A naked face in the crowd
A concerned mother makes an emergency trip to her child's school without applying lipstick or mascara. A conscientious junior executive misses her manicure and hairstyling appointments to meet a grueling deadline.
Sadly, these are among the women whom polite society views with amusement, scorn or disgust. These are the sort of women championed by Molly Barker and Caitlin Boyle, two ladies from Charlotte, North Carolina, who brainstormed The Naked Face Project.
For two months these rebels went about their daily activities without makeup, jewelry, high heels, waxing, shaving and other imagined necessities of grooming, to promote the cause of inner beauty
It's an uphill battle. According to a recent test involving photos of women with varying amounts of makeup (from barefaced to glamorous), males and females alike rated women without cosmetics as less likeable, competent and trustworthy than those who slavishly adhere to cultural norms. (Even women without classic good looks were given brownie points for making an EFFORT and appearing to GIVE a rat's rump about public reaction. Of course some of the judges probably LOOKED like a rat's rump, but that's beside the point.)
Most of us would blame this prejudice on advertising and societal pressures, but various studies claim humans are HARDWIRED to think of good looking people as more deserving of our admiration and attention. This assessment of mankind makes no sense to me, whether you believe in evolution or Intelligent Design.
Why would evolution instill us with responses of "fight," "flight" or "ostracize the chick who wouldn't use Botox"? Where is the species survival value of meeting someone and gushing, "My, your symmetrical face and luminance contrast make me trust you with my transplant surgery, my credit card number and these codes for the U.S. nuclear arsenal"?
And I don't remember any of the Gospels having Jesus say, "Hold on a minute! New information! She was caught committing adultery with UNSHAVEN ARMPITS? Let he who has a great curveball throw the first stone!"
Men are already "good to go" after just splashing on store-brand Old Spice and brushing food crumbs from their beard ("Mmm...last Tuesday's pizza..."), but most women could free up huge amounts of time and money with a more moderate grooming routine. These resources could be used for reading Great Literature, building a retirement nest egg or performing charity work. Still, I must admit, if you go with the flow, you're rewarded with priceless comments such as "Lucretia's beautiful eyelashes draw so much attention away from her big nose, I say we reward her with a better view of the glass ceiling!"
One of the major employers in my hometown is a cosmetics manufacturer, but I can see the appeal of the Naked Face Project. Barker and Boyle are not judgmental. They simply ask women to think outside the hair color box. If you like the pampered look 24-7, just for special occasions or NEVER, you should be able to be true to yourself without shame.
If the principles of the Naked Face Project and similar movements catch on even a little, it will be a saner world. And it will be a world in which ZZ Top has to update their lyrics. ("She's got LEGS, and knows how to produce static electricity with them...")
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.