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Friday Afternoon Confessional: Your mascara is running

I confess at the risk of be annoying, I’m going to bring up running one more time. When my brother and I were standing around as our half-marathon was about to begin, we were shoulder to shoulder in a pretty tight crush of 3,500 people waiting for the starting gun. In these tight quarters, I noticed at least half the runners and probably more were women.

One female runner walked past me wearing what I presumed would be the same amount of makeup she’d put on to go to work or out to dinner. I turned to my brother to say, “With all the pre-race preparations we had to do, I’m glad we didn’t have to worry about putting on makeup.” The words stopped in my throat, though, because I noticed there were at least four more women in earshot wearing makeup. My comment wasn’t going to be said with the intent of being snarky, but anybody who heard it couldn’t have been blamed for thinking that was the case.

I confess this was puzzling to me and I’ve been disappointed the women I’ve spoken with about it are as vexed, too, and are left to make the same guesses about the reasoning as me. Is this a case of heightened vanity or is this women responding to the unfair pressure on them to always look good no matter what they’re doing? I suppose it could be viewed as a sort of confidence. Not only are they going to finish this race, they’re going to look good in their post-race photos. Of course, running for two hours tends to wreak havoc on someone’s makeup so they run the risk of the double whammy: “Oh my God, look how vain she is” AND her “friends” saying she looks like hell in her post-race photos on Facebook.

I confess a big reason I’m obsessing over this is I’m afraid there is a perfectly good explanation that doesn’t involve women being overly vain or victims of societal pressures and I’m just overlooking it.


April 27, 2012 - Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional


  1. Do you take a shower in the morning when you go on a race? Comb your hair? Wear a fresh t-shirt?

    Comment by Olaf B | April 27, 2012

  2. I confess that I once told a girl that we should have a heavy relationship talk in French instead of English so I wouldn’t be able to seek verbal advantage. (She was a native French speaker but was studying Comp Lit at my university. I had just got back from a summer of language immersion.)

    Comment by Josh K-sky | April 27, 2012

  3. I guess it has to do with the pre-race photos as you would probably need to dive head first in a pot of fond de teint to look make-uppy after a halfmarathon. I also wonder why I put on a suit on certain occasions but I confess I am irrational enough to think I’ll do better when I think I look better.

    Josh, was she Belgian?

    Comment by Guido Nius | April 28, 2012

  4. I think your point is well taken, Olaf B. To answer your questions, I actually didn’t shower the morning of the race. I showered the night before because I sleep better when I don’t feel like a scumball. I didn’t put any product in my hair because I thought it would get all gooey and perhaps uncomfortable. I wore a fresh t-shirt because my best shirt for running was clean.

    Basically, when I go out running, all my choices are practical and intended to make me as comfortable as possible for my run. All these choices are also made at 5 in the morning because we’re advised to be at the race at 6. Because of this, my cosmetic choices meet only a threshold for outwardly appearance that avoids my being mistaken for somebody who is mentally deficient. I suppose everybody has a similar baseline for what they’re willing to have as their appearance when they leave the house. I can’t make a good argument for mine as opposed to the women who want to have good makeup for the run (other than the practicality, which they seem to be willing to put up with).

    Comment by mattintoledo | April 30, 2012

  5. Guido, I really think the only way you’re going to get inside this one is through participant observation. Try out some waterproof mascara on a long training run. The results will provide material for next week’s confessional.

    Comment by RobDP | April 30, 2012

  6. I mean Matt, of course. Guido can run however he wants.

    Comment by RobDP | April 30, 2012

  7. I don’t need no mascara. My eyelashes are fabulous.

    Comment by mattintoledo | April 30, 2012

  8. I might put on mascara but I will NOT run.

    Comment by Guido Nius | April 30, 2012

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