I used to wear make-up regularly. The first thing I tried was a shimmery, bright blue eye-liner. Very ABBA. I was out with friends, and bumped into my mum in the arcade in town. I was so embarrassed. Make-up seemed like a Big Deal at that point. My mother was probably more upset by the fact that it was very bright, very blue, very shimmery and very badly applied than by the fact that I was wearing it.
I moved on from that. Make-up was banned at school. The biology teacher kept a jar of vaseline so that girls who had “not removed it last night” could remove it in front of her. But outside school – it was fun! I was 17! The punky end of the New Romantic spectrum (in a muted, small-town, middle-class way – don’t imagine full on Steve Strange). but black eyeliner, orange eye-shadow, gold lipstick. I wanted to look sharp and slightly decadent.
At uni, I wore eyeliner everyday. And blusher. In stripes. I looked like a very beautiful badger. And then, one day I realised that I didn’t recognise myself without make-up. I looked a bit rough without it. So I stopped wearing it, decided to reclaim my face. Make-up became a going out thing.
And then life, work, travelling. Make-up became an irrelevance.
For the last few years, I’ve been a special occasion maker-upper. Every once in a while I would feel the urge to perk myself up – “make the most of myself” – and invest in a “make-over kit”. I’d last 3 or 4 days, and then it would all be consigned to a fairly grim and grubby make-up bag, and I’d be back to making up to go out only.
My daughter is a digital native. She watches TikTok and Instagram. She Snapchats. She takes endless selfies (I get it – I used to spend a lot of time looking at my reflection when I was her age. Not out of vanity, more out of fascination – working out an identity). She watches YouTube tutorials on make-up (maybe she doesn’t any more…?). She knows her way around contouring. She has a collection of make-up brushes. She became my make-up artist a few years ago.
She’s really good at it. Much better than I am. More practice, and she takes it much more seriously.
I love watching her concentrate. It reminds me of when she was little and used to do craft stuff, or dive deep into a book. I love watching people work.
I love the fact that she has a skill that I don’t. It’s a skill I could acquire, I guess, if I wanted to – though she has a good eye for colour and is naturally better with her hands than I am. I don’t particularly want that skill, but I appreciate it in her.
I enjoy the fact that she’s tending to me. It’s kind, it’s close. She’s looking after me. It’s wonderful to get that tenderness from your child.
This is a loss. At Christmas she offered to do my make-up and I had to say no. My skin is so sensitive now (thank you, chemo) and my eyes water so much. I couldn’t wear anything round my eyes at all. For a moment she looked really deflated, but she picked herself up. Looking after me again. It’s wonderful to get that tenderness from your child.
My wife wears minimal makeup, but my seven-year-old loves getting pedicures and manicures! She’s very girly in that particular way.
Also – this reminds me of an acquaintance of mine from grad school who grew up with her mother encouraging her to always wear makeup… Her mom would say, “Don’t forget to put your face on.” – when my friend told me that, I cringed.