The particular terror of makeup

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Don’t worry, there’ll be a post on how awesome my new apartment is and what I’ve sewn for it.  But I owe somebody a story, and surprisingly I haven’t written this out before, so here we go.

I like makeup. It’s costuming for the face. When I was little I loved playing with the disco-era palettes of my mom’s eyeshadow, tiny trial-size lipsticks, bright paints in tiny containers. It was costume, the finishing touch of playing pretend.

In middle school I was told I should start wearing makeup—foundation, coverup, that sort of thing. I don’t remember when and it doesn’t matter, but after that makeup was something I had to do because I was a girl. Like the inevitable training bra, I wasn’t going to escape these female milestones.

Some point later, for Christmas, I unwrapped an angle brush and two palettes of eyeshadow. One was blues and greys, one was black. I had levelled up. It still wasn’t awesome, since it was something I had to do, but it was more fun than the rest of it. It was colour and drama. Not just coverup.

I was dutiful, but I was not the girliest kid. I resisted plucking my eyebrows until my late teens, because oh my gawd the effort of hair maintenance is absurd. And I was busy discovering this thing called rock and roll, working in the darkroom, or recording Lone Gunmen episodes on super long play. I also spent time in the library, browsing the 700s (the Arts). That’s where I found Kevyn Aucoin’s Making Faces. It’s one of the best makeup introductory books I’ve found, and there’s a bit on sculpting eyebrows that explained everything so simply I finally tried it. I didn’t have to thin them, just refine their natural shape!

There was a short-term, weird, hyper female spurt after high school that was the result of getting to redefine myself while still trying to remain within social bounds— which can be glossed over here, because for various reasons I don’t really remember it and all it did was further reinforce where I went next. Because girly stuff for me has always been drag. It’s pretend, like my social skills. A thing I do because I want to or feel like the situation calls for it. Which—please note—is how I feel about it now, not how I approached it then. Back then I was holding on to the girl stuff the same way I was still carrying around my expired driver’s permit, I didn’t know what to do with it, but it was sort of like something people are supposed to have. So I kept it.

Anyway. Time wore on. I started working theatre tech instead of being on stage. I watched the art buildings at night and built up a machismo with my dudely art friends. I stopped using makeup. It was in part because I didn’t have time. But I had the excuse not to do it now. I was in the theatre basement, sorting dusty heaps of set pieces, or mucking about on ladders or staying up late throwing paint on canvas. Makeup, like clothes that weren’t meant to get dirty, was a senseless effort. It was wonderful.

I would use the black eyeshadow to line my eyes sometimes, y’know, because it does work to take the edge off the glare of the sun. Like kohl, or the smudges on football players. Totally not femmy.

So I found myself, years later, hovering at the edge of the makeup aisles at Fred Meyer, hoping no one saw me. Why I decided to buy makeup again is a whole ‘nother thing. Let’s just focus on the point here, terribly macho me, not wanting to look at the mascara display because there was a woman in the aisle.

“This is ridiculous.” I am thinking to myself. “You are a female-looking person in a makeup aisle. Nobody will question your presence. Even if you weren’t readable as female, nobody would care. It is Fred Meyer. You are creepier walking up and down past the aisles. You are creeping this poor lady out.”

The woman finally picked her eyeshadow and wandered off. I was free to enter. I knew I wanted blue mascara. That only one brand offered a decent one. I knew what I wanted because I’d been thinking about it for weeks and only got the nerve up to buy it that day. Once I find the right display, I cursed all package designers for tiny lettering and had to stand there, sweating in terror at being caught (doing what? damned if I know), while I try to find “Midnight Blue”. As I grabbed at it, I spotted a coupon fluttering nearby. A free lipstick with any purchase of that brand.

This, I think, tells you a lot about me. Freaked out as I was, I was not going to deny something free. I blindly grabbed at the lipstick, taking the first tube that fell under my flailing hand and booked it to the safety of the dairy department. Where I swaggered a bit, battle won.

It turns out that the colour of lipstick was a perfect nude tone for me. Not that I really have reason to wear it much, I’m not a lipstick person. I realised, when I was putting away my makeup after we moved, that I have an ungodly amount of lipstick for someone who is not a lipstick person. But it’s costume, that finishing touch. And I am glad to have it there when I want it. I also found those two first palettes of eyeshadow, which I threw away. They were over a decade old, um, hella gross. And it’s not like I don’t have a fuck-tonne more shadows to play with.

4 Thoughts to “The particular terror of makeup”

  1. b, i love you and your girly ways, and your dudeliness and how they mix wonderfully together and are delightfully you. :) you are going to have to teach me how to pluck my eyebrows and apply eyeshadow cause I still don’t really have it down. :)

  2. Aww. And to apply false lashes! I need to just lend you the Making Faces book. Oh man, okay, when I host craft night, I’ll bring out the lashes and we can make fake ones from paper and stuff too.

  3. I feel like such a fraud when I wear make up. It literally feels like I’m wearing a mask. I can feel it just sitting there on top of my skin.

    I’ve started plucking my eyebrows– not thinning them, just shaping them. It makes an incredible difference, but is also super obvious when I need to tidy up. I have so much hair, both eye brow and other kind, it’s kind of a big commitment (although not as big as shaving my legs).

  4. Shaping makes such a difference! I’ve been doing the same shape, more or less, for a decade? And plucking really does thin the hair over time. I can be a little lazier now about it, where I used to, in my early twenties, have to be on it almost every other day.

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