My father remembers the first time I played with my mother’s lipstick. He said I walked around all day with a permanent duck face, determined not to stain anything not even my teeth. To this day, my sister yells at me for doodling my eyeliner like the squiggly accents that make Spanish n’s dally on the roof of your mouth. So with that in mind I knew I needed help, and today I got my makeup done by the women at Mary Kay to see what kind of look I would want for the show.
There I met my makeup artist Denise. A sweet, middle-aged mother of two, I found her down-to-earth and bubbly. She was super open to suggestions though I had none to offer. She taught me how to put on my foundation and she even let me put on my eyeliner by myself—I did so with the nervous, careful hand of surgeon in residency. “Denise, how am I doing?”
When I asked Denise why she decided to be a makeup artist she said, “You know, I don’t know.” She never dreamed of doing anything like this in her life. She grew up in a small town in Western New York. Born number 7 out of 8 kids she was always shy. She never went to college and instead worked in a factory with the boys. Makeup hardly crossed her mind.
Then for her wedding day, she hired Mary Kay to do her makeup and suddenly she felt like a new woman. Beautiful, confident, she couldn’t believe how good she felt. Her journey with makeup was a process of self-growth she said. Her shyness melted away and she began to open up. She quit her job and entered beauty school. “If I could give another woman that sense of self-confidence, I’d be happy,” she thought and she’s been doing makeup ever since.
Yet her new liberation didn’t fly without a tether. She laughed. Now she never leaves the house without her face on. Doesn’t feel right she said. “Once you start wearing makeup then all of a sudden you stop, people begin to wonder what’s wrong with you.” Are you sick? Why are you so pale? Denise still works on the family farm; she husks sweet corn in the summer and harvests pumpkins when the leaves start to shiver. In the fields, sweat blotters are her best friend. It keeps the makeup in place she said.
As we talked, we tested different eye shadows, dabbled in lip balms and lip stains, and once we finished playing around with the palette, we decided that we were going to go with a more “natural” look. I felt gorgeous and when I finished applying my mascara Denise called me a pro. “Naaaw,” I giggled.
My gut told me that I was going to get at least 100 likes if I posted a selfie on Facebook. Part of me was ashamed of the brief pleasure the thought gave me and I plucked my urge to keep up appearances. I knew I was slipping into that trap where an uncovered blemish could suggest that I am sick or depressed and don’t have my crap together.
Yet as I am writing this, I sit in a café eating a chicken feta wrap trying not to smudge my lipstick. I look like a cat that bit off too much tuna. Bell peppers sprinkle the floor and there are probably crumbs dotting my face. Napkins never looked so intimidating. They will undress me, I hiss. The salad dressing gleams off my fingertips and I feel that this moment will slip away if I mess it up. I mean, when’s the last time I looked this beautiful?← Previous Chapter Next Chapter →