A poem about my early addiction to makeup. A plea to do a Marie Kondo on the muck on our makeup shelf. Think of the benefits in savings and self esteem!
A poem about the tyranny of makeup
I wrote “Making Faces” in my 30s, about 40 years ago. I had drifted into an addiction to makeup, especially mascara. I was convinced that with mascara I was beautiful or at least look-at-able, and that without it I was ugly. I even wore mascara in the sea. I only dared to kick the habit when I took a trip to Canada where women walked around naked-faced—and nobody cared.
This poem expresses my loathing for the cultural pressure to conform to a certain stereotype of beauty, which in the 1970s included emphatic eye makeup. (I’ve changed the original layout.)
I do not
have a face
I draw one
in the empty space
the wrinkles written
with good cause
are known as flaws
so I anoint my pores
(this is one
of the local laws)
my eyelids blue
my lashes too
they make a pretty view
to smile and pout
as I have learned
I make a mouth
red, like a burn
it is not enough
to be clean
I curl my pubic hair
I wear mascara there
What’s changed in the beauty stakes since the 1970s?
Reading “Making Faces” in 2019, I am horrified because this yukky scenario has changed for the worse.
In New Zealand, the norm for young women is to have longish straight hair in a certain style. (At least this is something that occurs in nature!) But yesterday a friend told me that her 13-year-old granddaughter, keen for a change, got her hair cut short. Result? So much hassle from her classmates that she is now wearing hair extensions. What strength of character it must take for a young woman to express her individuality and resist the pressure!
Watching “Married at first sight, Australia” I discover that for young women to have their boobs done, their lips bloated and regular botox injections is considered normal — just the minimum. Without makeup or body changes, almost every young woman on earth is beautiful, no two ways about it! But all made over and made up, these young women look freaky to an old woman like me, almost like another species. (I wonder whether their lovers blow into the nipple instead of sucking,…) Image-conscious young men have equivalents — for instance, on Korean TV, the beautiful young men have weird little rosebud lips. like they’re sucking lemon sherbet through a marble straw.
I’m all in favour of people wearing whatever they like on their faces, as I do. So what’s changed?
- Social media and photo technology produce a relentless stream of fantasy images. (Hint: those people in real life do not look like that.)
- We’re constantly nagged by voices that urge us to be our best selves, to triumph, to win, to succeed, to be better than others. And we apply that message to our perfectly good-enough bodies and faces.
- Some people make a lot of money telling others how to put on makeup, so that role/job becomes an aspiration.
- Seductive YouTube makeup videos amplify an obsessive interest in make-up. We might come to believe that we must have morning and evening skin routines that add up to 25 steps and 3 hours of our day.
How many skin and hair products does anyone require?
Time to declutter? I looked at my collection of cosmetics, shown in the photo above. Even though I have two or more lipsticks, serums (what??) and foundations, it’s not a lot by most standards and I use them all occasionally.
But nine days out of ten, I wash my face with soap, I put on a tinted 50+ sunblock, lipstick, maybe blusher, and a grey stick thing on my eyebrows. (I think it’s really an eyeliner…) At night I wash my face again and if I remember, rub on some moisturiser.
I started wearing lipstick and blusher when my skin lost its colour with age. Now I enjoy the redness for fun and drama. My eyelids droop and eyelashes are but a fond memory and my eyebrows squirt where they will, so eye makeup is pointless.
Here’s the thing. If I had done the whole monstrous skin care routine morning and night for the last eight decades, would I look so very different from what I do now? I don’t suppose spending three hours a day on skin care does any harm, but honestly, have you done a cost-benefit analysis?
If I had started modifying my body with plastic surgery and implants and liposuction and Botox at the age of 20, what would I look like now? Would I even be me?
What will the beautiful young people look like at 79?