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The Makeup Wars
Mom with a View

The Makeup Wars

Adolescence is really about conformity, not rebellion.


I grew up in a very small town. If the girls in my eighth grade class wore makeup, they were sent home to wash it off. In high school, the only girls that wore makeup were the ones with a “reputation.” (I know, I sound quaint.)

I bought my first tube of mascara when I was 25 – and I still don’t really know how to use it. I’ve never worn foundation, rarely eye shadow. I’m not stating a moral position, just describing my experience.

So when my 11th grade daughter started pestering about makeup I remembered the type of girls who wore it during my high school years and I adamantly refused. But, as is the way with adolescent girls, the pestering continued. And continued. And continued. I could only lock myself in my bedroom for so long. I had to find a solution.

Luckily I was able to speak to someone who runs a girls’ school in New York. She told me (and I paraphrase) to “take a chill pill.” She reassured me that it was not a big deal as long as it was applied in an understated fashion (We weren’t talking Goth here), that times had changed (yes, trite but true – groan) and that there were more important battles to fight.

I took a deep breath. I pasted a smile on my face. And I gave my daughter permission to wear makeup. She didn’t take advantage and she didn’t wear a lot. In fact once it was no longer about asserting her independence, she frequently forgot to put it on at all.

Adolescence is a mine field. We have to be careful where we step. But we don’t need to set up unnecessary barriers.

We have to tread carefully and not create unnecessary walls between our children and their friends.

Once we choose a school whose values we embrace then we have to allow our children to be in step with their peers – obviously within reason. At the same time that we were having this struggle with our daughter, a friend of ours (whose daughter was clearly at a different school) was struggling with her over whether she could sleep out in the woods with her boyfriend. Suddenly makeup didn’t seem like such a big deal!

We have to choose an environment that matches our values and then work within its parameters. While we have to teach our children to have the courage of their convictions, adolescence is not really about rebellion (except against parents). It’s all about conformity. It’s all about their peers. We have to tread carefully and not create unnecessary walls between our children and their friends. That’s why the initial choice of school and community is so important.

It’s a balancing act – with love and compassion dominating rigidity and judgment.

As we try to steer our children through adolescence, we need to focus on the world they live in, not the one of our childhood, and judge our battles accordingly.

And we need to concentrate on the things that never change – not the eyebrow waxing and the manicures – but our love for them, our relationship with God, the steadfastness of our Jewish values, and above all, the constant need for prayer.

August 14, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) MESA, May 15, 2011 5:17 PM

When I was growing up, the rule was that I was allowed to wear makeup as soon as I turned 14 and entered high school. And it was no big deal. I think it's fine if parents want their daughters to wait until a certain age to wear makeup. However, it's important to make sure that all children have a basic skin-care regimen in place long before they start with makeup. Keeping your skin clean, appropriately moist, and protected from the sun is important for your health and will allow you to wear less makeup later on.

(6) SusanE, September 28, 2010 6:25 PM

I'm Surprised Emuna.

In the end you agreed with some one elses' recommendation and then you allowed your daughter to wear make-up. How much easier it would have been on your daughter, if you had thought about the issue long before she asked and said yes the first time? You could have thought about it, asked others opinions, and had the correct discussion in mind. In fact, you could have brought the subject of make-up to her. Your daughter would have been given a loving acceptance. You talk about your plight and her pestering you forever and locking yourself away from her.. Imagine how SHE felt about having to beg for herself? It could have been a loving 'woman' moment between the two of you to say "I'll think about it" the first time she asked. All girls grow up and most want to be attractive women. An 11th grader here in the States is about 17 or 18 years old and a young woman. You stated your daughter was an (adolescent) when she asked. Here adolescence is 11 and 12 years old. If she is only that old I might have made her wait until later, too. If I am mistaken on her age please excuse.

(5) L.S., August 20, 2010 3:52 PM

Contradicts the Torah...

Mrs. Braverman-- The Torah explicitly says that a man *must* buy his wife *jewelry* and *makeup*...modest does not need to equal ugly. As a baal teshuva one thing I do not understand about frum culture is this glorification of looking fat, unkempt, unhygienic, etc. Once when I told someone that I exercise for 30 minutes 4 days a week, she had the chutzpah to tell me that I am selfish...ok, seriously?! Out of TWENTY-FOUR hours in the day, I can't take percentage wise 1% of my day for my health?! It amazes me when women who call themselves "devoted wives" who do not strive to look beautiful for their husbands. Yeah yeah, inner beauty and all that...ladies--he will NOT find you attractive if you are fat with a shaved head under your wig, no makeup, stains on your clothes, and you stink because you don't wear deoderant. It is a MITZVAH to take 15 minutes to brush your hair, swipe on some lipstick, and wear tasteful clothing.

(4) Chana Siegel, August 19, 2010 6:35 AM

Years ago, my upstairs neighbor, Beit Yaakov graduate and daughter of a Hungarian holocaust survivor, told me how she dealt with her daughter's interest in makeup, and kept it in proportion and discrete. She told her daughter that when she wanted to start wearing makeup, she should tell her, and they would make sure to go together and get "the good stuff, not that cheap stuff that looks so tacky and ruins your skin". Immediately, the daughter responded that she was not all THAT interested right now, and indeed wasn't for a few years. Later on, her approach turned the matter into an area they could share and discuss, a focus on quality time together, neatly sidestepping rebellion. The daughter is now dating age and always looks very tasteful, never extreme. Hungarian Jewish ladies, frum and less frum, have traditionally valued looking good for the right reasons. As a lifelong tomboy who intuitively feels that makeup is "dirtying" the face I just worked hard to clean and moisturize, this was key in dealing with my daughter's issues in the matter.

(3) Chava, August 17, 2010 7:02 PM

Make up enhances natural beauty

I have never seen a woman who could not look better with a little make up. Nice clothes enhance our appearance. We all need make up every day whether we go any place or not. It makes me feel better about myself when I know I look my best. I have never met a husband who doesn't think his wife looks better with a little make up. Loosen up mom. Take a look at before and after photos of makeovers. After is always better.

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