I’ve always maintained there was some class in kindergarten that I missed – some absent day where all the girls were taught how to dot their i’s with tiny hearts, how to gossip correctly, and how to fold notes into origami shapes that were so complicated they could, in a pinch, probably double as sport utility vehicles. It only got worse as I progressed through school, an earnest, loving girl but not a terribly feminine one, except for my long hair. I preferred to tromp through the woods with Billy rather than stay at home playing dolls with Liz, and no one said boo to me. In laymen’s terms, I was a tomboy.
My one foray into femininity came one stubborn 4th grade summer when I refused to wear anything but sundresses, but it was most assuredly a phase. I watched my mom apply her makeup out of kits large enough to dwarf the aforementioned SUVs, and splash on jean nate. I liked the idea of it all, but putting any makeup on made me rub and brush my face until it came off in my palms. It literally felt like a physical weight on my face until I managed to get it off. I actually suspect my longtime struggle with trichotillomania began when I’d pull out my eyelashes the few times I tried to wear mascara.
In high school, I wore button up shirts and tweed jackets, slacks and ties, entire thrift store outfits that did little to hide my chest, which was even massive back then. I loved my body, but I felt awkward in it, like a sweater that was too tight in the elbows. I eventually settled into a very comfortable routine of jeans and t-shirts, which became my uniform to this day. Jeans feel good, won’t hold me up if I have to run from ninjas, and have pockets for storing things. That’s essentially my checklist for what good clothing should be – comfy, ninja-repellent, and imbued with some sort of storage.
Today, I got a box in the mail from a makeup store. I had ordered this box with things I thought I should have, including some sort of cheek tint glow, eyeshadow, and creams that would penetrate my face (har!) and give my cell walls SPF’d shiatsu massage. I spread the contents of the box out on the bed and eyed the jeweltoned tubes and boxes with a healthy dose of skepticism. I tried some sort of mineral makeup and saw no difference. I smeared charcoal-hued shadow across my eyelid in an attempt to re-create sultry and looked more like a prizefighter after a losing bout. I smooshed hot-pink tint with provocative names into the apples of my cheeks and looked like a doll brought to life – not Barbie, mind, but her cousin Bambi from the dollar store that the rest of the Mattel family didn’t like to talk about at family functions. I was not good at this.
I sighed, smudged things around with my fingertips, and tromped into the other room to get an opinion from ToySir. I presented myself with a flourish and waited patiently while he complimented me on “new shirt”, which I’d been wearing all day. He didn’t notice the makeup, and even when I pointed it out, and his pleased reaction to me being nearby didn’t change at all. I snagged my new facial cleansers and went into the bathroom to wash off what already felt like ten pounds of makeup, even though it was barely any.
I’m happy with myself, my partner is head over heels for me even with bedhead and dragon breath, and I’m old enough now that I really don’t give a shit about being seen as unfashionable or less than feminine. Still, though, I feel like there’s some secret world in makeup that’s been kept from me. I want to understand the secret joys of $32 lipstick and perfume that costs more than three days’ pay, but I struggle to understand. Shoes elude me, to the end of owning only three pairs. I’ve been carrying the same khaki-colored purse for a year now. I revel in my wide-hipped fertile beauty, but I feel decidedly more Athena than Aphrodite these days and I wish I could find a happy medium.
Maybe I’ll give the shadow another try, after all.