Something I’ve dealt with since the time I was about ten years old was people giving me shit for the amount of makeup I wore.
The very first time I fell in love with makeup, I saw a commercial for a sparkly red lip gloss that I believe was from Revlon (I can’t recall the exact name of the product since this was about a decade ago). I asked my mother if I could have it, and she looked at me and scoffed. “No!” she said. “You are way too young to be wearing something that bright anywhere.”
However, regardless of her laughing in my face for asking if I could wear red sparkles on my lips, she went ahead and bought me the lip gloss for my birthday anyway. She just got a brownish nude color instead of the red, I guess she thought that was more appropriate for me to wear. It was not nearly as sparkly as it looked in the commercial.
But that was what began my massive lip gloss collection that I built over the course of a year. There was a local store called Wild Bills that had a tiny makeup section, with brands like Jordana and LA Colors for dirt cheap. Whenever I’d obtain a little bit of money, I’d treat myself to a new lip gloss until I had every single color you could name. I wore a different one to school every day.
I received my first eyeshadow palette when my friend had a birthday party at Club Libby Lu, and after they did my makeup they gave me the little pink compact to keep. It had pink, purple, and blue eyeshadows in it, and oh my God, I was so psyched. I asked my mom if I could start wearing the eyeshadow to school and she basically had the same reaction she did with the lip gloss.
But we came to a settlement that I could wear the purple and pink eyeshadows only, not the blue. That was fine since I liked the pink and purple best anyway, so I started wearing them with a lip gloss of my choice every single day. And that was when the comments started.
“Why are you wearing so much makeup?” was a question I got about five times a day, and I am not even exaggerating. I remember I had this bronzey colored gloss that applied more like a liquid lipstick that was my absolute favorite, and a few of my classmates, including my best friend at the time, looked at me with disgust and asked “why are you wearing such dark lipstick?”
Completely frustrated and annoyed with all of the stupid comments, I complained to my mother about it one night. She shrugged and said, “Next time, just say because you like to wear it and then ask them why they’re wearing whatever it is they’re wearing.”
Now, I’m not gonna lie, my mother actually went on to be the #1 critic of my makeup as I grew up, and has even recently compared my makeup purchases to my brother’s alcoholism. However this one piece of advice she gave me has been something I’ve carried with me ever since. I kept it in mind the one day I came home from middle school with a dolled up face and she said, “Just so you know, boys don’t like it when you wear a lot of makeup.”
“Mom,” I said, looking her dead in the eye. “Ask me if I give two shits what boys like.”
And it’s the truth! What you put on your face or what you wear on your body should not be for anybody else but you. To think that wearing makeup is a sign of insecurity or a sign of vanity is a very sexist angle to take. Just because the activity is traditionally feminine, that does not denounce it from being an art form. I’ll never forget when I was in high school and my aunt looked at my eye makeup and complimented it. She said, “That really is art, what you do. There is a lot of people who wouldn’t have the skills to be able to do that.” Since then, I’ve gotten so many compliments from complete strangers about how beautifully my makeup is done.
I’ve always viewed makeup as a form of self-expression, which is another reason why I think it has no age. A little girl playing with makeup and decorating her face is no different from her coloring with crayons on a page. And that same little girl heading off to school to show her peers her beautiful creation is no different than her hanging her picture on the fridge for her family to enjoy. The idea that makeup has to be sexualized is quite outdated, and I think it is time people start to embrace it as an art and appreciate the skills it took for the artist to create it. Here I am at 20 years old and I still sit down and decorate my face the same as I did when I was in elementary school, except that now I’m 1,000X better at it. I’ll occasionally get an annoying comment, but what’s important is to remind myself that what I’m doing makes me feel good and it makes me happy. My makeup routine is relaxing and fun, the same way I imagine a painter feels when he sits down at an easel and picks up a brush. And obviously if you’ve spent time creating something you love, you want to share it with the world. That is not the same as searching for compliments or approval, though.
Just because you are female, that doesn’t mean every activity you do is to impress others, even though society may still insinuate that old notion. A common comment I get now that I’m older is, “You look better without makeup.” Or “You’re so naturally pretty, you don’t need all that makeup!” These people probably think what they’re giving me is a compliment, but really is just as annoying and offensive as the snobby “why are you wearing that”’s. Obviously nobody needs as much makeup as I have, but I am a collector, and this is a hobby that I love and have had since I was a little girl. And I know that I am naturally pretty, just because I’m wearing makeup does not mean I don’t think I’m pretty. Once again, a very sexist angle to take: to think that my actions as a woman are always seeking the approval of others.
Usually, the way I deal with these comments is to just shrug and say, “I like wearing makeup.” and then go about my merry way. I like to think about all of the other nice people who ask in astonishment if I do my own makeup or tell me the red lipstick I’m wearing looks lovely on me. And then I go on to do the same when I see other women wearing beautiful makeup, or other people doing whatever art they love. Everything you do in your life will inevitably be met with criticism, but all you have to remember is what will make you feel good and happy when you start your day. If you wake up and writing a poem is what is going to make you feel content and put you in a good mood, then go for it. If cooking up an incredibly photogenic omelette will make you excited, then by all means Instagram that tasty beautiful shit. And if wearing a full face of makeup with a dramatic smokey eye to go to the grocery store is what floats your boat, than I say, do it, and don’t give a shit what anyone else has to say about it. Because it is your body, your face, your life. Not their’s.