Sunday, July 8, 2012

Making Up

I've been using make-up since I was about 15 years old when my mother finally let me do more than use Vaseline as lip gloss and baby powder as eye shadow.   Getting that okay from the lead female in your household to don the universal women's camouflage is a real rite of passage.  It means that you can change you look at will.   You can correct that blemish and make it disappear, you can change the way your lips look, your eyes look and even the way your nose looks if you get the shading right.    You can become a completely different person with the right skill and know-how.   It's a heady experience the first time you are able to truly change your appearance and face the world as a slightly more perfected version of yourself.    You feel grown-up, worldly and prettier than you ever have before.   You go from ordinary to extra ordinary in just 10 to 20 minutes (depending on your make-up routine).  That extra boost of confidence can do a lot to help you get through the day.   That red or pink lipstick can help you smile bigger - the world is your oyster.  It's all good - so why am I having such a hard time with my daughter's use of make-up?   Why does it turn into a battle at times when we get ready to leave the house?  It's just face paint - so what's the big deal?  But beauty is more than just skin deep and sometimes the made-up face that we show the world is a mask trying to hide something much deeper. 

I remember learning how to put on make-up from my older sister Kathy by watching her get ready for school and dates in the late 1970's.   Back then, women were wearing false eyelashes, had wig-ettes (they were pre-styled buns or a more elaborate up-do with tons of curls that you could clip to the back of your hair to make it look like you had just walked out of the salon).   There was liquid eyeliner, frosted lipstick, pink blush, blue eye shadow, tons of foundation and powder.   I remember watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show and marveling at how Rhonda, Mary and Phyllis could keep their eyes so wide open when they had to be weighed down by triple sets of false eyelashes.   Eyes in the 1970's got more than a pass of eyeliner like in the 50' and 60's.  Women's liberation heralded in the use of using as much make-up as you wanted to - a paradox for the liberated who wore more make-up rather than going fresh faced.   It was like their eyes were being opened to the possibilities of the world and the make-up reflected it.   Probably the biggest make-up icons of that time were Charlie's Angels.    Farrah's Fawcett's flip (trying saying that three times fast) and her heavy bronzed make-up became the standard that most women of a certain age (mid teens to mid thirties) strived for even if it was impossible to maintain.  Never mind that she had stylists on the set resetting her hair constantly and touching up the make-up - it was fun and so not Twiggy.   

As high school loomed - I begged my mother to let me wear make-up and she thankfully relented.  I was daughter number two and soon daughter number three would want the same thing but at least we could share blush, foundation and eye shadow so the cost of make-up was not as much.   Once I started to wear make-up, the bronzed look of Farrah played into my make-up routine.  The natural look for me included two different color foundations and three different types of blush and 30 minutes in front of the mirror.  My eye shadow was peach and I used a blue eye pencil which I even put in my water line (which now seems gross but then really made my eyes pop).   It was a ton of make-up to wear to Southwest Senior High in Miami in the late 1970's and early 80's which at that time had no air conditioning.   My overall look was more Annie Hall then Farrah, but wearing a tie and oxford shirt could be brutal.  By the end of 6th period in the middle of June, most of the make-up had worn off as the drops of sweat with the bronzers and blush would drip onto my notebook paper and leave lovely tan splotches.  Then there were the Bon Bell Kissing Potions which were roll on lip glosses in flavors like chocolate mint, strawberry and bubble gum.  I'm not sure my father ever really got a load of those "kissing potions" because that might have stopped the unescorted trips down the Sentry Drugstore cosmetics isle for me and my younger sister.   

I think now about how my 15 year old skin was back then - not perfect but not blemished all over.   I would kill for that skin again and yet I was so hell bent on covering it in layers of make-up and powder.   In the 1980's, make-up was so heavy - it was more like strips then blended.   The natural look of the 70's faded into the New Wave of the 80's and the girls in the Robert Palmer videos seemed to represent the new look on the newly formed MTV.    The early 1980's were my college years where Princess Diana was on every magazine cover and I got my hair cut like hers - I mean I went from mid-back length to up to the back of my neck.    It was the first time in my life since I was a toddler that I had hair that short.   I had to compensate with make-up.   Tons of eyeliner just like hers - the shy Di look which interestingly enough did not go over well with the horny college guys - they wanted the Madonna look or just a really slutty girl from a David Lee Roth video.   Needless to say, my parents were all for the Di look while I was at FSU.  

