By David Ingber
Our animalistic behaviors include, but are not limited to:
*Being highly territorial (Don't you dare sit next to me on the subway if there's another seat open. This rule applies double to peeing in a urinal in a large public bathroom.)
*Fiercely defending our packs from outsiders (Have you ever tried wearing a Patriots jersey to a Jets home game? It's not fun.)
*Going to great lengths to attract a mate (Look, I've been to the gym. It's horrible. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.)
We human animals engage in activities like wearing shoe lifts and make-up in order to appear like a more attractive version of ourselves.
Evolutionary scientists have even theorized that make-up helps its wearers accentuate and exaggerate physical traits that promote DNA a mate would be eager to pass on. (Here is an excellent primer on the subject, from the always awesome people at How Stuff Works.)
For example, big eyes are attractive, because thousands of years ago, someone with big eyes would be able to see the woolly mammoth that was about to attack from far away. This is a trait we would want to pass on to our children! I know I certainly don't want my child to be eaten by a woolly mammoth! Total bummer eulogy.
This (again, according to the scientists) explains why, on some deep, subconscious level, women use eyeliner: giving the illusion of slightly larger eyes. Theoretically, a man sees these eyes, and his primal instincts kick in, and he can't help but want to mate.
This same general concept can be applied to rouge and lipstick, which give the appearance of ruddy, healthy cheeks and lips, not anemic, pale ones. "Oh, hey there sweetcheeks, you look like you could make it through the winter without collapsing! Let me buy you a vodka soda and a buffalo pelt."
(Ironically, several centuries ago, it was considered very sexy to make one's face specifically pale and anemic-looking; wealthy women would use light powders on their faces, perhaps because the Elizabethan upper class were the first hipster fashionistas.)
At heart, I am a big believer in the way evolutionary biology shapes not just how we as a species got here, but how we behave today. I completely understand the evolutionary functionality of make-up.
I feel like I am reasonably perceptive of when a woman is wearing tasteful make-up, and I am acutely aware when I sense there's a surplus of paint on a woman's face. I, of course, have my own instinctive reactions about whether or not the make-up is pleasing to the eye, but I still have some questions, ones I believe I share with most of my male cohort.
Answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated, but primarily, I'm just writing this so you know that we're confused as shit.
1. Are all women superheroes?
Because anyone who can apply mascara in a moving car (which is, I believe, every woman) should, at the very least, be immediately brought to the nearest medical facility to train as a high-risk surgeon. I can't affix two Legos in a moving car.
1a. Aren't you terrified the car is going to stop short, and you're going to jam that brush straight into your eye? Because I am.
2. Why is blue eye shadow a thing?
It seems to be one of the more popular colors, but it has nothing to do with exaggerating a person's natural pigment. Yet, now that I think of it, it kinda makes me think she's out having a good time after having won a barfight. So she's a badass. Nevermind, I just did a complete 180 on blue eye shadow. I get it now.
3. Is the goal to wear just enough make-up to falsify your look for genetic gain, but not so much that the potential mate should be consciously aware of the trickery you've just pulled?
Because I think this is the delicate tight rope of manscaping. Just enough hair removal so that we're not horrifying cavemen, but not so much that it would be implausible to laugh it off as "Nah, I just look like this. Sexy genes, I guess."
4. What is the added benefit of buying really good make-up?
A two dollar burger usually tastes great; an eight dollar burger usually tastes amazing; a 30 dollar burger is almost always disappointing. Where do the diminishing returns come in when, say, buying a tube of expensive lipstick? And what does "good make-up" provide that "cheap make-up" doesn't?
5. Why do women knock other women for showing up somewhere (the office, a party, etc.) without make-up?
I've heard women say some version of "I can't believe she just rolled out of bed and showed up here" fairly often, and far more often than a man would say such a thing. Do women put undue pressure on each other?
6. I totally understand that putting on make-up takes a long time.
I've acted in shows for which where I had to apply my own eyeliner, and it not only took me like 40 minutes, but I nearly had a panic attack every time. But why aren't you able to know exactly how long it does take you, so you can plan accordingly, and we don't have to miss Bruce Springsteen's opening act again?
7. Kissing a girl who has applied lip gloss within the last 30 minutes is a sub-optimal experience.
Unless the lip gloss tastes like cherries. Then it's kind of okay. But why do you apply your lip gloss every seven minutes? Does it need to be re-applied so often because it fades away really quickly? Because, again, after kissing the aforementioned girl and getting a teensy amount of gloss on my lips, I feel like it lingers there for four days.
8. I wasn't able to nail down a definitive etymology for the word "make-up," but the term does carry some interesting connotations.
Are women trying to manifest their own ideal genetic "make-up"? Are women trying to "make up" for the disparity between what they currently look like and what they think they ought to look like? Does each generation "make-up" the new rules of beauty as it goes along? These all feel like reasonable interpretations.
9. Why do so many women like the whole lotion-infused-with-glitter movement?
Do you think men like it? Because perhaps, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes you stand out in a crowd. But it also bedazzles my shirt, jacket, and, if things go that direction, my bedsheets in a way that science has not yet figured out a method for reversing.
10. Should men be wearing some/more make-up?
Apparently men wore make-up quite commonly until the 1850s. It makes sense: we are insecure about our appearance, and we are constantly looking for an edge in order to look good.
10a. If you see a man in a bar wearing eyeliner, and he didn't just get off stage after playing a slammin' 80s glam rock set, are you more or less likely be receptive to his romantic advances? Basically, I worry on a daily basis that my girlfriend is going to leave me for Bon Jovi. Evolution was good to that guy.
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