I had a thought to today about one aspect of my behavior I don’t always acknowledge nor am I usually consciously aware of my reliance upon, dependence really in my every day life.
Today I arrived at yet another exam, exhausted, adrenaline fueled and borderline frantic with anticipation. Lucky I ran into a friend, some soothing conversation later I found myself in a much healthier state of mind albeit still clutching notes and curled on a step on the stair two flights below the exam centre. But I digress. As I sat there making distractive small talk my friend spontaneously complimented me. That sincerely is one of kindest things someone has done for me lately. A genuine, well intended and unprovoked compliment does wonders for ones frazzled and frenzied mind. With a new smile upon my face I momentarily thought about what prompted the compliment but then I was swallowed by a sea of bodies, being pulled towards my exam, that thought was retired for the time being, put on hold until I could declutter my mind post exam and readdress it.
When I arrived home, truly worn and a little shaky from the experience I sat a while on my bed and reflected on the day. Firstly obviously as it held the strongest grip upon my consciousness, the exam, what I had done and what I hadn’t. After some regret and consolation the question of the complement reappeared in my mind.
I am a self admitted make-up obsessive. I think it stems from a creative desire and a childhood filled with finger painting and unrestrained creative expression. I find myself and always have found myself being drawn to make-up like someone desperate to make an image take from, excise it from their minds eye, someone longing to see surprise on others faces at transformation and change. Even from a very early age applying my own stage make-up for dance performances and then experimenting with make-up in my teens I always pushed the boundires. I was the young girl with too much eye liner, no sense of what bronzer was or how to blend eye shadow. My mother is not a make-up enthusiast and so passed along no knowledge but graciously and thankfully neither of my parents ever critisied or complained about my trials and errors, and there were many. I think they knew I was searching for myself, trying to create externally what I thought I saw internally. I was a very lost youth and in many ways then and now to a lesser extent I have turned to make-up not as a way to blend in but always with the intention of standing out and making myself feel powerful, in control of myself and confident in what others saw, what I showed them of me. Again growing up I think this came from not being comfortable showing all or the true me, in many ways I sought to excentuate my features but more so I sought to mask others. Looking back now I can see how my use of thick black eyeliner was in flux depending on my situation and my need. I think I created hard lines around my eyes to draw people in, to dare them to look at me, even though I not always wanted them to see me I think I wanted to feel like I caused them to look, they didn’t choose to stare, I made them do so. There is power in that, a feeling like you can turn the tables, even it is only a manipulation of the truth, a kindness you tell yourself. In many ways though it helped me and over time my use of eyeliner and need to hide but be seen on my own terms has altered and I have grown and changed how I wield eyeliner, what intentions I have for it and the results it produces.
Now I am much more secure in who I am and less concerned about what is though of who I am, the choices I make and the opinions of others regarding my appearance and what they see when they look at me. It has taken a lot of time and I am in no way abudent with confidence or inpenitrable to criticism but now I know fundimentally who I am and I don’t need to mask that anymore. Now my use of make-up comes purely from an enjoyment of the activity and a genuine pleasure in having another facet of self expression that is maluable and changes with every whim and desire, with every passing day. I am not one known for a particular ‘look’, I am in a constant state of change. If I see something that inspires me I try it, if I feel a little sad or down I experiement with colour. If I feel uncertain or nervous my make-up becomes stronger, encouraging. If I am tired make-up wakes me, straighter lines focus me. I am aware that there is amoungst those who know me a total and often anxious uncertainly as to what I will appear to be with each new meeting. I travel frequently along a scale, following no particular pattern, alternating from gradients of bare faced to crazy and all that is in between.
Don’t get me wrong either, I do love the feeling of clean, raw skin, exposed and flawed, true and unique to me. I choose to wear make-up out of love for it but mostly for the routine of it I think. The time after I have woken up and I can’t quite face the world yet, especially currently amidst all the lunacy of my situation, having a few silent minutes to myself, looking at myself is reflective, calming and prepares me. I feel more solid after completing my short routine, some days it barely involves anything at all. Other days as I stand in front of the mirror and look at myself, realize I need more time, some part of me needs extra reassurance or encouragement and so my make-up that day may be a bit more, well more anything depending on the situation. More balck and white 1950s glamour, more smoky ‘I need to feel sexy today’ eyes, more I want to look myself but I need not to look like im barely holding it together. It for me is a process that allows me to almost meditate on my state of mind and emotions before facing the world and exposing them.
I think in many ways I have wanted to figure this conversation out for a very long time but wasn’t quite at a point of being able to see enough of the picture to allow that to happen. I don’t know if I am there yet but I have come to a point where for right now I know where I stand with my self image and my personal use of make-up. The point of this was not to belittle a compliment or say that the only reason for it was that I happened to be wearing make-up. The point really is that I have thought a lot about why I use make-up and choose to reply upon it and I guess today being in the emotional state I am in and after receiving an unexpected compliment my mind focused on this question and allowed me to process a few things. That’s all. I will continue to use make-up when I feel the desire, I will continue to turn to playing with shades and colours, learning new skills and tricks, trying different styles and characters through the use of make-up. I many ways my relationship with make-up began as one of a slightly broken girl needing transformative armor but it has developed, changed and grown to something more akin to an emotional blanket. A comfort of sorts and a reassurance that I am in control. Mostly I am still just that kid with paint all over her, except now it is usually powders and pastes of varying and vibrant shades.
And of course I am at my happiest when Halloween rolls around and I am completely free not only to indulge my every make-up desire but also quite often to paint other peoples faces and create a character for someone else.