In the late 1980's I met Max - 1988 to be exact.  By that time, I had been out of college and waiting tables (ironically at Houlihan's where they insisted that we were a narrow tie and oxford shirt and I hated it - it was not what Annie Hall would have wanted).   My make-up routine was more about practicality - I needed to get it done in 10 minutes or less.   I was also doing theater where you sometimes spent hours doing your make-up to make yourself either look a beautiful fairy queen or like a wicked step sister.    In the 1990's I started office jobs and learned how to look professional and polished without a ton of make-up.   But the pressure to fit in and wear make-up can also come at a heavy price.  I've actually worked with two women over the years that freely confided that their husbands have never seen them without make-up.   They would wait until their husbands fell asleep to take their make-up off and then set the alarm to be up 30 minutes before their spouses woke up to put it all on again.   They even insisted that they have make-up on during child birth - a really weird time to worry about how your face looks when another part of your anatomy should be taking center stage.   What were they afraid of - that their partners would see the real them and flee in horror?   My God, that's not much of a marriage if you have to work that hard to keep up the facade.   Max often tells me that he can't tell when I have make-up on or not and that I don't really need it.   I thank him for being sweet and he says very matter-of-factly that he's not being sweet - he's just being honest.   You gotta love a guy that's willing to be that honest. 

Amber just turned 16 and has been using cosmetics for the last year and she loves it.  She watches tutorials on YouTube by Michelle Phan - a make-up artist that gives you all the tools you need to create looks like Lady Gaga and other gender-bending artists.    For her sixteenth birthday, we went to the Lancome counter and she got two eye shadows for $38 but we also got the free gift and since we told the salesperson it was her 16th birthday, she threw in a ton of extras.   She has 50 different shades of eye shadows, eye liners, blush, pressed powder, lipsticks, eye liners, pencils- she could literally be a make-up artist with all the stuff she's collected over the last two years.  Of course when you own that much make-up you want to try out as many eye shadow combinations as possible which leads to the battles when we try to get out the door.  The stripes of eye shadow streaking out from the corners of her eyes announcing to the world that she now has possession of that magic wand and can change the way her eyes look a will - from quiet and subtle to "Hey, Lady Gaga has nothing on me!"  I can imagine now how my mother felt seeing my fresh teen face being transformed into the war paint of the woman-child and the heady power that comes with it.   You lose your identity in the process of finding your identity and the process of watching this for the mothers can never be easy.   I tell Amber everyday how beautiful she is with or without make up and half the time she goes without it - mostly at home and sometimes to school which I think is a good sign.   Once I started wearing make-up - no one outside of the my family's house ever saw me without it for years.   I was afraid that if I appeared in public without my "mask" people would not pay as much attention to me - I would be ordinary and to a creative person - being ordinary is the worst fate of all.  

Yesterday I helped Amber with her make-up to show her how pretty with just a little bit of foundation, blush, a touch of eye shadow and mascara could be.   She smiled sweetly and when we went to Mall of Georgia, she asked if we could go into the Sephora store which is massive place that's filled with top of the line make-up and each display has disposable applicators so you can try tons of make-up yourself.  Before I knew it, she was into the gold lipstick and dark grey eye shadow that went almost all the way to her hairline.  It made me mad and I snapped at her.  She had this very pretty look that I had made for her and then she had to take it over the top with all this new make-up.  Afterwards I felt bad -she felt bad and frankly over what?  The make-up that was not permanent - and it was just her way of expressing herself.   In the car, I apologized and said that if she wanted to wear her make-up a certain way, that was fine.   I needed to learn to pick my battles and a battle over something that would remove over soap and water was not worth waging.   I guess back in my day (boy do I sound like an  old fart!) a girl who wore too much make-up was considered a slut but times are different now- you have Facebook and Twitter to help determine that.  The truth is that my daughter wanted to stand out just like I did when I was a teen.  I have to accept that and the fact that she's growing up whether I like it or not.  

Having the power to wave the magic wand of make-up can be a two edged sword - you begin to love it so much you hate to see yourself without it - the true you - the one whose earned those winkles, blemishes, dark spots, scars and all.   But at the end of the day, that's who you really are - the person whose lived a life that gives you those badges of honor if you allow yourself to see them as that.  So this is me - the real me.   The one on the weekends when I'm going swimming with the kids or down the grocery store just doesn't bother with make-up.  To date no one has gone running  and screaming in horror at the sight of me.   It can be hard to be yourself in a world that treasures youth and perfection but at the point that you just stop caring about what the world thinks and you just allow yourself to be you.  You realize that physical perfection is a concept that no one can possibly live up to.   It frees you focus on other things that are more important and not worry about what other people think.   It's a lesson that comes with age and like a fine glass of wine - it's a lesson worth savoring.  

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