Patricia Feehily: Bravery was never really part of my ‘make-up’

Patricia Fe

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Patricia Fe

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FORGET about unsung heroism! The thousands of ‘no make-up’ selfies currently being posted on social media are raking in the money for cancer research, and long may they succeed. But the most surprising aspect of the phenomenon is that the bravery of the participants is being acclaimed around the globe. Profiles in courage, you could say!

FORGET about unsung heroism! The thousands of ‘no make-up’ selfies currently being posted on social media are raking in the money for cancer research, and long may they succeed. But the most surprising aspect of the phenomenon is that the bravery of the participants is being acclaimed around the globe. Profiles in courage, you could say!

Now, far be it from me to disparage any project for a good cause, but really, how much courage is required to be able to take a flattering picture of oneself without make-up and post it up for everyone to see? I never wore make-up in my life and I didn’t even know I was displaying great valour, not to talk of capitalising on it. Admittedly though, I was constantly being told that I’d be much easier on the eye if I just slapped on a bit of war paint.

Having said that, bravery was never part of my make-up (pardon the pun). Unlike my late aunt who was a member of Cuman na mBan in her youth and carried a gun in her pocket alongside her powder puff, presumably, I’ve been a scaredy cat all my life, afraid of my own shadow, and unable to shake off that morbid Celtic dread that the sky might fall in on me. But, whatever about those who had to behold my unadorned visage, facing the world without the paint didn’t even cost me a second thought. I was completely at one with Hamlet when he told Ophelia ‘God has given you one face and you make yourself another . . . Get thee to a nunnery”. Such heroism should put the ‘selfie’ takers to shame.

Once however, when we were getting ready for a dance, someone - against my will, mark you - rubbed the cover of ‘The Messenger of the Sacred Heart’ on my cheeks as an improvised blusher. We had to improvise a lot in those days. Ironically, it was done with the best of intentions, to hide my incurable blushing affliction. I washed it off straight away and went off to the dance where I soon discovered that I was the only one who could tell a barefaced lie if I had to. Much later in life, I nearly had another brush with cosmetics when I somehow managed to resist the urge to use a universally vaunted anti-wrinkle cream at a time when a gorge as deep as the Grand Canyon developed overnight across my forehead. Like Salvador Dali, I began to fancy the idea of a “labyrinth of wrinkles being furrowed on my brow”. However, unlike Salvador I wasn’t ready yet to ‘let my hair whiten’, which kind of made me feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

Now, it transpires that showing a bare face to the world is the true badge of courage, so much so that people are prepared to cough up cash for charity in acknowledgement of such intrepidity. I thought of taking part myself, even in my advanced years, but my aversion to ostentation proved too much of a deterrent. My courage was never in doubt! Anyway I’ve never really mastered the art of taking a selfie, and I’d be afraid I’d come out looking like Mona Lisa with a make up line clearly visible behind my ear and they’d accuse me of cheating. Most of the ‘no make up’ selfies I’ve seen are natural beauties anyway, but some are clearly sporting subtle signs of having applied lip gloss.

The point I’m trying to make here is not that charities shouldn’t benefit from the narcissistic traits of modern society and social media users who are their own biggest audience anyway, By the way, I’m not even sure if Narcissus himself was wearing make-up when he was staring into the pool. Anyhow, the charities themselves didn’t start this phenomenon and the money is more than welcome. But if it gets out of hand, will they be able to control it? That’s the question.

What really bothers me, however, is the assertion that it takes the ultimate in bravery to appear anywhere without wearing make-up, thereby justifying the growing tendency of society to judge everyone by his or her appearance. Only the rashest would go out without covering their blemishes, and even the bravest selfie takers wouldn’t dare go for an interview for a job without slapping on the make-up, I presume.

Also, I’ve heard of a couple of young girls who were traumatised after being nominated to take part in the no make up selfies. They were horrified at the idea of being seen with a spot showing, and as a result may not be brave enough to comply. Real courage, on the other hand, is too scarce a commodity to be trivialised in a context like this. It’s a bit like the ‘daring’ men and women who strip off for charity calendars every year, and expect the rest of us to support their causes when we’d much prefer if they had kept their clothes on and just passed the hat around.

Meanwhile, my main concern revolves around where social media is taking us, and how it will affect our humanity in the long run. The best I can do, I suppose, is to put a brave face on it.