Monday, August 21, 2006

This summer has been liberating for me. This will go down in history as the summer that I pared down the amount of makeup that I wear to what I consider a bare minimum.

First, let me first explain how I got to the point of wearing as much makeup as I did before I had this epiphany. I was a small child. Very skinny, very small, and very young looking. And, because I skipped second grade, I was one year younger than all of my classmates. For example, when I was a junior at good old Oakdale High School, I was just turning 15 years old, about 4 ft 9, weighing about 85 pounds. I had no reason to wear a bra. Those showers after PE were like torture, trying to hide my body (or rather LACK of body) from the classmates that would make my absence of “womanly charms” known all over the school. I was even late losing my baby teeth and cutting my 12 year molars. I didn’t start my period until I was 16, and a senior in high school. I was what you call a “late bloomer”. I felt very much like a little girl, but I wanted to feel like a teenager, and I wanted to fit in, to be accepted by the “in crowd”. My mother said “No! Absolutely not!” to the request to wear makeup like the other girls did. Which, by the way, was her answer to pierced ears, shaving my legs, and wearing nail polish. And no, we weren’t Pentecostal, she was just an older mother(she had me when she was 40), with older ideas about how a "young lady" should look and what a "young lady" should and should not do. Her favorite admonishment was “I have to live in this town”. The only bit of mercy for me was that I was allowed to wear a little bit of “rouge” my senior year in high school.

The next year, I went to a college 150 miles away from my mother and my small town in south Louisiana. Watch out! The FIRST thing I did was shave my legs. Then I pierced my ears. Next came the makeup. I was determined to look older than my 16 years. (That’s also when I took up the nasty habit of smoking. I just wanted to look older. Now I know that young people who smoke just look idiotic, but at the time, I thought that I was so cool. And that I looked much older. Now I cringe when I think of how ridiculous I must have looked.)

Makeup was as exciting as I had thought it would be. Eyeshadow colors were beautiful, and eyeliner definitely showed that I was now a college woman. Lipstick, foundation, blush (not rouge, like my mother wore), and nail polish in every color under the sun (kind of like now-except that it was NEW then, not recycled from the 60’s and 70’s….this WAS the 60’s and 70’s). Mary Quant, Twiggy, false eyelashes, this was breaking new ground. By this time, I actually needed a bra (not needed as in the way I need one now, since gravity has done its evil deeds, but needed as in at least there was a little something there to put in one). Twiggy had made thin popular, and for once in my life, it was GOOD to be my size. And makeup brightened up my life. It made me feel pretty, sophisticated, mature, like I fit in. I embraced makeup. If I felt unsure about my body, size or baby face, makeup made it clear that I was not 12 years old. Or at least I thought that it did. (And really, isn't that really what counts?) Over the years, I have refined my makeup techniques, learned how to use the new products as they came out (except eyeliner pencils…I learned how to put on cake eyeliner a’ la Maybeline, which was just about all we had back then. I have never been able to get the hang of the pencils). I have eagerly awaited the new season’s new colors at the makeup counters the way some people await the new car models or new television seasons (I know, some of you didn’t even know that cosmetic companies change their colors every season…well, add to their collection and feature new colors. Just take my word for it, they do). I have read numerous articles in magazines about makeup application and color ideas. I have browsed makeup counters, dreaming of the many products and/or colors that I didn’t have the money to buy that month. So you see, makeup has always been my friend. Something to disguise myself with, something to hide behind. Thirty years ago, it was something to make me look older. Now it’s something to make me look younger. It’s interesting how time changes one’s perspective….

Up until this summer, I wore makeup everywhere. Not only to work, but also anyplace else outside my home. To the convenience store up on the corner, to WalMart, to the bank, everywhere. I did not venture out in public without makeup on. But this summer, I didn’t teach summer school, as I have done for the past umpteen years. I was just at home most of the time. This meant that I didn’t wear makeup except for the few times I went anywhere. I don’t know if I just got used to seeing myself without makeup, but I started thinking, “you know, I’m really not hideous without makeup.” That’s right…I determined that people wouldn’t turn to stone if they saw me sans makeup. My wife loves me with or without makeup (and believe me, she has seen me at my worst), and she assured me that I looked just fine without makeup. So I ventured out a few times without any on, and gradually increased the time spent without my safety net. I thought about the people that I teach with. I could count on one hand the number of women who wore makeup to school. Not many. I guess they figure ‘what’s the point?’. At this time of year in Louisiana, its 103 degrees out there, with 95% humidity. Any makeup you put on is going to get sweated off by 9:00 am anyway. Why bother? I have not worn my usual makeup since school started, and so far, no one has said a thing to me about the absence of my lifelong security blanket.
But still, I cling to wearing some makeup. I don’t think that I will ever be able to give all of it up. I still put on some blush, and a little color on my eyelids (something close to my skin color). But that's all. I consider this quite an achievement, thanks to all of the emotional baggage tied up in my old makeup routine. But I think about how easy it would be to “get back on” the makeup wagon. This is my attempt to simplify, to be myself and be happy and comfortable in my own skin. I still look at the ads in the magazines and linger at the cosmetics counters in the stores. It’s been a long (almost 35 year) relationship with makeup, so its hard to say goodbye to something that I have depended on almost my entire life to make me feel like I fit in, to help me disguise my insecurities and hide my flaws (real or imagined). Wish me luck….and I reserve the right to relapse at any time, especially if I am in a situation that needs poise and confidence. Wait! This is not just about looking good anymore is it? Oh god, another epiphany! Why does writing have to be so cathartic?


At 5:18 PM, Blogger GoGo said...

catharcism...poor you. :O).

I started to smoke in college, but not to look was for a girl. a very dum reason, but at the time I felt more liberated then I ever did before. In the end, I watched the girl board a bus out of town while smoking that damn cig.

read you soon. GG

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Rose of Sharon said...

You are a liberated woman now! You know, I was listening to a radio talkshow and they were talking about wearing makeup and how women should always wear makeup, even if it's to look "natural"....okay, I'll was the Cosmo channel on my Sirius Radio....hey, the other morning shows were really boring that day! Anyway, as you already know or have seen, I don't wear any makeup. In fact, my mom NEVER thought me to put on makeup. I got my first makeup when I was 23....yup and it was because a friend of mine was horrified that I had never learned how to put makeup on. She took me to Merle Norman and I got a makeover that day and bought my first and only makeup. Yup, you heard that right! I bought my only makeup 10 years ago and I still have it!!!!!!!!!!! Isn't that not pathetic. I have only put on makeup less than 10 times this year and most of that was while I was on the cruise this year. I only wear makeup to special events....weddings, funerals, awards shows....yup, lots of special functions!

Actually to be completely honest, wearing makeup is kinda fun and I have to say that I do look much better in makeup. But who do I have to impress these days?


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