I have an on-again, off-again relationship with makeup. We often go steady for weeks at a time. I flirt my long, black lashes with rapid blinks and flash a smile finished with highlighted cheekbones. When I decide that it’s time we take a break, I wipe my eyes with a cotton pad soaked with cleansing minerals and splash my face with cool, clear water. I relish in the freedom of rubbing my eyes and blowing my nose without leaving tan residue on the white tissue. After a weekend apart or a random Thursday in the middle of a busy week, I reunite with my powder brushes and deep red lip stains.
My mom wears makeup everyday. It’s so ingrained in her morning routine that even when she sleeps in and lounges at home on a Saturday morning, she begins her day with a shower and a full hour seated at her vanity. Growing up with two brothers and my father, my mother was the person I looked to for cues on how to be a woman. Based on the rigid routine I witnessed of my mother each morning, I was led to believe that every lady sits at a vanity and paints her face each morning.
I was two years old when I took my first ballet class, and even at that age the dancers were required to wear makeup in the recitals. I remember my mother holding my chin in the palm of her hand as she fought to apply mascara to my baby lashes. “Look up,” she’d remind me as she stroked the brush through the tiny hairs. It was hard to keep my eyes open as she held the wand so dangerously close to my eyes. I blinked rapidly, my eyes providing an innate protection from the intruder. Finally she’d color my lips a Barbie pink–a shade that stood in direct contrast to my blue eyes. My face felt hard and heavy by the time she finished.
During first-year orientation at Eastern I befriended girls who walked around without a lick of makeup on their faces. Some of them had naturally clear skin and bold, bright eyes, and others were sprinkled with freckles and blemishes. Each of these girls carried a confidence that I had never seen. They laughed with their mouths cracked wide open, revealing teeth that ranged from brightly whitened to a little crooked on the bottom.
As a woman who fully believes that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I am at a crossroads with makeup. While I often wish I could confidently walk around campus with a natural look, I am more likely to think of my face as a fresh canvas. The whole ritual of making myself up provides me with both a sense of calm and the power to take on the day ahead.
I begin with a small tube of concealer, working over the blemishes and red spots like patchwork. I then finger-paint a creamy layer of foundation and apply my warpaint of contour and highlights. Sweeping over my cheeks and forehead with a big, fluffy brush, I blend the brownish colors and brush on an even tone. I take a small angled brush and trace over my eyebrows, giving a little pop to their light blondness. Next–my favorite part–I paint my upper lids with a jet black liner. For the finale I swoop my top and bottom lashes with black mascara, my eyes obediently remaining open. I take a step back from the mirror and admire both my natural quirks and my completed work of art, noticing how the blue hues of my eyes peek beneath the black curtains of liner.