A few weeks ago, I posed for a publication that I write for and I did it with no makeup. The magazine, Skirt, is one I write for regularly and this was their “Age Is Not An Issue” issue. So, I trusted them when they asked me to pose with no makeup. I even talked a friend into doing it with me.
Afterward, I heard lots of “how brave” comments. My friend and I were on the older end of the photo shoot spectrum. The youngest was a reality TV star who has done some modeling and the ones in between could all be models, if they aren’t already.
So maybe the comments were because I was an old broad without apology and without blush. As though I had shown not just my makeup-free face, but some more intimate part of myself.
That was not comfortable.
But it was not brave.
Here’s what’s brave:
The woman who survived a childhood as a Rwandan refugee and grew up to write the beautiful, “The Girl Who Smiled Beads.” If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. I thought I understood what it must be like, but I had no idea.
Brave is anyone who has kicked cancer’s ass, and anyone whose ass has been kicked by cancer.
Brave is anyone who deals with depression or mental illness and is still here and still fighting.
People who have been kicked in the teeth by love but still believe that true love is out there? They are brave.
People who have been bullied or abused who figure out a way to make that violence stop before it gets its oily fingers on another generation. Those people are brave.
And if you stand up to a bully or an abuser, whether you’re the one being abused or whether you just see it happening? That’s brave.
It’s brave to take the time to talk with a homeless person, especially if they stop long enough to make eye contact. I remember reading a book forever ago by Jonathan Kozol, Rachel and Her Children, that quoted a homeless man as saying that the worst thing about being homeless wasn’t the cold or the hunger; it was the feeling of being invisible. When you spend your days with no one meeting your eyes, you start to question whether you are there at all.
People who figure out what it is that scares the hell out of them – could be jumping out of an airplane, could be public speaking – and goes ahead and does it. They’re brave.
Anyone who has the grace to speak honestly but kindly is brave.
All of those things are brave. But showing my face without makeup? That’s not so brave. I may look more tired than normal in that photo or older. But it’s not a brave face.
Curious…what does “brave” mean to you?
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