Making up with make-up

To use make-up, or not? I’ve always been in the camp of keeping it to a minimum but that could change…

My ideas of ways to dress and how I look are firmly held,

And some of them are just ridiculous.

For instance: an antiquated text in a sewing class when I was about 14 advocated putting special seams or somesuch in dresses so that a bra strap would never, ever slip down a shoulder and be visible in public. I’ve never such a thing into a garment, but I’m still  slightly uncomfortable with the bra straps that are visible on bodies all around me.

And the thing is: visible bra straps are really not important.

Likewise, I somehow imbibed the idea in those impressionable teen years that it was not a good idea to wear “too much” make-up. A discreet line of blue-eyeshadow was permissible, some mascara and lipstick (but not too red).

I have absolutely no idea where I got these “rules” but I have followed them religiously. Yes, I might wear foundation; yes I might wear blush; yes I might wear eye-liner – but in such a way as to look as though I’m not really wearing make-up at all.

As I grew older, I think I also had the idea that wearing “too much” make-up was somehow not something a serious person did, that it was aimed at attracting men, and not feminist enough.

Then I got allergies

In my late forties, I gradually became allergic to all sorts of things. When my skin became the sort of skin that was prone to eczema, and any and all mascaras made my eyes itch, I just stopped wearing make-up at all. My favourite foundation being taken off the market didn’t help.

Starting my own business meant I was working at home, so there was no need for a “corporate” look and I am lucky to live with men (or, in times past, a boy and a man) who genuinely don’t care about refinements of appearance.

So my make-up has been mouldering on a shelf.

Mostly I don’t miss it – but gradually, looking at my unadorned face on endless video conferences has made me wonder, every now and then, if I should revive the make-up thing.

And then our household gained a young woman.

My son’s girlfriend Anya is from Namibia and boarding with us while she studies. And the course she is taking is a full-on make-up and hair-styling course.

For months, we have been surrounded by make-up kits and paraphernalia. Members of the household and many of our extended friends group have been roped into being models for various types of make-up.

Including me. I took a morning off, and accompanied Anya to the Kohl Academy where she did a full set of make-up, aimed at lifting and lightening my face.

I enjoyed the whole experience: it was soothing and interesting and very different from anything else I might be doing on a Wednesday morning.

In the end, I was wearing a lot more make-up than I ever have – and I loved it.

My old ideas of what a woman is supposed to wear, or look like, seem now to me to be a confused mish-mash of things I absorbed from other people (because, like many other young women, I cared a lot about what other people thought of me). Now, as Gen Z gloriously flowers around me, all wearing whatever they like (boys in pink!), it seems to me I too can look however I want.

Perhaps, even, let my bra strap show.

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Main picture: Raphael Lovaski, Unsplash

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