27 February 2014

mouthing off

It probably comes as no surprise that I adore makeup. I find the colors, textures, and consistencies endlessly fascinating, and, since I cannot draw or paint for the life of me, I figure that this is as close to successfully creating visual art as I can get. As with most things, my love of makeup is driven by curiosity and observation. I've honed my skills by both becoming intimately familiar with my own face and determining exactly what it is about other people's faces that I would like to emulate. I am by no means an expert (eyeshadow still baffles me, and don't even get me started on contouring) and my face continues to surprise me as it evolves on a seemingly daily basis, but I like to think that makeup and I are on fairly good terms.

(Quick thingwhen people act superior as they express that they prefer people "without makeup," I have to wonder whether they mean legitimately no makeup or if they mean "no makeup" makeup. Plus, how am I supposed to respond to a comment like that? "That's terrific. I'm glad you're so deep and special that you think it's a novelty to not like makeup on other people." I'm not going to even attempt to speak for everyone out there who wears makeup, but I personally do not wear it to appease other people. I wear it for me. Because it's my face and I like it. And, to the people who claim that makeup is inherently dishonest and "tricks" others, I can honestly say that, when applying my bright red or neon pink lipstick, my logic behind that action is not "this looks totally natural.")

I could go on for ages about makeup in general and could do series featuring a different product with each installment, but I am compelled to discuss lipstick today since we have a tumultuous history.

I've always been something of a lip product junkie. They absolutely dominate my battlestation, and, as you can see from my previous post, I usually have at least three variations in my bag at a given time. As a kid, I started out with clear glosses and flavored lip balm, but always looked to bold lips as my ideal. But, because other people around me didn't harbor that same fantasy (or, at least, didn't act upon making it a reality), I gravitated toward eyeliner and mascara instead, leaving my lips with maybe the tiniest bit of tint and shine.

For a while, it was fine. I drew liquid liner wings sharp enough to cut the throats of my enemies, mastered the art of the mascara wand wiggle without opening my mouth, and rocked a power brow that probably (definitely) verged into Frida Kahlo territory. But it wasn't enough.

And then, true to form, I decided that "fine" wasn't what I wanted anymore, and the amount of bright and borderline obnoxiously colored lipstick (because if I decide I'm going to do something, I do it) in my possession seemed to reproduce asexually and exponentially. It was alarming. After doing the obligatory swatches and wearing them in the safety of my bedroom, I finally built up the courage to leave the house with a vibrantly red mouth and slightly subdued wings. I mean, they were still sharp enough to inflict harm, but I didn't want them to take attention away from my blood-red mouth.

The beginning of the day was awesome. I felt fierce and powerful, like I was taking ownership of my face and my day and my life, really. I know that it sounds vain, but I promise you I am not being overdramatic about how serious this rush was. It was that good.

Of course, I didn't have constant access to a mirror that day, but I felt so amazing that it didn't really matter. It wasn't until several hours (and meals) later that I happened to glance at myself in a storefront window and was subsequently kicked back down to earth. Imagine my horror upon discovering that my mouth, rather than remain a pristine beacon of femininity, had morphed into a faded spider-witch monstrosity. I viciously scrubbed the crimson remnants from my lips and wondered how many people had seen my face and had chosen not to mention it. Defeated and devastated, I went the rest of the day with a bare mouth and a sullen expression.

The thing is, I was always under the impression that putting on lipstick was as simple as swiping it on and calling it good. After all, I feel like we're all naturally predisposed to make life look as easy as possible to an outsider. It wasn't until much later that I learned that the process is much more involved than that. To make lipstick last and look perfect is an ordeal. A commitment. It sometimes requires me to exfoliate, moisturize, prime, line, reverse line, apply, blot, and repeat for insurance. Now, I may love lipstick, but not as much as I love putting in minimal effort for a successful outcome. So, for years, I fiddled with the process to figure out how to eliminate steps, and am finally at a place where it's a three-step process at most, but it certainly hasn't been easy. There have been multiple spider-witch moments, which never stop being mortifying and serve as a useful, if painful, reminder that I am only human.

I know that I could switch to something sheer or neutral to reduce the probability of a mouth malfunction, but I also know that that isn't in my nature. And that's okay. If making myself happy means that I have to put in a little bit more effort, I will do it. I've even started expanding my range to include more unconventional colors. I'm not at the point where those new colors are as familiar to me as my classic reds and pinks, but I know they'll get there. And, until that time comes, I'll be sure to keep my bag stocked with a mirror and makeup remover wipes.


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