Like many girls, I’ve been wearing makeup since I was a pre-teen. It started with nail polish, evolved into mascara, and soon, it was a full face – foundation, gloss, eyeshadow, the works.
And, like many girls, I made a lot of mistakes. I remember borrowing my mom’s foundation – my mom is several shades darker than me – and looking like what I can only imagine must’ve been an oompa loompa. I remember getting glittery green eyeshadow and loading it on, to which my male friend replied as we sat in our desks, “That’s a lot of eyeshadow”. I remember (lightly) filling in my brows, a decade before that really became a big thing, because my very beautiful friend did.
So why wear my mom’s makeup, why load up on eyeshadow? Was I trying to impress boys, was I self-conscious? Was I trying to get attention, or trying to blend in?
Yes. I always had crushes on boys, so of course I wanted them to notice me. And yes, I was self-conscious – this is high school we’re talking about. Yes, I wanted attention – I didn’t dye my hair pink and black for nothing. And yes, I wanted to blend in, because I wanted everyone to like me.
But still, that’s not really why I was into makeup, then or now.
Simply put, I was an art kid, and makeup is art. Sure, my face wasn’t often a masterpiece (as the glittery green eyeshadow can attest), but the act of trying new things, of playing around with makeup in the morning before school, was art. Maybe I wasn’t very good at it, but I still got creative pleasure from the act of application. And I think this is the case for many of us who wear makeup.
I’m not going to lie, I like looking pretty – my skin tone is uneven, I have dark undereye circles (thanks Grandpa), and I don’t really look alive without blush. So for me, wearing makeup serves a practical function just as much as it does a creative one.
I don’t need makeup – no one does – but I sure feel more like myself when I wear it. Maybe it’s the years of habit that have accustomed me to it. I’m sure if I stopped wearing makeup completely, I’d get used to my bare face and that would become my new normal. But to me, it’s like putting on a nice shirt. It’s like showing up to work with fresh clothes instead of a sweatpants. It gives me that little boost of confidence, that feeling of, “This is me at my best, world, so bring it on.”
They say that your body is your temple, and I think it’s true. Eating well is honoring yourself, exercising is honoring yourself, and there’s that whole “Cleanliness is close to Godliness” or however it goes. But I think you could extend that to the way you dress, the way you do your face, the way you present yourself to the world.
Whatever makes you feel the most you – the badass you that can conquer the world – isn’t vain, isn’t shallow. We all express ourselves to the world by the way we look, whether we intend to or not. And that’s okay. We can learn things about each other from the way we choose to dress, from the makeup (or lack thereof) that we wear, just as we learn things about each other from conversation, from acts and deeds. And it’s all good. You be you, and I’ll be me, and we’ll cherish the fact that we both have the freedom to do so.