If I had to choose one book to sum up my current stage of life, it would be Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes. If you like makeup and beauty products and you’re a stranger to Sali, then you need to get to know her: she is resident beauty columnist for Guardian Weekend magazine and founder of salihughesbeauty.com. Pretty Honest is her first book, and offers honest advice on everything from lipsticks and waxing to choosing makeup for interviews and weddings.
The chapter that sings to me the most is ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. These two things are two of my main priorities in life. Before you click off my blog, thinking I’m shallow enough to place my children and my appearance in equal measures, let’s get one thing straight: I take being a mother very seriously.
I think my daughter is the best at everything; a miracle; the kindest and funniest soul on the planet. So profound is the depth of my love that I have even cooed over, and then shared, pictures of her with a messy face full of chocolate. As I’ve done so, I’ve heard the accusatory screams of pre-child me: ‘What are you doing? You swore you’d never post pictures of a chocolate-smeared child. You cannot deal with people who do that!’
I cry when things go wrong with her, I berate myself about every single decision I make about her and I feel incessantly guilty no matter what I do. I tick most, if not all, of the normal, doting parent boxes. It’s both unexpected and inevitable.
But guilt or no guilt, child or no child, there is one thing I won’t give up:
Fortunately, Sali Hughes tells me that this is okay, and who am I to argue? She defends makeup’s reputation as frivolous and points out that it is actually as much to do with identity and pleasure than it is to do with sheer vanity. Making yourself look nice doesn’t conflict with feminism, it complements it. And whilst we’re at it, wearing makeup doesn’t make a woman shallow or stupid, either. As Sali points out, ‘it’s perfectly normal to love both lipstick and literature’.
Choosing and wearing makeup is described in the brilliant introduction as ‘an act of love, self-care and, crucially, self-expression’. Of course, Pretty Honest points out that mothers, particularly new ones, might have to compromise a little on time, but does not expect or encourage them to dismiss their own needs completely. How refreshing.
I have a three year old and am expecting a new baby in a matter of weeks. A strange, blurred time where my body is unrecognizable and my eyes are swollen from lack of sleep and hormonal tears is looming. I’ve been there before, and although it’s a beautiful time in an abstract sort of way, close up it’s not so pretty. I don’t, therefore, plan on making it worse by binning my mascara until my children are eighteen.
When I’m going out with my daughter, she waits for a few minutes whilst I do my makeup. I don’t spend hours applying false lashes whilst she writhes in the agony of desolate isolation. I don’t say that I hate my face without makeup, or that I think men want me to wear makeup or that I am worthless without it. I just put on a bit of Doublewear, exclaim with my daughter over new products that shimmer or come in beautiful boxes, spritz us with a little Dior J’adore, and then go to a play area.
Thanks, Pretty Honest, for defending this happiness so beautifully.