with the help of a REALLY good aesthetician in Austin, TX), I got the acne to a low roar and I felt more comfortable not wearing it. Now that I’m 48 I still get the occasional zit, but it isn’t the drama that it used to be.

    I see what you’re saying about the public vs private adornment, but these days tattoos can be both or either. Here in NYC there are LOTS of people who wear them out in the open — even at work and even on the upper parts of boobs. I personally am not offended, shocked or affected in any way by that, but time was that you COULDN’T do that (even in New York) unless you were, oh, a longshoreman (for example). That’s progress.

    My point in mentioning reactions of tattoo vs make-up is this… If I am in a group of folks who define themselves as feminists and who openly claim to espouse the freedom to do as you see fit with your body, I can say that I am getting a tatto and I’d probably get cheered and someone would throw me a party. Buying new lipstick? The mildest would be a dirty look and a referral to the book Beauty (which was a good book, but wrong in many ways). Say Mary Kay, Avon or whatever, and someone is likely to call 911 :). I really don’t get it — it just doesn’t make sense to me that we (and I include myself as a feminist because I’m sure I have my idiosyncrasies) could be this blind.

    I absolutely acknowledge that there are women who feel ‘bad’ without make-up and who feel incomplete. That IS sad. However, all I meant to say is that there are a number of ways to look at this, and wearing make-up doesn’t mean that you are unhappy with yourself or how you look.

    I think your point is very well taken. This is a great thread! Thanks for blogging about this!

    –Andy Jo–

  8. I think that this website

    and its comments, are a good summary of why makeup can be particularly troubling. The minute it moves from “I wear makeup for me” to women being told that they “should not leave the house looking like that,” then makeup absolutely becomes a problem. I think that that set of attitudes, and they way that they are used against women, can make makeup seem like it’s “giving in” to those standards.

    For example, on the one hand, the site itself, “au naturale” vs “made up,” is interesting in one sense because it shows just how much work and expense it takes to look glamorous. But the problem is that here these women are not being portrayed as “natural” vs “glamorous”– the “natural” photos are taken in awkward moments, lit badly, and otherwise just objectively unflattering. On the other hand, the glammed-up pix are not just made up and posed flatteringly, they are most likely photoshopped.

    So I think that the problem comes when “makeup” is portrayed not just to highlight good features or what have you, but as the thing that makes you acceptable to look at *at all*. That is exactly what FA is fighting against too, that idea that there is one and only one way to look good and if you are not doing everything you can to be closer to that ideal– whether it’s spending money and time, dieting, putting on makeup, relaxing “ethnic” hair, etc– then you are not just unacceptable but you deserve hostile treatment.

  9. I wear make up because I think it’s fun. I never cake myself in makeup, and just use eyeshadow, mascara and lipgloss. Sometimes blush and eyeliner if I’m going somewhere posh. But, as an art student, I love the act of putting on colours on my eyelids and getting the ones that match and blending them with my fingers. It’s like my face is a canvas, and I’m a crappy abstract artist having fun. My skin may absorb the colours in a heartbeat and I may look like I’m not wearing any makeup half an hour after I put it on, but I had fun anyway.

    This was a great article. It’s such a shame that some people feel like they HAVE to wear it or they are nobodies. People like caffeine who have to put it on as a mask to hide them from the world and from the bullies. Nobody who laughs at your complexion (nobody who laughs at anything that makes you be who you are) worths your suffering nor deserves your thoughts. May oblivion be your revenge against them. Oblivion is the ultimate act of self-defence. It’s a lot better and more effective than hiding your insecurities.

  10. The problem I have with the way people see make-up is that it is seen as standard. If a woman chooses not to wear make-up, people talk about her “not trying” in a derisive manner. Which is annoying by itself, but it also touches on ‘Women should always be trying to be hot.” Many women I know say things like “I need eyeshadow.” ” I need lipstick.” “I need….” “I need….” It is not an option, it is standard, and their natural face is just something that needs to be improved upon. I mean, just looking online, I’ve noticed that when many women post pictures that include their faces without makeup, THEY APOLOGIZE. They apologize for showing their natural faces. These sentiments are not isolated, they are very pervasize; that is what I have a problem with.

  11. I think MarcustheWu and Ruth summed it up nicely. As a person who is a supporter of HAES and FA, however, how do I present this conundrum for resolution?

    In the same way as people look at me as a fat person and ASSUME that I am unhealthy, assume that I eat badly, assume I don’t exercise, and make moral judgments about me; others with whom I interact in a number of situations (political, FA, etc) will look at me in my make-up and ASSUME that I feel bad about myself, and/or I’m buying in to The Beauty Myth, and make moral judgments about me. In the same way that when I get on the subway someone will LOUDLY start saying how they eat 1400 calories a day and work out for 3 hours so they don’t look like a pig, others might comment (upon hearing someone say I look nice) – “oh I never wear make-up, it’s just a marketing ploy and a way to make women feel bad about themselves…” all within my hearing and making sure that it hits (I had this kind of experience ALL THE TIME when I was involved with NOW here in NYC).

    Is that the right thing to do if we are looking to change how we (as fat people, as human beings) are seen? Do I even have the right to make that assumption, even though I know that many women DO feel bad about themselves if they don’t make-up in the morning? NONE of those is true, and neither one is fair to me or to many others, and that to me is the root of the discussion.

    I think that Ruth’s review of the article was great. That’s EXACTLY what beauty mags do (poor lighting, etc), tell women that they need to be “presentable” when going out and that involves make-up (especially brand x, y, z or whoever sponsored the article), confusion of skin care (keeping your skin clean and hydrated) with make-up (glamorizing with color) to the point where in some folks minds it’s indistinguishable… The list goes on…

    As I said, the solution is to counter the marketers’ messages by telling each other we’re beautiful… ALL THE TIME… Whether we are dressed up/wearing make-up or not.

    –Andy Jo–

  12. I loved your article on Mary Kay. A few months ago, I was a participant in a Mary Kay demonstration for low income women. We not only got a complete 2 hour makeover with some cool products like that lip exfoliator you spoke of, we were given a gift bag with most of the products we used that day for FREE. Our demonstrator was a woman of size! She emphasized proper skin/hand care just as much as the color part of the program. I left looking better than I had for over a decade when I was a bridesmaid.

    I also know a woman who looks incredible for her age and when I asked her secret she said she was a Mary Kay rep.

    It got me to wearing makeup again, which I had not done since college. Part of the problem with makeup for me was my oily skin and the way foundations/moisterizers clogged my pores and gave me pimples. I’m just old enough now that I’m drying out and wearing moisturizer does not give me a breakout. The other reason is that our society is a very superficial place! I’m already a woman of size and poor and keeping my face plain made me appear like I did not care at all. For 20 years I only wore makeup on holidays and other special occasions like uh, JOB INTERVIEWS. 😦

    The result has been mixed. I get treated slightly better by other females and non interested males but have also noticed sexual harassment starting up again which is shocking considering my age and size. I guess men see a woman with a little eye makeup and assume she’s “available”. Guess they thought I was gay before.

    I do like making up because I also use anti aging products as well and do not want to appear older than I really am in this age obsessed society. I did not even care about this until I looked in the mirror a few months ago and could use my face as a road map. I could sell it to Google Maps I guess…anyone want to know the way to San Jose?

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