I don’t know about anyone else, but I love “no-makeup” time. I have nothing against makeup in and of itself, and I can see how going to the opera or the White House might require a little fancying up of even the most objectively beautiful face. (In such instances, I would have to wear cufflinks to insure that my cuffs don’t flap open embarrassingly, I suppose.) I don’t know if this is tradition, pageant, or kabuki, but there’s no reason the human race can’t be seen once in a while promenading in its finery.
I am often happiest, though, in the no make-up zone. This would be in the evening hours that are backed up against bedtime, when the woman in my vicinity has closed the door to the pressures of the outside world and lets her hair, both figuratively and literally, down.
This evening place is one of trust, a sacred cove where the woman allows her armor to slip away, where she is out of range of the arrows of body- and beauty-worries that rain down everywhere she goes, from other women, from other men, from television screens, magazines, billboards, mud flaps, and album covers.
Here she can laugh as she would really laugh, however goofy or braying. Here she does not have to preen, but can let her limbs go lazily where they please. I wonder how these peaceful home hours feel to a woman. Maybe it is something akin to a faint tingle of childhood, for it was from a moment in her youth that the path diverged in front of her, where she realized that she was expected to come up with that second face for certain times, the one that fights the shadows better, the one she washes off with alcohol and hot water as her day winds down and she expects no more guests to call. The face that needs no love, that she can dispose of nightly, that ends up wrapped around Kleenex in the waste basket.
Oh, the next day, she’ll be back on the beat, eyes flitting at every other woman’s figure, like a man’s, never knowing when the gods of fashion will dictate a new paradigm shift, from thin to curvy, from this hairstyle to that. As a guy, I can only (faintly) imagine the pressure. Men only have to remember to zip their flies, and they’re ready for the world.
I am reminded of those fantastic beasts one sees on BBC documentaries, the ones where one of the sexes, often the dudes, has to put on great displays of plumage, fin, or tusk in order to attract a mate. These are truly respectable creatures, but many of them have smallish brains that are in constant danger of tumbling out their nose or ears. For what it’s worth, we humans have big meaty brains, and it’s a little surprising that we still force women through the physical ringer, as if we didn’t have conversation and eyebrows to communicate our appeal to each other. We’re still suckers for a pretty face, and perhaps that’s hard-wired, and perhaps that’s the way it’s always going to be out there.
But behind closed doors and as the day cools down into dark, we can both be actual human beings. Myself, forever grateful to be trusted enough to share that safe zone with her, and as a man no less: let’s face it, I’m part of the sex that is at least somewhat responsible for certain physical issues that have been deeply ingrained into women like tics (or ticks, for that matter). The fact that any woman can relax in this world of men, aimed forever at them with fingers on triggers, is good to know. The fact that I can sometimes still chance to see her real face curve into a smile, however, is a kind of absolution.
Yancy Jack Berns is a screenwriter and freelance television producer living in Los Angeles.
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