For someone who has a difficult time expressing themselves, I have used makeup as a voice. Often I move through looks slowly, until I have, at least for the moment, discovered what I need to in that manifestation of a self. Every morning I would go to the mirror and repeat the steps like a mantra. I wasn’t hiding behind the sheen, I was not even trying to apply makeup perfectly, but I was repeating, in a way rediscovering the form of it anew. Makeup was clothing, it spoke the words I could not, it helped me live the life I believed I wanted. Sometimes the look rolled into another and took the form of something quite different. Each formation was like a layer of skin that grew and shed in time.
I never learned the art of how to properly put makeup on, contouring, shading etc… I think in the old days before youtube makeup tutorials, we learned from Seventeen Magazine, friends, or the Bobbi Brown book my mother gave me. Unfortunately for us Seventeen was preening us to buy brands for the rest of our lives, the Bobbi Brown book was boring and complicated, and my friends knew as much as I did. I had trouble following directions for reasons that my therapist might be able to more eloquently relate. The best teachers are the ones that have you come to your own conclusions. No one was ever that good a teacher for me when it came to makeup, so for better or for worse, I went with my intuition.
In this fraught moment that struggles with identity, I stand by the choice to wear or not wear makeup as an aesthetic and playful one. The makeup I have chosen has allowed me to be and feel a way that I want to be and feel. It has allowed me to change as my makeup changes. It allows me to speak the things I can’t put words to. I started seriously experimenting with makeup in 7th grade. In this moment I find I am a mystery to myself. For the sake of inspiration, or rather to ease my constant desire for list-making I think it is important right now to chart its movement through my teens and twenties.
Lip gloss as eyeliner:
There were a series of metallic shades ranging from blue to purple to green. The fact that the eyeliner was actually lip gloss made it so that it never came off, and so that it created a complete overcoat over the lid of the eye. More like painting, which was always good.
Bic and Sharpie art. Often they would be winding vines. Kids would also draw little “cut” marks on their wrists. Many of the people who did it didn’t actually cut as far as I know. It was an echo of Hot Topic and books like Cut and Go Ask Alice and the movie 13 which harmonized with my rural upstate town’s brink of desperateness. These were the only narratives we could find that were dealing with all the tumultuous feelings we had as 12 and 13-year-old girls. So we related to them.
My lists are now in my notebooks, but they used to be on my arms. I used to purposefully write a note to myself on my hand in the night so that I would sleep on it and it would be printed on my face in the morning. I may be the inventor of this specific type of memento because I’ve never heard of it or seen it before. It is faulty if you use Sharpie because the ink doesn’t come off very easily and I would find myself walking down the halls with residue on my face. My mind living all the places, and my body was always here.
LONG ISLAND YENTA
Brown lip liner:
No lipstick, just an auburn shade of lip liner, invoking the old jewish woman in me.
MORE YENTA, BUT OLDER
These were clustered years of old Jewish woman makeup. One of my professors in a media studies class I took in my first year of college, who was also writing a book on vampires because they were trending at the time, said I looked like a clown. He really did say that. To this day I am not sure why he thought it was appropriate to say in the middle of class - calling out my outrageous makeup, but I was horribly embarrassed and that was the end of blush for a long time - well - I still don’t wear blush - but not because of him.
2011 - 2017:
Cat eyeliner: the longer and more robust the better. I lived in Paris for a year, and while I was there the liner became more and more bold. In the French new wave style. Later on the black wrapped in a thin line below my eye. I still can’t remember when I stopped, but one day I just didn’t pick the liquid eyeliner up again and that was around 2017. It felt like I was never perfect enough for the cat eye, I was always fighting the ink. France is prime with history of revolution yet stuck when it comes to race and gender. I couldn’t be a French femme.
Red lipstick. I bought the fireyiest red I could and it felt like I was reclaiming my sexuality, in a moment of helplessness.
Blue and gold on the lids and beneath. The blue worked with my blue eyes, and so did the gold. I think these are generally good colors for my tone and palate, if you imagine me as a series of paint globs.
None. Unless I am going out: dark purple lipstick sparkly black liner all the way around and mascara. A friend of mine had a dream I was wearing dark purple lipstick and it felt like a sign.