If I’m being honest, I’ve often entertained the question: “If I could wake up tomorrow looking like one celebrity, who would it be?” And Gwen Stefani wins every time.
I love Stefani’s style. I love her music. I love her swagger. I even love her unapologetic attitude about her slavish devotion to the maintenance marathon of being an ab-bearing, red-lipped, towering, tottering fashionista. So why am I squirming over the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar, in which Stefani explains being ”on” around the clock: ”I like to make my husband [rock star Gavin Rossdale] like me more…and he likes it when I’m wearing makeup.”
I love experimenting with make-up and, honestly, I wear make-up most every day. Like Stefani, I wear make-up at home. On days off. To the playground. After decades of self-imposed body loathing, I finally enjoy getting dressed every day. Most days, very dressed. So why does Gwen Stefani’s cosmetic capitulation make me so uneasy?
This is not a new debate: is a woman being honest when she claims she is dressing up (and making up) for herself, or has she internalized misogynistic societal ideals about beauty and worth? I truly thought that, at 34 years old, I’d made peace with the debate. If gussying up makes me seem less gutsy to fellow feminists—feminist strangers—I can’t help that. I like how I look (okay, I like how my outfits and make-up look) and I love that my look has nada/zip/zilch to do with the size of my brain. And I take a sort of wicked comfort in my husband’s incredulity at some of my quirkier sartorial moments.
So, for the 90,000th time [because I became a blogger precisely so strangers would answer my most pressing philosophical questions for me and I certainly am not doing exactly what Gwen did]: why does Gwen Stefani’s honesty that she feels more attractive to her husband when she’s in full make-up and glam upset us? I think it’s because it makes her sound less than fierce. It makes her sound vulnerable and insecure and normal. Even a bit immature. I skipped the second half of that movie with the fallopian tubes and the super cool 70s teenagers on a date, but I think once some guy puts a baby or two in you, you can rest assured that he was at least once physically drawn to you, if momentarily. It’s science.
And as for “making him like you more” using make-up, that’s not like. It might be lust. It might be temporary appreciation. But it’s not like. Unless you mean it makes him LIKE YOU, like you. Because, then, yeah: a layer of Bonne Bell or nine should do it.
I think the other bee in my bonnet is that getting mad at Gwen made me angry at myself for not being mad at Gavin. It’s entirely possible that Gwen Stefani came up with this idea out of thin air. I’ve created enough ill will out of enough thin air in my time to know that other people aren’t always asking of us what we think they’re asking.
But it’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Gavin Rossdale is brooding or boorish about women, expecting polished, pretty, and [traditionally] perfect. Who knows? Not my marriage, not my problem. But it bothers me that I never even thought to blame or question Gavin Rossdale for maybe giving her a reason to sound like a ninny. It bothers me that I leapt straight to being pissy at Gwen Stefani for sounding like a black-and-white-Nick-at-Nite-sockhop-Susie: “Jeepers, Mary Lou, how can I make Billy like me more?” “Have you tried a little polish on the pout, Betty Sue?’ I didn’t wonder why she feels that way and, at first, I didn’t care. And that isn’t a more empowered attitude than, oh, someone saying she wears make-up to make a man like her more.
Of course, you know who doesn’t care what I think about their marriage, her make-up, his Bush? Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. I imagine right now they’re doing this:
And good for them. I mean, why make decisions about your life based on what other people think? (But if it matters, still love you, love your look. FAKE BESTIES 4EVER!)