Kære læsere, i dag et lidt usædvanlig indlæg, ikke af mig, men af min kære veninde og kollega Aiste som jeg åbenbart har smittet lidt med beauty nørderiet. I har mødt hende på bloggen før (her og her), hvor hun blev udsat for noget alvorlig sminkeri. Da vi mødtes gik hun stort set uden makeup og nu er hun den med de mest vovede og seje læbefarver på kontoret. Hun har skrevet lidt om sin rejse og om hvad make-up betyder for hende. Hun viser at makeup rent faktisk kan gør en større forskel for mennesker end på den overfladiske plan. Hun er journalist, og har skrevet indlægget på engelsk da hun, ligesom mig, ikke er dansker. Men I er jo allesammen så gode til engelsk, så det bliver ikke noget problem, vel? Enjoy!
Makeup virgin – that was me three years ago, way into the second half of my twenties. Like any virgin, I had a decent theoretical idea on what it was, but when it came to doing it, I would end up with clumsy minimal effort and retreat. I would dream about a dramatic entry to a party looking like a magazine model and would instead sneak in with an over-powdered pancake of a face with two smudges of mascara in the middle. Most of my eyeliner attempts would result in poking myself in the eye, so it would take weeks to gather courage for trying again.
With time my teenager curiosity receded and I simply went on with my trusty mineral powder (we just had a five year anniversary together) and waterproof mascara (because it is practical, right?).
Then one day Maike casually asked – Aiste, you have great lips, why don’t you wear lipstick? I honestly didn’t know what to say. I always considered makeup as a means to hide things that I hated – my problematic skin and non-existent eyelashes. Using makeup to highlight what you love about yourself would require – well – loving something about yourself.
That was an ongoing struggle in my life. I come from a culture where women are heavily objectivised. Wearing makeup meant that you wanted to be seen as a sex object and often induced sexual harassment. If a woman got raped, most of discussion revolved around how she could have provoked it and often settled on makeup and clothing. I was discouraged to wear makeup when I went out, my parents simply tried to protect me from unwanted attention.
Women in my family never wore makeup. One aunt would occasionally flash nail polish and some eye shadow. That was forgiven because she was single and people expected her to do desperate things in order to find a husband. When it came to me, all mentions of makeup were shut down with “you don’t need it”.
I honestly believed it, although my faith was somehow shaken by The Day My Mother Wore Make Up That One Time. I was around 15 and my parents got invitations to a very fancy gala event. It truly was one in a lifetime kind of thing for them. After many nights of sewing her outfit to save money, my mom decided that she could allow herself some mascara and eye shadow. She got a single dark green matte shadow and my sister and I spent a good hour trying to apply it on her. After a few clean-and-repeat cycles we had a decent result. I just could not stop looking at her. My mom never used that shadow again, but almost ten years later I found her hiding it in the bottom of her jewellery box as a memory of the night when she felt beautiful.
I think it was the notion that a woman must deserve a right to “allow” herself to feel beautiful that pushed me in a downwards spiral of self-loathing. There was always some way I could improve and therefore never earned that privilege. I could always get better grades, be more active, more toned and thinner. I didn’t want people to see my body or face; I did not find them worthy of attention. I even died my hair fiery red to use as a distraction. Eating disorders followed shortly as a desperate attempt to reach that ambiguous ideal of being ”better”.
The lipstick came when I was already kicking the bottom and slowly going up. By that time I already went through depression treatments, professional counselling, support groups and daily mental exercises trying to hate myself a just a little less.
“Just love yourself the way you are” could just as well been said in Chinese to me. I did not know what that was like. I could not simply switch from a decade-long self-depreciation into a confident and calm co-existence with my own body.
However, I do have pretty lips. Maike started coming by and dropping off lipsticks, lip glosses and advice on what would look great for my complexion. I developed a small daily ritual of applying lipstick using my small hand mirror. It was just me and my lips – I could not see the rest of face or body. It really did look great and I learned to love that little patch of my skin.
Eventually I built up enough of courage to buy some things myself – at first something really cheap and simple. Funny enough, I have no issues to purchase body or hair products. I was, after all, raised with understanding that a woman must take care of her hygiene and that showed best in healthy skin and hair. Makeup was different – I could not justify buying more until I used up what I had, right? Maike just laughed at that – you are not supposed to finish makeup products, she said; you get them to make yourself feel gorgeous.
So there I was – little by little allowing myself to feel beautiful. Lipsticks got followed by eye-shadows and dreaded eyeliners (we still don’t get along). I learned how blushes, contouring and highlighting work. I started wearing makeup in daylight and at work. At first I was a bit stiff, expected negative reactions and harassment, but there was none. My daily makeup routine became my daily mental exercise in loving myself and that love is slowly spreading to the rest of my body.
I will not say that lipstick got me out of the hole I was in. However, it was a step in that shaky ladder I painfully built through years. It was a little bright lifeline that I could hold on to, when my heart would start sinking again. I also don’t think I’ll become a make-up nerd, the excitement of new discoveries has slowly receded to level of comfortable knowledge in what works for me and what doesn’t.
Lipsticks still lift me up though. Stressful day at work, gloomy evening, shaky confidence when going out and meeting new people – all that invoke a little moment for me and my lips.
One always must squeeze out a little smile when applying lipstick, to get it on evenly. Now, more often than not, that smile simply stays.