Too Pretty

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“Don’t ever wear makeup, Sarah. You’re too pretty for it.”

That’s what he told me one day when we were together. Just 10 words that changed my life. No, this wasn’t my father or grandfather. No, not a boyfriend or just a guy I knew. This boy-man was my childhood companion standing on the brink of puberty. 18 months older than me, he didn’t have much more insight into the world than I did. We were young. I hadn’t really thought about makeup yet. But he warned me to avoid it. Who was this mystery man?

My cousin.

I’ll never forget those words. As we teetered precariously on the ledge between childhood and adulthood, he paused to offer his great middle-school wisdom. I don’t know if he even remembers the day. I do. I don’t remember what we were doing or where we were or how makeup even came up. All I know is that my cousin looked at me and saw someone too pretty for makeup.

Keep in mind this cousin was like my brother. Almost all of my childhood memories are attached to him. We ice skated, swam, watched movies, spent the night at each other’s houses. We shared meals and car rides and even coats occasionally. We stole bubblegum from my mom once. (I confessed in tears 5 minutes later). I wonder if he remembers.

Keep in mind this cousin saw me at my grubbiest. With our other companion, the next youngest cousin, we would scamper off into the woods behind the younger one’s house. We’d crawl among the rocks and scramble over fallen trees. We’d come running into the house dragging who knows what with us!

Keep in mind that I was basically a guy to him. I don’t think he ever thought, “She’s just like me.” But I don’t think we ever thought of each other as different. I did grubby little-boy things with the boys. I played war with them and scuffled with them and liked wearing jeans or shorts better than skirts. We shot water guns at each other. When he got a laser-tag-type game for Christmas, we laid aside all the other gifts to shoot at each other, darting in and out of the adults. I didn’t have video games at home, so I spent hours losing to him at Mario Kart. He taught me to play but kept the secrets to himself. In short, I was the brother he didn’t have.

This boy-man, at the beginning of puberty, recognized something that so many adults fail to communicate: Makeup doesn’t make you beautiful. It just covers up your natural beauty. This isn’t to say that makeup is all bad. There are occasions when it is fun and good to accentuate your features. But if you don’t think you’re beautiful in the first place, makeup’s not going to change anything. You are beautiful. Without makeup. 

Please don’t think my parents never communicated to me that I was beautiful or that my guy friends always bemoaned the fact that I never wore makeup. Those things simply aren’t true. But the man who impacted my view of makeup–and of myself–the most was my cousin. The boy who saw the real me. The boy who was suddenly faced with the reality that I was different from him. The boy who became a man the moment he realized that created beauty, a work of art signed by God, cannot be improved upon by man-made products.

Tonight, I want to remind you that my cousin’s words weren’t just for me. I’m not tall, thin, or blond. I’m not stereotypically beautiful. I’d probably have a lot more trouble with my self-image if it weren’t for those ten words a young man once spoke. And those words are for every woman and girl that God ever created–in other words, this is for you!

Don’t wear makeup, Friend. You are too beautiful for it.

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