“Make-up” wears a lot of hats, if you will. For one, it’s the paint we put on our face before we go out in public.


When I let myself think about that concept, I think it’s weird. But I still do it.


I overheard a hair color commercial from the other room. It was Susan Sarandon’s voice: “Some people think that at a certain age you should stop coloring, what’s next, stop wearing makeup?”


It was the “…What’s next, stop wearing makeup?” part that got me. It was insulting because, what, how dare we stop wearing makeup?, and confusing because I thought Sarandon was a feminist. So maybe she is just being an actor here and I did do that awful anti-wrinkle commercial myself, but hey, this is Susan Sarandon. With great power comes great responsibility, Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said so.


We get a lot of crazy-making, mixed messages in our culture. You might say this one struck me because I’m also “of a certain age,” but it wasn’t that part I heard. In fact, I had to Google the commercial to confirm the line. It was clearly the “What’s next…”


Women must be prettied up to go out in public, yes? No?


This is not an official announcement that I will now go sans makeup. And this is not an anti-makeup statement in general. I don’t think makeup is bad. What I think is bad is a message that it’s preposterous to go without. What will the neighbors think?!


I’ve been a makeup wearer since I was a teen. It’s been a friend. If I’m honest? It’s been a bit of a co-dependent friend. I’d like to stop wearing it all together. Will I, anytime soon? Doubtful. I’m of a certain age, you know. Must not bring shame on the family, frighten small children in Ralphs, make the dogs howls. So don’t hold your breath.


But oh, to be comfortable in my own skin as the rule rather than the exception. Like my daughter who’s never worn it. I mean, ever. I’m just lucky enough to have a daughter I’d like to grow up to be like.


We teach our children it’s what’s inside that matters. Is that just a lie we’ve made up?


I just finished an online course with Brené Brown. She talks about “the stories we make up” in an effort to make sense of something. These are not intentional lies. It’s that thing we do when something troubling happens and we try and piece together what’s happening or why it’s happening and it’s almost always with incomplete information, so the conclusions we draw are often faulty. We can sometimes be way, way off. She suggests writing down this story as soon as it’s happening, and then to reality-check it.


And then there’s “making-up” up from an argument with someone you love…sometimes as a result of writing down the story we’ve “made up,” realizing how wrong we were. Or they were, yeah usually them.


Sometimes when there’s a deficit somewhere, a gap—we try and “make up” the difference. When we mind the gap, we see what action we need to take.


I just clicked on the link and watched the commercial again, did a little reality checking. Maybe I jumped to a conclusion even here—“made up” a story—maybe the main point of the commercial was that no one should tell a woman she’s past the expiration date to care about hair and makeup, as in, why bother, and if that’s the point, okay, I can get behind Susan. Maybe even this was an example of my emotions getting hijacked, and all I heard was that women should not—definitely not—stop wearing makeup. Maybe it was clear to every other viewer but me.


When I’m not getting hijacked by stealth messages from others as well as from myself, some things are clear: It is about the inside, what’s under our many forms of make-up.


I’ve been learning a lot about the courage to be vulnerable with Brené s course. To be vulnerable is to go without a mask, without the armor and to permit others to do the same, not shame them into covering their skin. Having fun with coloring is one thing, not feeling “enough” without the crayons is another beast, and what should make the children in Ralphs cry and dogs howl.