Thoughts by Richard Bleil
She was in her final year as one of my chemistry (technically, physical science) majors. Chatting in my office, I asked her what it was that she wanted to do with her degree. She had come into the college wanting a chemistry degree, but our “science coordinator” told her we did not have one without mentioning that we had a physical science major based on the recommendations for a chemistry major from the American Chemical Society. Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy with him, but it’s the kind of lack of support I struggled with the entire time he was in that position.
But be that as it may, she was at the end now. To give you some idea of how talented she was, she started a job in a quality control lab at the local alcohol refinery for fuel at the same time as a biology major from the same institution began in an equivalent position. A few years later, he was still working at the refinery, and she had been promoted to the head office. She was great, but when I asked her (before she started this position) what she really wanted to do, she answered that she was too ashamed to tell me.
I coerced her into giving me an answer, and she hung her head saying, with a silent almost imperceptible voice, “I want to make cosmetics.” I asked why she didn’t want to tell me this, and she said she was too ashamed of it. I didn’t understand this, and she revealed that it seemed too much like a vanity job.
Cosmetics today are amazing. It seems like people can pretty much have any face (or facial features) they can want if they know how to apply the proper makeup. I can see why she would think this is a vanity industry, but I wonder.
After all, if a woman is feeling more attractive, isn’t she also going to be more confident? Won’t she be better able to stand up for herself, and put her best foot forward? Attitude is so important and helping a woman (or a man for that matter) feel more confident is a great service to her.
On the flip side of the coin, what about those who have had some kind of disease or injury that they are dealing with? Technically, breast implants are cosmetic, but I cannot blame a woman who has undergone mastectomy to want to have implants to replace what she has lost to cancer. It doesn’t matter if I believe she needs it or not (I would support any decision she makes, honestly), but if it helps her regain her self-esteem and feel it gives her dignity, to me, that’s not vanity at all.
One of our recent self-made millionaires is a woman who suffered from terrible rosacea. I love the model with rosacea covering roughly half of her face who has made a career of showing how beautiful it actually is, but I also understand the desire of some wanting to cover it. One such woman was unhappy with makeup products that didn’t cover her rosacea well or had to go on so thick that it eventually flaked off. She developed her own formula, and it works like a dream. In fact, she wrote a book of her trials, the difficulty she had in finding funding and was forced to risk her own money to market it, and her desire to model it herself against the advice of the “experts” who thought a model with rosacea would never sell the first jar. Is it vanity for her and her clients to feel normal for the first time in their lives?
It’s all too easy for us to denigrate ourselves for our hopes and dreams. Her interest came as a surprise to me, but I didn’t see any reason to disparage it. In fact, for some, makeup is such an important tool to help “level the playing field” in a society where women competing with men for jobs are judged not only on their qualifications but on their appearance as well. It’s not fair, but until we can finally put an end to this misogynistic practice, we can at least fight fire with fire. I know a lot of men will find it unfair that they suddenly have to compete with attractive women for jobs, but neither has it been fair for the past two hundred years that women were automatically put at a disadvantage for not having what was deemed the proper genitalia. If you have a dream, follow it, be proud of it, brag about it, but never belittle it.