beauty · commentary

‘Generic John’ vs. ‘Plain Jane’

Why doesn’t ‘Generic John’ need makeup?

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Art by MM

Since I was a blossoming teen, I have been using makeup to ‘boost’ my beauty. When I was growing up in the 1980’s, women were bombarded with images of models boasting flowing locks, flawless makeup, and lean body types. Young teens like me desperately wanted to keep up, to be more than just a ‘Plain Jane’, and the boys. . ., well they enjoyed our efforts from afar; never needing to lift an eye pencil or lipstick to accent their natural good looks.

Art by MM


Why is that? Are men just naturally better looking than women? They don’t appear to need the almighty paint palette on a daily basis, and if they do dabble in the underworld of beauty, their efforts seem to focus on pedicures, manicures, shave gels, hair creams, waxing, and a pluck or two of unwanted ear or nose hair.  They are not, for the most part, spending fifteen minutes in the bathroom applying toners and lotions before they go to bed, or leaning toward the makeup mirror every morning, mascara in hand, praying they don’t blink.

How did we get on this perpetual makeup wheel? (1)

Makeup is nothing new; in fact, it dates back to prehistoric times when pigments found in plants and fruits were first used by humans. From there, Mesopotamian women took the world by storm, creating the first manufactured cosmetics in 3200 BC.

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Natural Enhancers


By 3300 BC tattoos came on the scene, and by 1500 BC cosmetics were all the rage in Egypt with the introduction of eye liner and mascara. By 1000 BC red lipstick and face powders were popular among Greek aristocracy to set themselves apart from the lower classes.

And then darkness fell.

By 100 BC Christian women decided to cut back on makeup usage, which in later years sparked the Catholic Church to demonize cosmetics, especially red lipstick, because such products were most certainly used by ‘devil worshippers.’ From 200 BC to 1000 AD cosmetics almost disappeared from Europe; the Catholic Church was a strong force discouraging its use as it posed both religious and medicinal threats.

It’s back baby!

By the early 1900’s, the modern world rebelled and makeup returned to its former glory. In 1915 the luxury of carrying a portable lipstick was finally available, and in 1917, ‘cake’ mascara hit the scene. After World War II, the cosmetic industry became a power house, gaining profits and recognition worldwide.

And there you have it.

Women have been indoctrinated since prehistoric times to alter their appearance. Yes, some men, way – way back used enhancements as well, but for the most part women have carried the beauty burden. We’ve been led to believe that we need to be enhanced, while men just don’t.  How does that make you feel?

Art by CM

My theory: if women had never started wearing makeup to begin with, there would be no harsh judgments, no keeping up, no competing with a magazine cover or any other woman or man anywhere. That would certainly be an easier life.


However, I know what I look like without makeup, and in all honesty, I prefer the makeup enhanced version- like that’s the real me, like that’s what God was thinking but forgot to put on his to do list. Is that a sad statement to make?

Art by CM


Just between you and me, sometimes I wish I could be like a man; no makeup no worries. I will probably always envy them and hold them in contempt, but, I’m going to keep it all in perspective. Let them boast their ‘Generic John’ good looks – but let us not forget they are not without flaw; sporting tougher facial skin, sprouting random hairs from ear to back, and slaving away on daily beard growth, not to mention ‘unmentionable’ baggage that we women don’t have to carry. I say let the men be men, and the women be creative!

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Art by CM

I’m may only appear to be raising one fist in the air, blaming our fore mothers and fathers for introducing us to makeup, but look closely; I’m also giving them a high five, enjoying the opportunity to enhance and create. As long as I am doing it for the right reasons, to make me happy or give me the boost I desire, and not to compete or respond to some ideal of what I’m supposed to be – I say no harm no foul.


All that being said, what we all need to remember is that beauty is not only what we see on the surface; it comes from the very depths of our soul.  It sparkles in the twinkle of an eye and glistens in the happiest smile. Whether we’re ‘Generic John’ or ‘Plain Jane’, made up models or natural beauties, shaded in black and white or looking vibrant in full color, we are uniquely beautiful, one and all.



MM – Matthew Milewski; pencil – Figure drawings, circa 2006

CM – Caitlin Milewski; pencil sketch and painting – Girl on a park bench, circa 2010; pencil – Self-portrait, circa 2006



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