Pots of rouge, little boxes of eyeshadows, gleaming rich colours in lipstick tubes, the creamy sets of foundation and the brushes, always the brushes! It’s a world with forbiddingly high walls if you don’t know what you’re doing. I had no clue.
I think it doesn’t help that my mother didn’t use make-up. All I used was a stick of kajal. Not even lipgloss. Anyway, lipgloss in the 90s was like jam. It was strangely sweet, stuck to your lips, gluey, gooey, and your hair would stick to it no end.
But more than ma not using make-up, I think make-up as a concept left me confused. Here I was, ardently feminist, and make-up seemed to be about dolling up, about looking beautiful. Plus, there was this whole absurd thought I’d digested. Using make-up meant you weren’t naturally beautiful. So like a lot of other make-up shy women, I spunked money on skincare. I also have a feeling I was in a relationship where using make-up would signal loss of morality somehow.
So here you go. The list of things I thought make-up meant.
1. You weren’t pretty and you were desperately trying to make yourself pretty.
2. You were desperate for attention.
3. You didn’t have enough morality to be yourself.
4. You weren’t an intellectual, as you were spending money on make-up rather than books.
I’ve finally started using make-up. By using I mean, dipping a tiny brush there, or sticking on some lipstick, before quickly wiping most of it off. It’s really, really difficult to use make-up suddenly. People will comment, most of it nice, and you can’t deal with that. So you feel you must gradually reveal it all.
It took me forever to figure this out but make-up isn’t about beauty at all. It’s about colour and self-expression. I have strong feelings about a blusher by Nars, in the same way that I have strong feelings about wearing handspun cotton fabrics. I love looking and being colourful. I love being able to stick some twinkly, taupy shadow on my eyelids, because it expresses me. I love wearing a deep red lipstick sometimes because well, it captures what’s on my mind! There’s no shame in embracing colour, and no, it says nothing about my intelligence.
I don’t think I look any better or different, though I can almost disguise poor sleep. All I know, is that I feel free to express myself in any bloody way I want. It’s taken me a while to figure that out. So I’ll hold onto these pots for a bit, thankyouverymuch.