Why I’m Done Covering Up



Not literally, of course. You’re not going to see me walking down the street with only a purse to my name. Trust me, no one wants to see that.


So, just a few weeks ago I was heading out of the house without any makeup on and basically wearing pajamas, when I suddenly became aware of the fact that nowadays I’m almost always heading out of the house without any makeup on and basically wearing pajamas. You might call me lazy or a sleep-deprived, barely-slogging-it-through-the-day mother (both of which are true), but there is deeper meaning to my recent “uncovering.” We’ll get to that. Shortly after I had this epiphany, I stumbled across this lovely letter written by Alicia Keys about why she’s going “uncovered.”

…I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of. And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect. One of the many things I was tired of was the constant judgment of women. The constant stereotyping through every medium that makes us feel like being a normal size is not normal, and heaven forbid if you’re plus-size. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked.

All of it is so frustrating and so freakin’ impossible.

Preach it, Ms. Keys. I mean, seriously. Who hasn’t dealt with the impossible expectations placed on us as women:

Wear your hair this way, wear your hair that way, don’t wear those jeans because they make your butt look too big, just kidding! Exercise so you can plump up that booty but, you know, also exercise to keep your waist small, make yourself pretty, wear makeup but wear it so that it looks like you’re not wearing makeup, wear high heels to look taller, lose weight, be nice, gain weight but not too much weight and gain it in the right places, sacrifice yourself for your kids, don’t be too nice or people will think you’re a pushover, don’t lose yourself once you have kids, stay at home after you have kids because it’s the right thing to do, go back to work after you have kids so you can set a good example, be one of the ‘guys,’ be girly, be a good wife, be independent, and lose that mom bod less than six weeks after having your baby or else you’re going to be fat and horrible-looking for forever! You know, basically, be everything to everyone. Now it’s my turn to look disgusted, Clint Eastwood.


I don’t know about you, but I have struggled with these things and more, as far back as I can remember. Most of my adolescent and teenage years were spent trying to be as smart as my really smart friends, as cool as the friends I wished I had, as pretty as the popular girls, as talented as the choir folk or theater folk or band folk or athletes, as confident as the student leaders of our class, and as liked and admired and desired as everyone else who wasn’t me. I had no sense of my own identity, and I went through more phases than I care to recount. Even as an “adult” who finished college and had a big-girl job, paying bills, cooking my own food, washing my own clothes…even then, I felt confined and trapped by these impossible expectations I had put on myself due to a life-long history of comparing myself to others and always, always, always coming up short.

It is only in the past few years (maybe five, at the most, and I’m now 33 1/2) that I have begun to feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own mind, in my own soul. A lot of it had to do with the struggles and errors and mistakes I made up to that time: how they challenged me, how they changed my perspective and my perception, how they helped me grow. Some of it had to do with eye-opening experiences I had. But most of it had to do with one simple fact of life: aging.

Aging is something I always looked at from a literal point of view when I was younger: just more years tacked on to my age. Like, I always hated how my parents would try to prevent me from doing things as a teenager because they were older and thought they knew better:

Mom (17 years ago): “I’ve been there, Stefanie, and I know what’s going to happen–I’m trying to save you some heartache.”

Me: “You don’t know my life! I’m a totally different person than you! Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you know more!”

…three hours later…

Me: “Why do you always have to be right, Mom?”

Now I look at aging as the root of personal growth. It took me over 30 years, but I FINALLY GET IT. There are some experiences, some situations, some life lessons that are just so universal that everyone will go through some form of them in their lives. And one day I will be in that same position with my son, and I will understand why he has to rebel against my wisdom, simply because he won’t have the understanding yet that I have gained–by aging. But not just aging; anyone can get older without learning and growing. I’m talking about aging with intention.

Which brings me back to feeling comfortable in my own skin. I have taken all of this energy, all of this life around me, and I have used it intentionally to grow into the woman I am today. I have taken all of the mistakes and the fears and the contradictions and the abandonment and the joy and the excitement and the rejection and the change and the love, and I have molded those things into the Stefanie you see before you. In other words, this is me, flaws and all. In other words, I’m done trying to be anything I’m not.

Most days I don’t wear makeup and even when I do, it’s only a little eye makeup because I like the way it looks. I wear pajamas and exercise shorts (that I don’t exercise in) most days, because it’s comfortable. I sometimes eat food I know is bad for me and will make me gain weight, because it tastes good. I fret and get anxious about things, because I’m a little bit neurotic…and that’s okay. I spend a lot of my leisure time at home instead of going out, because home is where I am happiest and I no longer worry about whether or not I’m being social enough. I open my heart to people I love, because it feels better baring my heart (and risking it getting broken) than keeping it shut in. I share my opinions freely, because my thoughts are just as important as anyone else’s. I do what I love, because I no longer worry about pleasing everyone else. I sing and dance in the shower, cook delicious food, snort when I laugh, and listen to people well, because those are my innate talents and I’m done trying to force anything else to be true.

And love what you do. Love YOU.
And love what you do. Love YOU.

So, be you. Be you, true. Whatever that means: wearing makeup or not, dressing up or dressing down, talking a lot or listening more, embracing that mom bod, working out every day, being a working mom (despite its hardships), being a stay-at-home mom (despite its hardships), making time for you and yours, making time just for you, going back to school when you’re forty, getting married and having kids, speaking out for yourself, not getting married and not having kids, learning something new about yourself, or not getting married and having kids anyway. Uncover yourself and uncover your joy.

“‘Cause I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

Preach it, Ms. Keys. Preach it.