Kim Kardashian’s make-up free face is, really, just a face with less make-up—one bare but flawless enough to still pass muster. A face that will still cause little green pits of envy to form inside fans and less-than-fans’ stomachs, the math of how their own geometry doesn’t add up clouding their vision in the mirror. I put that face forth a lot too, but without the deceit, laughing to myself when men assume, “you don’t really wear makeup, right?”
As a woman, you can’t look at that face without seeing the façade, but as a girl, it would be easy to convince yourself that such perfection exists… however out of reach it is for you and your personal hormonal hell. You are simply unlucky—too vulnerable to the passage of time: popped pimples, SPF-deficient sun spots and mysterious wrinkles you never invited in. It is easy, still, to feel this way beyond girlhood, logic always a weaker force than insecurity—that chilly, pervasive sense of not-quite-adding-up. The lie and what it might say about us, our deficiency, is so much easier to swallow than the truth of tabloid and celebrity exaggeration, the surreality we’ve come to accept so readily as fact-enough.
I don’t think men understand this—not exactly. How could they? Never having to obsess over their most miniscule nooks and crannies in quite the same way, never having to worry about how the face they put forth at the start of each day might slip away (quite literally) as the hours pass. It’s a thought every woman endures, even those who don’t wear much make-up (hi), or who truly wear none at all—we’re still visited hourly (if not more) by the niggling thought of how we look, if it’s palatable for those around us.
I don’t know one woman not well-versed, on some level, in the linguistics of skincare—each of us reciting our personal cocktails (Vitamin C, retinol, benzoyl peroxide!) with resigned enthusiasm. This process of preserving ourselves is simply the way things are done—a process that, to be clear, is not inherently bad, but reflective of the still-sharp gap between what we put up with and what I believe most of us desire for ourselves (the same freedom, perhaps, that men have: to be pimply, or tired-eyed, or scarred). Less of an urge, a need, to cover ourselves up, blending every minor imperfection into oblivion until we look most like the cheeks on our newborn ass.
Men, conversely, seem to sally forth much easier with the real roadmap on view—daring, with less effort, to face the day with their bumps and imperfections, however irritating they may find them. There is no content created from the simple state of their faces—or the masks the world has replaced them with. And to those in their twenties, like me, anti-aging is a far off land to them, one they will never really visit in quite the same way as women who have spent their lives gearing up for the trip. Women who carry around unsexy facts about straws causing wrinkles, an arsenal of tinctures and creams to ward off the slightest bacteria (and the future, too), and who know all-too-well how hollow and disgusting it can feel when your body doesn’t play by the rules, wielding different spots in retaliation, never afraid to remind you of who you really are.
I don’t doubt that men have felt this, no—I know many who have, but it’s mostly of a different stripe, the volume lower and with less of an echo. It passes them by from time to time, rather than floating permanently on the dashboard. It’s a shitty forecast, not a life sentence.
It’s hard not to think of this when celebri-ladies like Kardashian indulge in this fact—this system that accepts male flaws more than others—manipulating it so that it works in her favor (going makeup-free still seen as worthy of acclaim). I don’t blame her, but it’s not going against the grain, or breaking ground—it’s a mere loosening of grip, a few steps closer to reality but only so many that we’ll still view her as superhuman, miraculously unaffected by any blemish or blot, the goddess that a timeworn and collective We has told her she should be.