I remember watching my two older sisters get ready for school, or for dates, applying blush and mascara and lip gloss. Sometimes they’d do my hair, but I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up. Not until the Christmas I was fourteen, when my sister Connie bought me my first tube of mascara and a compact of powder blush as my Christmas gift.
That was the beginning. By grade eleven, my best friend Debbie and I were lathering on the Great Lash mascara, and wielding the safety pins like professionals.
Yeah. I know. In my teens I was no doubt hiding behind my Clearasil cream, green eye shadow, peach blush, and too much mascara. I should have been able to meet the world bare-faced, pimply, and proud. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t confident enough. Like most teenage girls I deplored my looks, downplayed my advantages, and magnified my imperfections. And make-up promised me a miracle: clear skin, peachy cheeks, and full eyelashes.
I wouldn’t always hide behind my face paint. Eventually I grew up and learned to enhance, instead of cover. Along the way I had my share of embarrassing make-up malfunctions. Embarrassing mascara moments, like I told you about here. Or embarrassing, “too much of a good thing” moments. Like when I worked in the cosmetic department at Simpson’s on Sparks Street back in the early eighties. The first week, I applied my make-up at home in the morning not knowing how much the florescent lights in the store would wash colour out of my face. So that throughout the day, I’d catch sight of myself in a mirror, and thinking I looked terrible, I’d duly reapply my blush and lipstick. Until one night my roommate laughed when I arrived home. “Did you get on the bus like that? she asked. And I realized that I looked ridiculous, like a silent screen star, all dark lips and vivid slashes of blush. “Why did no one tell me I looked so silly?” I gasped.
I have a much less fraught relationship with make-up these days. Probably because I have a much less combative relationship with my face. And indeed with myself. That’s one of the compensations of growing older.
|Making myself up through the years.|
I don’t expect miracles anymore. Ha. I grew out of that long ago. But I still love make-up. I learned sometime in the eighties that less is more, especially less blush. I learned that I shouldn’t wear warm peachy blush or lipstick; they make me look ill. And that every few years we all need to reassess how we do what we do to our faces. Like eye brows. I did nothing to my eyebrows for years. Then in my forties, they started to disappear, and I realized that they needed attention, more colour and better shaping. For years I applied contouring blush under my cheekbones, to make my very fat face look a little less round. Now I cherish the roundness, and apply blush only on the apples of my cheeks. And then last year, I learned how (and where) to use highlighter powder. That trick was a revelation to me. The trick itself, plus the fact that, after so many years of wearing make-up, I still had things to learn.
I mentioned to someone a few weeks ago that in retirement I’m making myself up as I go along. Finding my post-teaching identity, after so many years of standing in front of innumerable classes of teenagers.
And I think that’s what I was doing with make-up as a teenager, trying to decide who I was. I wish I had had a bit more confidence, back then, confidence in who I was under the make-up. But that came later. And in the meantime, that goopy mascara gave me a much needed ego boost.
And I was lucky to have older sisters who guided me. Or tried to. Whose example I followed and thus avoided some of the worst beginner make-up mistakes.
And we were all three of us lucky to have a mum who, despite her occasional eye-roll, understood our need for a little extra armour to help us face the world.
I don’t need so much armour these days. And not nearly as much confidence boosting as when I was in high school. Ha. Thank goodness. But I am still exploring who I am, and trying to enhance that with a little blush and eye-shadow. And much, much less mascara, I’m happy to say. So no need for safety pins.
I’m a work in progress. As we all are, I guess.
And even if we don’t all wear make-up, we are all still making ourselves up as we go along. So to speak.
Don’t you think?
How about you, my friends? Have you had an evolving relationship with make-up? Have you, like me, learned that a light touch is best? Or have you tossed your blusher in the garbage, and sworn off the paint and mascara altogether? Or maybe you never used the stuff in the first place?
Do tell us your story about making up.