When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to stand by my mother’s side as she got ready for work in the morning, and copy what she did exactly. I wanted to brush and blow out my hair; so far, I could only do one of those things, as the blow dryer was unwieldy to me. I wanted to brush my teeth until they shined like white gold with diamonds sprinkled on top. I wanted to put product in my hair; gel, mousse, anything that would make it like hers. I wanted to open up a little plastic box of eyeshadow and blush and daintily put it on until I was satisfied with the new color in my face.
No, my father said. No makeup.
He had read somewhere that the things they put in makeup sped up hormone growth in girls that hadn’t hit puberty yet, causing a lot of problems later in life. He read this about grocery story beef, too, because of all the crap that was fed to the cows, which was why we drove out of the way to get grass-fed beef from the middle of nowhere. It’s possible that I could blame my lack of a chest on these decisions (and other girls have, in fact, argued this point for me,) but I really don’t think it had much to do with it.
There were special occasions I was allowed to wear makeup, and that was when I was onstage. When I was three, I started dancing, and every year I would be in my dance company’s recital for at least two dances. And I wore makeup then. Michelle, the owner of the dance studio, was very clear that I would have to. “Her face,” she explained to my mother, who waited outside the classrooms every day with the other moms while their daughters learned to dance, “will look very washed out under the stage lights without any extra help. We’ll tell you what they need for their dances, and if you’d like, you can come backstage and help them put it on. If not, we can always help out.”
My mother relayed this information to my father, who wasn’t happy about it. My father is a “my way is the best way” kind of man, but he couldn’t really argue with the studio owner. We wore makeup. I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing who I was; I saw a girl with bigger, bluer eyes, pinker lips, and brighter cheeks. And she was very, very pretty.
I quit dancing when I was in fifth grade. We’d moved from our old dance studio to a new one, Ballet Baroque, where the owner was a very serious, very short Russian woman, who wouldn’t let you go onstage if you messed up one step in the dress rehearsal. I was demanded that I be more flexible than I was, that I would dance for long hours of the day, and that I put all of my time into dancing, no other hobbies allowed. That didn’t fly for me. I didn’t want to dance anymore.
In that, I had to stop wearing makeup. I went to middle school, and suddenly I was the ugly duckling. Every girl was slathered in makeup. How come they didn’t have the same rules my father did? How was that fair? I expressed this to my father, who stood firm. No makeup. Those girls would have cancer in a few years. (Spoiler: they still don’t have cancer.)
When I turned 13, my father finally allowed me to start wearing makeup, if only minimally. That was the rule, the “coming of age”, if you will. For my birthday, my mother got me a set of earthy brown eyeshadows, which I thanked her for profusely, but I think I only ever wore them once. I’d grown out of the idea that a layer of makeup would make me pretty. I mean sure, it made other people look prettier, but I didn’t really think much of it on me.
I never learned how to put on makeup because of this. Any time I wore it for a school dance or a show, someone else had to do it for me. And they would lament. “You have the perfect cheekbones for makeup. Your complexion is perfect for makeup. I want to do Hollywood makeup on you. I want to make you look like a hooker. I want to make you look like a starlet. I want to teach you how to apply your own makeup. Why don’t you wear makeup?” And I’d explain how I found it annoying, or tedious, or how it took too long.
This past weekend, I noticed something interesting.
My mom mom was getting married; my pop pop had died several years back and she was very lonely, and basically put on a “YOLO” hat and said “I’m getting remarried.” And she asked me to sing in her wedding, which of course I agreed to. She scheduled appointments to get mine, hers, my sister’s, and my mom’s hair and makeup done. I decided, pretty much on a whim, to get bangs; I hadn’t had bangs since I was very little, and I’d always wanted a way to hide my forehead, which I’d hated since growing my bangs out. I took a picture of me and my new bangs, and then, with slight dread, I let myself be painted. I’m lucky; I’ve never had many marks on my face, no scars and rarely acne. The rest of my body covered in scars and scratches and bruises. But almost never my face. But this girl covered my face in foundation and cover up and then proceeded to paint me over in colors and outlines.
I took a picture of that, too. And today was the first day I looked at them one after another. I’ll let you look, too.
I don’t like the way I look in the second one. I look fake, and I look like a lot of my personality is hiding. It looks like I’m waiting for the next step to be photoshop so I can be on the cover of a magazine. Also, my freckles are gone. I love my freckles.
If you like makeup, great. Wear it. If you don’t, great, don’t. But makeup does not necessarily make you prettier. Really, I think if you feel pretty, that helps you look pretty. Makeup just doesn’t have that effect on me.