I’m having one of those sort-your-life-out weeks. You know, one of those weeks where you cram in all the s**t you’ve been putting off before your life descends into utter chaos? Yep, one of those.
Yesterday, in that spirit, I ventured to a Benefit counter in Dublin city centre. I hoped to treat myself to some make-up that actually matched my face (for once) before dashing to a hair appointment followed swiftly by a visit to the dentist. Here I met the lovely Pamela who whisked me into a chair and began a full beauty consultation. I informed her that I’d been going for a sort of ‘low-maintenance, natural look’ lately. ‘Me too!’ she squealed delightedly while grabbing five different concoctions from the display and smearing them on the back of her hand, ready to apply to my face. Feeling she may not have understood exactly how natural I meant, I offered; ‘I was just tired of people asking me was I sick every time I went out without make-up’. Her smile faltered a little and she let out one mirthless ‘heh’. I decided to keep my mouth shut and let her work her magic.
I left Benefit wearing a helluvalot more products than I usually wear and with a lot of new, useful, and terrifying information. Did you know that you start developing fine eye lines at 18 and should have started wearing eye-cream about five years ago!? I foresee nightmares about this. That being said, I was pretty satisfied with my visit and will most definitely be going back to visit fab Pam.
The point of this story is it started a weird series of events for me as I ran the rest of my erratic errands. The shop assistant in Spar squinted at me as I desperately thrust a cereal bar across the counter at him. ‘Are you from here?’ he asked, gesturing towards his face while his English failed him (he thought I was foreign). ‘You look… beautiful!’. This was the first of three separate incidents of declarations of beauty. Let’s be clear, I’m not used to this. I had to admit it though, it was a damn good day for a selfie.
By this time my hair had been cut and tamed. At least as many commenters felt it necessary to inform me I had little bits of chopped fringe all over my face. This was something I knew. Unfortunately my fresh, fab make-up was adhering them to my skin. My self-consciousness was more than aroused at this point. I decided to treat myself to a fro-yo to calm my nerves before continuing my expedition. At the yoghurt counter, I balked. Instead of ordering my all time favourite combo, natural yoghurt and pomegranate seeds, I demanded that a fistful of Daim bar be added to the top of my treat for fear my server would think I was dieting, how terrible. As I picked pieces of Daim bar out of my yoghurt contemplating my idiocy, one such piece landed squarely on the screen of my smartphone splattering sticky fro-yo everywhere. I looked over my shoulder expecting to see the woman goddess of my best life smiling wryly and saying ‘stupidity karma’s a bitch!’.
Later that day all this was running through my head as I sat frowning at my toenails, chipping flakes of day-old scarlet varnish off them. I was disturbed. Why had so many people felt the need to remark on my appearance? Why was I treated so differently because I wandered out in some expertly applied make-up? Do I really look that much worse without it? I wasn’t lying when I said I had regularly been asked was I sick when I went bare-faced for a day. Friends and strangers have commented on me looking tired. Boys have gone so far as to tell me I would look better if I wore less eye-liner. When leaving the house I find myself trying to gauge whether I will be judged for wearing too much make-up or disadvantaged for not being pretty enough, because both have occurred.
I found myself thinking of a video I had recently seen championed on Buzzfeed, normally a strong advocate of living one’s best life. The video entitled ‘The Power of MAKEUP!’ sees vlogger NikkieTutorials make up half her face to show the transformative effect make up can have on appearance. It was intended to counteract a nasty trend of ‘make-up shaming’ which sees girls chastised for wearing too much make-up, and labelled as ugly and fake. The strange thing was she coupled this transformation with an unhealthy running criticism of her own physical appearance; ‘I don’t like how my eyes are hooded.’, ‘[Make-up] makes me look photoshopped without photoshop.’, ‘Got a double chin? Contour that s**t!’, ‘Make-up is there for days when you wanna look hella good!’ – so without it, you don’t look hella good? I find this just as damaging as make-up shaming. It also disappoints me that she seems to imply that make-up is a remedy to ill-considered comments people tend to pass about appearance (‘but you look so much slimmer [when you’re wearing make-up]?’) and that completely not looking like yourself is a positive thing. I want to make it clear that I really respect Nikkie for tackling this trend head on and for her talent in make-up artistry. I also agree that make-up is fun and a great means of self-expression. However, once again us ladies find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I wish I had some miracle solution to tag at the end of this post. In fact, as I draw this post to a close I can’t help but feel that it is trivial, particularly in the context of what is happening for Irish people this week. People comment and judge and regularly have no restraint (*cough* NYT). They are often best ignored. Life is short and we must make it happy and positive. The only strategy I can come up with is to make sure you do what you do for yourself and not for someone else’s approval. I suppose it’s not a transformation if you are expressing yourself. Perhaps you with make-up can be the most authentic version of yourself. Live your best life, warts, and make-up, and all.