(Photo: Flowers, Green Acres Community Garden, Indiana)
(Previously Published 2009)
. . . or, how a makeover proved transcendent.
Author’s Note: I recently went out for a night on the town with two of my friends on the Urban Farmstead. While waiting for them both to arrive, I decided to pull out my new, self-assembled make up kit and put the tools to use. It was just a simple thought, no big deal, and it went on quickly…my artist coordination sleeking through the application.
Upon finishing, I walked into the den and was met by two opposit energies…one of validation for how I looked, and one of seeing me as more unattractive in that made-up state. I temporarily froze between the conflicting projections.
Then I remembered it’s not about them, it’s about me…
On the eve of my leaving California, I made the choice to learn from a friend how to care for my skin and apply makeup properly.
It was a leap outside of my comfort zone, and yes, perhaps a rite of passage more appropriate to my pre-teen years. But there I was, 34 years old, and nary the wiser about lip liner and lash curling. (What can I say. I’d been busy doing other things, like moving around the country, going in and out of sweat lodges and the like, and training hard, none of which needed ‘face’ to facilitate.)
But to arrive at that point and decide ‘now it’s time for this’… it’s funny. Most of my life I’ve looked at that intense level of makeup and thought “shallow”, “vain”, “hiding” and the best condescending lemon of all – “completely unauthentic!!!”. I viewed it as the Western Woman’s costume. All judgments that managed to somehow bastion my self esteem from the failure of an unsuccessful initiation into the world of ‘face’ as a youth.
My emotional history with makeup reads like a one-line journal entry of defeated afterthought. More to skip the details and forget the humiliation.
Back in the 8th grade, I’d given it much thought, you see. I had saved up my chore money and biked solo to the drug store on my purple Huffy 10 speed. I’d wandered through the aisles of makeup to choose the right foundation. I had creative ideas of how I could use it, and television images in my head of how beautiful I’d look with it on. The ads promised friends, admiration, an easy way of being. All very tempting to me in my ugly duckling outfit.
I went home, opened the Cover Girl wet n’ dry foundation (in ‘Pale’), and went to work. I finished, and proud of my complete foray into creating what I’d wanted, I walked nonchalantly into the play room where my family was socializing. There was a sudden ruffle of quiet, and a choked snort. And then I knew by seeing the morbid fascination on my brothers’ faces and the immediate shock on my Mom’s, that I’d done something incorrect. With my afro of short cut curly hair, and a whitewashed foundation face, the honest truth was that I had ended up looking like Queen Elizabeth at the end of the movie by the same name, where she impersonates the statue of the Virgin Mary in all her pasty whiteness. Ghastly.
And cracking, from too thick an application.
Shaken, it created a tender frailty in my budding self consciousness that I would run into again and again.
Fast forward to 2009. It was this pasty white pre-teen Self who was seeking redemption that fine May night by showing up to my friend’s house, an Arbonne distributor. I had struggled to get there. My hippie 20’s Self (you know, the braless, razorless, outspoken variety) had fought the idea furiously, while my still curious, soft, earnest pre-teen wanted to know what it was about. The two had caught in a deadlock tangle for weeks before the session. I almost didn’t make it to her home, it was that much of a struggle. But that night, like a patient mom over two warring children, it was the 30-something in me that rang the doorbell.
I had come to be taught the mysterious ways of female three-step facial care and makeup application, and it’s ‘fun’ and explicit 15 other steps to ‘target problem areas’.
The tools were arranged at the dining room table, some new, some used. It was to be a surgery on my body of self esteem. I sat down, and surrendered. Eyes closed, and willingly at the mercy of my friend’s graciousness, I felt the rubbery soft sponge smear layer after layer of prep and product onto my canvas-of-a-face.
And then, a new thought slowly emerged in me from her tender strokes and quiet presence. It had to work it’s way through years of self judgement, denial, and punishment of my feminine. But through her patient and focused ministrations, the healing concept emerged, and suddenly, I got it.
I realized that makeup is really about celebrating Self love.
My eyes teared up, and I swallowed them back down so as not to ruin her art.
I wasn’t prepared for that insight into Amazing Almay Acceptance. No. But, undeniably there it was…the tao of dress up…it showed me that the sponge on my face was soft – so that I could be gentle with myself. And the shade of foundation was perfectly matched to my skin – so that I could see my true color. And the eyeliner was sharp and dark enough to show me that clearly, it is ok to be looked at…right in the eye.
I felt my inner 8th grader relax after 2 decades of resistance. Makeup or not, my change in thought had stepped me right out of my ugly duckling suit and into my adult swan outfit. I would have never guessed in a million years that I could receive a spiritual healing from…well, blush.
So, now I have my few facial tools in a little hand made bag given to me by a friend. It sits on my shelf, that pouch of love, not often used, and more just looked at, yet still a reminder of a very female concept of self appreciation through beauty.
It’s a secret I would wish for all teens to know…that makeup isn’t about power over boys or sex, or fitting in, or hiding out…instead, it’s about knowing that sometimes, valuing ourselves is as soft and easy as the satin smear of a thoughtfully applied eyeliner.
May all beauty be celebrated.