Ritual Beauty

I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between beauty and ritual, and how closely the two are connected to each other.

I have both my morning rituals and my evening ones, specific things I do in a particular order. In the morning, I wash my face with Dove soap, put on my face cream, and then put on sun cream. I only wear eye make-up these days, so I then put that on. I use three or four shades of whatever colour of eye-shadow I am wearing (which, of course, matches the outfit I am planning on wearing that day), and I put the shades on in the same order every day. Next, of course, I put on mascara. Then I brush my hair, get dressed and put on my jewellery (which also has to match my outfit).

In the evening, my rituals are simpler but none-the-less entrenched. I remove my eye make-up with cotton make-up remover pads (saving them these days for the collages I will make at the end of this beauty year!). I wash my face again with Dove soap and apply face cream.

My current beauty ritual is much simpler these days, compared with what I used to do. A few years ago, when I had more money and was working with a lot of women who cared about being fashionable, foundation and face powder were essential chinks in my amour. After I applied my face cream in the morning – using both eye cream and a general face cream – I would apply the foundation and powder. After that, I would put on my eye make-up.

I also used to straighten my hair, so I would spend 10-20 minutes each morning doing that. Before I put my clothes on I would spray on deodorant and perfume (I stopped buying these products a year or two ago when I was really broke, and never got back into the habit of purchasing them). My evening ritual would involve reversing all this, and applying eye cream and night cream.

I’m very attached to my rituals, and get quick fucked off when someone tries to talk with me or interrupt me while I’m doing them (as my husband can attest to).  Once, when we were younger, my sister and I were travelling in Spain, and arrived at a train station early in the morning. We found the bathroom, which was covered in stains, dirt and graffiti, and filled with the dregs of society – I distinctly remember some poor woman trying to bathe herself and her two children using water from the sink. My sister, understandably, wanted to pee as quickly as possible and get the fuck out of there. However, clinging onto my morning rituals, I simply had to put on some eye make-up before I would even consider facing the rest of the world! Fortunately (and through no help on my part), we made it out of there alive.

Why are beauty rituals so important? For me, I think it has to do with following a set of rules, and believing that everything will be ok if I follow those rules. For one reason or another, I have decided that if I follow a set ritual, not deviating from it or skipping part of it, I will be beautiful. I will be beautiful enough, confident enough and powerful enough to face the world – and if I do not adhere to my ritual, I won’t be!

Mixed up in all that is control, and the desire to control the image I present to the world. We have so little control over so many aspects of our lives – perhaps I think that if I can at least control my beauty rituals and the way I present myself to the world, I will be controlling something!

Then again, how much of my ritual am I really in control of? I don’t even know about all the ingredients that go into my make-up and lotions. On another level, where am I getting all the images and ideas about what I want myself to look like, about the ways I should present myself and the definitions of what is beautiful? Did I make those up myself?

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5 Responses to Ritual Beauty

  1. Stephen says:

    “I’m very attached to my rituals, and get quickly fucked off when someone tries to talk with me or interrupt me while I’m doing them (as my husband can attest to).”

    Attested. Although that doesn’t stop me trying.

    Stephen (The Husband)

  2. kimmirrors says:

    Maybe if you got fucked quickly and got off instead that would be a fun ritual to add to the mix. I’m just sayin’!

  3. David says:

    Good to read your thoughts about makeup as daily ritual. I’ve been fascinated with the transformative power of women’s makeup ever since I was a child, watching my mother switch from mundane human to Very Special Being with eye liner, mascara, and perfume. Is this about insecurity or theater? Oppression or permission to play? Thin lines indeed, I daresay, but fascinating to me still.

  4. Mary says:

    Great thoughts, Liz. I especially like the questions you raise in your last paragraph, and am also interested in David’s comment. My “putting on my face” is fairly simple these days, but more long and involved than it had been for a year or so. I gave up daily make-up all together when I was pregnant, because those extra 15 minutes of sleep really did matter, but have started wearing some again. I am always torn: I would like to not “have” to spend the time on the beauty rituals but, on the other hand, I am glad that our society “permits” us women to use skin products and wear makeup. I like having something that makes me feel like I look better, less tired, more professional, and more put together. Like you said, though, did someone tell me how I should be looking, or am I making all that up myself?

  5. Jo-Anne says:

    I found it very amusing, and quite moving, to read about these things we do with such care, that might not matter at all. And yet they do – they are a way of saying we care for ourselves enough, to take a stand in matters far greater than make-up … But some of all this is unnecessary. Especially Liz straightening her extraordinary hair, which looks like the essence of life itself when left in waves.

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