day 21: make up

When I was a child of three, I would spend hours in my mother’s bathroom trying on makeup. I would put mascara across my eyelids in clown-like arches, make little pink spots on my cheeks and coat my lips in come-hither reds. My dad took me to the store one evening, all dolled up as I was, and I felt like the prettiest three-year-old around.

When my sister was born I rebelled against my girly-girl ways. I lived in my older brother’s t-shirts and imagined I was a tomboy, scruffling up trees and unafraid to catch worms. In fact I simply read lots of books about brave girls and fearless boys. I could not climb a tree to save my life.

My aversion to girly things lasted well into college. I chose a major largely because I would be the only girl with it. I did not wear a stitch of makeup. The one dress I owned was a skater brand’s, shapeless and down to my ankles. I survived well enough, hiding behind my books and the scraps of a fading tan, holding a front of nonchalance and ceding to a strict aversion to spending money. This lasted until I shipped myself off to Oxford.

In a town of blooming English roses strongly steeped in romanticism, I suddenly felt horribly naked. I called my daddy (as I always do) and asked whether I should begin to act as normal girls do, morning routines and all. For so long I had believed that makeup was dishonest, a way to look prettier than one actually was. I didn’t want to fool anyone. But then, actually, I did. So, I brought out a little tin of eyebrow powder and an angle brush my mom had packed for me in case I over-plucked my eyebrows, as is my wont. I coated the brush, held my breath, and lined my eye in dark brown dust. Stepping back from the mirror, I felt powerful, noteworthy. From then on, I strolled the cobblestones and felt I belonged.

Slowly my eyebrow-turned-eye-powder diminished, and I bought my first eyeliner pencil. When I met Aby, I visited my very first makeup store. My collection now includes foundations, blushes, eyeshadows, lipsticks, different shades, different colors, different brands…and I hardly wear any of it. I prefer to dress my body with strength than my face with colors. But rimmed eyes remain my armor, my confidence, my easy bit of shine.

Boomer has rimmed eyes too.


Here, another view on the colorful.

By Dora Malech

My mother does not trust
women without it.
What are they not hiding?
Renders the dead living

and the living more alive.
Everything I say sets
the clouds off blubbering
like they knew the pretty dead.

True, no mascara, no evidence.
Blue sky, blank face. Blank face,
a faithful liar, false bottom.
Sorrow, a rabbit harbored in the head.

The skin, a silly one-act, concurs.
At the carnival, each child’s cheek becomes
a rainbow. God, grant me a brighter myself.
Each breath, a game called Live Forever.

I am small. Don’t ask me to reconcile
one shadow with another. I admit—
paint the dead pink, it does not make
them sunrise. Paint the living blue,

it does not make them sky, or sea,
a berry, clapboard house, or dead.
God, leave us our costumes,
don’t blow in our noses,

strip us to the underside of skin.
Even the earth claims color
once a year, dressed in red leaves
as the trees play Grieving.

Source: Poetry (May 2007).


2 thoughts on “day 21: make up

  1. I’ve always worn makeup. And been a “tomboy”. I’ve learned to make it look like I’m not wearing any at all. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Hah!

    • So true! It’s not contradictory to be both. I am slowly learning :) I always thought it would be amazing to wear tribal paint or some such expression every day; makeup is just that, but within our cultural norm as opposed to the tribes’.

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