gag reflex

As a child, I decided not to lie — at least not intentionally. It sounded like a good idea at the time. You see, I’d noticed that no matter how well I thought I was covering up whatever it was I was trying to hide, the grown ups always seemed to know when I wasn’t telling the truth. And since I couldn’t seem to keep my story straight with each telling, being truthful seemed to be the easiest way to deal with things. It took a lot less energy and I earned the trust of those around me. Unfortunately, I also earned the scorn of others who preferred that I not be a ‘snitch’.

I didn’t see it that way. To me, a snitch was someone who intentionally ‘ratted out’ someone — who sought the opportunity to get someone else in trouble and benefitted from it. Coming from a family of dubious background, snitches were not tolerated and almost always suffered severe consequences for their actions. I was not a snitch.

shutterstock_170768933As I grew older, I maintained this, even taking pride in my willingness to be truthful, especially with myself. But I was a product of my upbringing and it’s taken years for me to excavate the realization that truth is subjective. Thanks to deep inner work and honest conversation with myself in journaling these past dozen years, I realized that truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Telling the truth can be subjective because one person’s truth is another person’s lie by omission. Admittedly, I’ve done both. More often I’ve lied by omission to cover my own butt, not someone else’s. That was mostly because I believed I fell short of what I expected of myself, which, incidentally, is also why I wore makeup all of these years.

But being transparent is liberating. In taking off my own mask, I realize I see others more realistically as well. Looking past what I thought I was seeing has resulted in amazing conversations with people during these last several weeks that have been deeply insightful. I’ve discovered many women prefer not to wear makeup and when they do, it’s a conscious choice. Women have shared that they are not as quickly objectified by men or women when without makeup, and are taken more seriously. And men have noted that women care more about makeup than women do.

So why is our culture so hung up about our appearance, head to toe? I briefly discussed in an earlier post the impact of advertising and propaganda as a way to manipulate our society by those who believe they know what is in our best interests. (

I have another perspective to add to this conversation, courtesy of two women of Latin descent.

While at the Short Hills Mall yesterday, located in one of the highest income per capita towns in the country as a bedroom community of Wall Street investment bankers, I stopped in O & Co., waiting for Aveda to open. I was curious how I would be treated by the store employees. My first visit to this very same mall sixteen years ago was extremely unpleasant, bordering on humiliating as store clerks literally looked right past me, dressing in my ‘mom’ jeans, tee shirt and sneakers to assist the mom in the designer outfit, fully made up holding her Louis Vittone purse in one hand, her equally well dressed toddler in the other. And while I’ve been back to this mall on numerous occasions, I was always sure to be dressed in my best clothes and have my ‘full face on’. (Ladies, you KNOW what I am talking about!)

As I browsed the displays, I began talking with the employees, sharing that I removed my eye makeup with olive oil,(O & Co sells imported olive oils) rather than use the chemicals of the cosmetics companies. All three women were immediately interested, the manager even coming out from the back room to share that her mom uses coconut oil! I told them of my makeup-free project this month, which invited them to share their opinions and experiences.

It turned out that the manager, who moved here from Portugal, used to be the assistant manager of the entire cosmetics department for Bloomingdales’ flagship store in NYC. She told me that she intentionally went to work not wearing makeup and would often make a point to be on the floor with customers. Her experience was that at first people were confused by her lack of makeup given that she worked in the industry. Her intention was to embody for women that we don’t need makeup to show our beauty. She also shared that since she wasn’t seen as ‘sexy’ — which she didn’t want at work — her team took direction from her better than they did the manager, and that the guys continually remarked that they preferred working with her because she showed up to work. In other words, by neutralizing her appearance and showing up as herself, she wasn’t being objectified and felt she was able to be more effective.

This woman also shared that her husband is from Brazil and that culture embraces the sexuality of both men and women. It’s out in the open, and an ongoing conversation. Which brings me to the TED Talk I share with this post, by Chen Lizra:

The US was ‘settled’ by the Puritans, whom we are taught came here for religious freedom. Their beliefs drove sexuality deep into the unconscious, instilling guilt and shame in what is a natural part of the human experience. In doing so, the US culture’s sexual energy has shown up in different form, initially pushing out of the darker recesses of society to become mainstream. It’s scientific law: energy doesn’t die, it changes form.  This sexual energy has been under the control of those who believe they know what is best for us as a whole since the founding of the country, and been expanded on a global basis with the advent of the media.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, founded for those very people who repressed their own physical expression as well as an entire culture’s, I encourage us all to pause as we give thanks for what we have.

Exactly what we are thankful for?

And why are so many ready to rush out to snag the best deal for holiday gift giving as soon as the turkey’s done, rather than spend their time with those same loved ones they will be shopping for? Who decides that another sweater or electronic gadget is more valuable than memories that last a lifetime?

In removing my mask, I not only took off my blindfold … I took off my gag.


Copyright 2014 by Donna Cerame. All rights reserved.



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