Last Friday afternoon, shortly after I arrived home, our 2-and-a-half-year-old twins woke up from their nap. (They make it known when they are ready to come out.) When I went in to take Michael out I was horrified. His right eye was red all around, and it looked like someone punched him in his eye. It took me a minute before I realized that Michael had again gotten hold of his mother’s makeup. He had smeared lipstick all around his eye. It’s a good thing I didn’t call Child Protective Services.
The lipstick was long-lasting, and even after a bath and some scrubbing the prominent red mark remained around his eye. It definitely looked a little scary.
I doubt it’s what the Sages had in mind when they formulated the blessing that men say thanking God “for not making me a woman.” But I can’t help but feel grateful that I don’t have to color my face with specialized crayons and powders before I leave my house every morning. I also don’t have to discuss with my friends what kind of makeup they purchased and how I love the color of their eyebrows.
There are other benefits too, such as being able to throw on a tie and be ready to go to a wedding. A woman, on the other hand, has to undergo an entire ordeal before she is ready to go to a wedding. She has to spend a half hour deciding what to wear, another half hour complaining that she has nothing to wear, and then another 45 minutes putting on the dress that she doesn’t have.
I tell my ninth-grade students that one of the important differences between men and women is when they announce that they have nothing to wear. When a woman says it, she means she doesn’t know which of the 30 outfits in her closet she wants to wear, or thinks will look good enough. When a man says he doesn’t have anything to wear, it means he cannot leave his bedroom because he has nothing to wear!
There was only one time when I wore any type of makeup. Just before my wedding, I had a couple of small yet prominent pimples adorning my face. A neighbor of my parents who did makeup professionally gave me a small tube of coverup. Presto! No more pimples—at least not noticeable.
Most of us meander through life with a tube of figurative coverup. We don’t like admitting our vulnerabilities, so we pretend they don’t exist.
The whole world of social media is one big cover-up. No one posts reality on Facebook or Instagram. On social media, every aspect of people’s lives seems perfect, and everyone seems blissfully happy. We may even know that it’s a superficial depiction. Yet when we see other people’s posts we wonder why our life isn’t as glamorous and as wonderful as our neighbors and friends. In other words, we are jealous of things that aren’t real.
Coverup is a wonderful thing before wedding pictures. It’s also a wonderful thing when we are going about our daily lives. There’s no benefit in hanging our dirty laundry where everyone can see it. But we need to be honest with ourselves and not always hide from the challenging realities of life. We also don’t do anyone a favor—including ourselves—when we pretend our life is perfect and more glamorous than it really is.
By the way, baby oil does wonders to get lipstick off of a toddler’s face.
By Rabbi Dani Staum
Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at [email protected] Looking for “Instant Inspiration” on the parsha in under five minutes? Follow him on TorahAnytime.com.