You Are Not Alone: Make-up and the Morning After

by Natasha Simons

Make-up! It can be so great. But unless you’re shellacking Cover Girl on for a one-night stand (and don’t mind the ensuing week of break-outs) or one of those mystical creatures who don’t use make-up, you’re going to have to figure out when to let the person you’re dating see your One True Face.

Even Cleopatra had to eventually take off her kohl for Antony, etc. (Or did she?!) And the modern era brings with it a host of other difficulties. Your place or his? Your place has your cleansers, but do you want to use them just yet? IT’S ONLY THE [WHATEVERTH] NIGHT TOGETHER. His place, you’ll have to bring a little bag, but are you ready to take that little-bag step? Where to lock him after you wake up the next morning and he looks over at your unprimed face? Or should you just never take it off, pretend you always look this way, continue to plaster it on, and never go anywhere near his white shirts?

I take this hide-everything-admit-nothing route. Make-up? What make-up that I have hidden carefully in my coat pockets so as to avoid packing a larger-than-normal bag? Just… excuse me for a minute while I go to the bathroom to cleanse with a toilette, apply moisturizer, and then reapply make-up before coming back to bed. I once dated a man with a freakish sense of smell and subsequently did not apply my tea-tree oil based cleanser for… oh, three-ish months. Then, I claimed that the smell was my perfume. That I’d applied before bed. To my face.

Anyway, we’re not alone. My friend Kate says, “Somewhere along the way, I’ve picked up the idea that no one will ever fall in love with me if they see my pores or unstained lips.” Marla, however, demurs, “A dude will want to cum on my face or be my boyf regardless of my tweezed browz or bronzer.”

But the idea that we’re somehow less worthy of affection without our modern-era shield persists, and some of us go to extremes: Marissa says of her now three-years-running boyfriend, “At the beginning, if I met him for dinner after work, I would, at the end of the workday, wash my face and reapply everything.” She’s since relaxed a bit, but still feels uncomfortable hanging out without make-up applied. Laura goes to another level: “Since I always felt like my boyfriend was more attractive than me, I was diligent about never letting my make-up face slip. I’d go to the bathroom right before bed and wake up before him in the morning. The first time I slept over his and forgot my foundation, I kept my hair angled over my face the entire next day. That relationship… didn’t work out.”

Eventually, though, practicality and laziness prevail. Erin says, “[A make-up-less face] is hard to avoid because when I get sweaty (sextime sweaty), my eye makeup tends to smear all over my face.” So you break out the cleansers and “sequester yourself in the bathroom,” as Angie recommends. Maybe you get to a point where there’s some regularity (read: the spark is fading) and you don’t care that each blemish might diminish his love for you iota by iota. Or maybe you just learn to apply waterproof make-up and continue the charade! Or, hey, maybe you are alone: there are apparently women who don’t wear make-up? At all? Brenna didn’t start wearing make-up until a year ago, and two years after she’d gotten married. Her entire dating life was luminous, bare skin: “I know it isn’t rocket science, but it’s one of those womanly things I never got around to learning.”

I was going to ask a dude for his opinion before realizing his answers would almost certainly be some form of “I don’t notice” or “I don’t care” (dudes? thoughts?), and I know, realistically, that it’s not that big a deal beyond our own internal nervous breakdowns. Erin leaves us with a reassuring parting shot: “On a scale of one to ‘farting audibly while in bed,’ I’d say going make-up-less in front of a guy is somewhere between ‘slightly adventurous sexual dirty talk’ and ‘pooping at his place.’”

Natasha Simons is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, if you can imagine such a thing. She blogs here.