Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Feel Pretty / Unpretty (After Lent, and No Makeup)

This Lent I gave up makeup. My paintbox was tucked away, all the powders and pencils, my mascara, my beloved eyeliner (the one that makes my eyes blue-grey and full of smoke) neatly put in a drawer. Forty days of no makeup made me cringe in the beginning. Why had I done that? I thought for the first few days of startled recognition.

And at first I was a stranger to myself. Cold water and traces of apricot scrub were the only addition to my freckled English skin. When I got up in the morning, the routine was simpler, quieter. No frantic smudging bronze speckles across my cheeks. No pulling eyelids down to swipe a smooth black line across my lower lashes. No sweet gooey lip gloss to accidentally smudge on my chin.

It was forty days of blushing from my heart. Forty days of my eyes reflecting only the colors of the cloudy sky or the dress thrown on after oversleeping, or the mood of my day. Forty days of smiling, dimples and all. Forty days of fresh skin scrubbed clean of the old definition of beauty. Forty days and then the glorious celebration of Easter and...

(Thank you, Hannah Cochran, for capturing us makeup less)
I don't really want makeup any more.

I was watching Glee last week and the episode was all about learning to know ourselves. To be truthful. To look makeup-less into the mirror and marvel at what He has made. Two of the characters sang this duet - the song 'I Feel Pretty' from West Side Story, and the TLC song, 'Unpretty.' I couldn't get it out of my heart after I had heard it. The song talks about that word, "pretty" - and how it twists and wrenches and how we feel so unpretty, so unsure, how we teach ourselves to hear the word and doubt it.

But I sit here blogging in the piles of books and questions, looking over at the mirror, thinking... what if we start to believe in the beautiful in us? What if we took back the word "pretty" - so that it meant full of heart, lovely, delicate, "pleasing by delicacy or grace"? What if we made that word mean overflowing with His grace? 

What if I keep makeup in its drawer?

As the tulips outside your window open their petals to the good spring rain, as your laundry sits in a towering stack in every room, as you fix macaroni and cheese, as you drink a glass of good red wine... Imagine with me all the wondrous things we could do to take back the word pretty to be a word of joy. To be a word of grace. To be a word about love.

Love, from my makeup-less, wondering self,


  1. Something about this post reminded me of this poem that I have loved for many years.

  2. I loved this. It never occurred to me to give up makeup for lent, but what a powerful lesson to be learned, about beauty and radiance and just being you. I too often use makeup not just to cover my skin but as a paint-over for real life, to disguise how I'm really feeling (tired, worn-out, in pain, or even just relaxed). Very inspirational, thanks for sharing.

  3. Beautiful. I say let's do it; let's use pretty to mean "overflowing with His grace."
    Thank you for this reflection!

  4. This is lovely! My husband does not like makeup and so, last year, when we moved into the RV, I hesitantly let it all go. Now that we are back in a house it never crossed my mind to go out and purchase more. I have come to accept myself, along with the imperfections. Such a wonderful real post!

  5. You are beautiful! And I love your thoughts here. Thanks for sharing your 5 minutes today with us.


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