Assorted Thoughts on Make-Up

No kidding, this really is a post about make-up, as in cosmetics.


One of the ironies of our existence is that even with the gift of vision, we cannot see our full selves without the aid of a mirror or other reflecting device. I say this because there is something unusual about me today. I am wearing make-up: foundation, mascara, eye shadow, blush and a hint of lipstick. Anita, a seasoned make-up artist, applied it gently with nimble fingers and with careful attention to my response. This was part of my collaboration with a professional photographer.

I am wearing make-up and it would most likely be obvious to you if you were looking at me. Yet I am the one who barely sees it. Make-up in this form changes my appearance although I am hard-pressed to say exactly how. My eyes are more prominent perhaps, or my eyebrows more shapely, I don’t know. I don’t do this on a regular basis or even from time to time. This is a once in a blue moon affair and I can see why.

If I am wearing make-up but can’t see it, who is it for? That’s the question that keeps bubbling up. And I don’t have an answer.

My desire to keep checking my reflection to see if it’s all still there or if it’s still me waned fairly quickly.

I am also wondering about the term “make-up”. What comes to mind is imaginative play – the act of “making things up,” of creating a fiction. And this seems to capture the spirit of applying make-up: to make visible that which was not previously visible, to highlight and enhance certain features, to create a sort of facial fiction.

It’s not that I am against make-up. I have just never understood how to apply it to my life. Cosmetics have never made much sense to me. They cost time, money, and patience that I am not inclined to spend. I went through a nail polish phase a year or two ago and really enjoyed taking that time for myself.  Then I switched and filled those moments with crocheting instead. This year crocheting has given way to writing.

During my junior year abroad, I roomed with a girl named Jackie. She was from Tulsa and a virtuoso with make-up. Every morning she would rise early and put together color combinations on her eyelids and cheeks which were as astonishing as they were elaborate. Her make-up kit was extensive and well appointed and Jackie did not shy away from daring shapes and radical color choices. I admired both her discipline and bravery and I have not met another person with her level of make-up expertise or dedication since.

I wonder if aging will bring me into the cosmetics fold?

On the other hand, the market will not miss me if I never show up.

My 8 year old noticed my new look with “what’s that blue on your eye?” (or did he say “goo”?). I wanted to find out more. His take: “It’s too dark, it makes you look bad, like you’re sick.” Which I suppose is his way of saying “I love you just the way you are.”

By now I have taken the liberty of removing whatever was left. Show’s over. It’s back to the every day, no frills look. Back to the me I know and recognize and even love. My questions about make-up, its lure and drawbacks, however, will continue to pop up and tickle my curiosity.





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