In Defense of Makeup

6 Aug

I am an unapologetic makeup addict. In my bathroom are cheap Target containers overflowing with enough beauty products to choke an elephant: gem-colored eyeshadows, a sunset’s array of lip glosses, and eyeliners darker than Sharpie ink. The pearlized containers are embossed with the kind of names that you can suck the marrow from, rolling them around in your mouth until you’ve absorbed the fluidity of the words. Guerlain. Nyx. Estee Lauder. Revlon. Tarte. And we haven’t even gotten to the shade names yet. Lipsticks with sobriquets like Russian Red or Bombay seem to contain a thrilling seed of the places from which they take their names. The shocking green of a Graffiti eyeliner or the iridescent white shimmer of Polyester Bride delight me. In my spare time, I surf beauty blogs like Christine’s Temptalia or Karen’s Makeup and Beauty Blog to figure out how to apply the latest trends in beauty.

But what I truly love about makeup is its power to transform. In fifteen minutes I can go from my normal appearance to a 1950s pin-up vixen with a flick of liquid liner and some matte lipstick. Or I can draw a line of electric blue on my lower lid and revel in the satisfaction that such a pure, forceful blue gives me. Each day, with a tap of the brush, I am someone different. Each day, lips painted incarnadine or fuchsia or simply left bare, I am playing a new part. For me, makeup doesn’t shackle me to any standards of beauty we may have. Instead, it frees me.

The Story of Makeup

I’m not the only one to feel so enthralled by beauty products. Cosmetics have been in use for at least 4000 years, so I can’t be the first to fall under their sway. Jezebel, that harlot queen whose name I’ve always found gorgeous, painted her face in 2 Kings, a book of the Old Testament. Egyptians lined their eyes with breathtaking blues and greens the color of the Nile River Delta in springtime. Chinese royalty stained their nails silver or gold from as early as 3000 B.C. European women plucked, waxed, and redrew their eyebrows and their hairlines as thin as the blade of a knife.

In the early 1900s, as the film industry took off, so did makeup. Stars as diverse as Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, and Katy Perry wouldn’t be able to achieve their iconic looks without its aid. Now makeup is, in my opinion, omnipresent – women or men can use it or not, and expect little judgment either way.

The Significance of Cosmetics

A Rainbow of Eye Shadows

A Rainbow of Eye Shadows (Photo credit: cybertoad)

I don’t seem to be the only one who holds these views, though, and I am constantly surprised at the rancor of those who think differently. In Target, a gaggle of college boys once stopped me to tell me that my red lipstick and dramatic purple eyeshadow was “slutty” and that they “wouldn’t pay five dollars for me.” Lilac lip gloss, according to one of my classmates, was “ridiculous.” Flared eyeliner, said some of my friends, made it look like I was “kind of whorish.”

Perhaps I’m behind the times, but in this modern age, when did wearing vibrant makeup become directly correlated with one’s sexual promiscuity?

I’ve seen countless sites and beauty counters that promise to match you with your ‘perfect eyeshadow shades’ or your ‘Holy Grail lipstick.’ But I don’t believe them. Just because I happen to have cool-toned skin doesn’t mean I’m going to wear all cool-toned products. Just because I have green eyes doesn’t mean that I’ll only wear earth-toned shadow. If I did, I’d only wear spiritless pink lipsticks and a sprinkle of bronze on my lids. Don’t you think I know that bright orange lip gloss perhaps doesn’t suit me the best? But on the days when I wake up to see the incandescent sun rising over sharply outlined trees, and I think that I want to take a little of that radiance with me, I will.

So when I wear my cerise-colored lipstick with a swipe of tar-black liner, I’m not asking for someone’s approval. I’m not particularly concerned if I’ve ‘overdone it.’ With every shade I add to my face, I act a new part. I delight in wearing hues like Aquadisiac and Girl About Town. And I enjoy the liberty it allows me.

I’ve decided that on Mondays, instead of posting poetry or fiction, I’ll talk about my personal thoughts instead (although all three of those things essentially come from the same place.)  If you like this sort of writing, check back on future Mondays to see what else I’ll manage to come up with!

Also, if you have any opinions on makeup, I’d love to hear your comments!


7 Responses to “In Defense of Makeup”

  1. poetryblooms August 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    You have a great site! The graphics you choose really enhance the feel and energy! And congrats on your entrance essay! The magic of language seems to have rooted early and thrived in you. Speaking of magic have your read any Starhawk? This is my thought on making up; it is a magical thing. Put on a clown outfit, paint on a mask, and discover the other rooms in your house, find what rooms draw you in and what you avoid. Costuming, acting classes, writing slant like Natalie Goldberg draws out what you haven’t yet fully realized. And you know I am whoring as well as commenting because I just posted the new edit of that poem and want to know what you think. And oh I don’t know if you are into nature/ecology scene, but I read my first essay my poet and essayist Barbara Hurd, in Stirring the Mud on google books. Some good craft there.

    • elizabethballou August 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

      Thanks so much! I haven’t read any Starhawk, but I’ll be sure to check that stuff out. And I actually am into the nature/ecology scene, so I will also seek out Barbara Hurd’s work. Thanks for the recommendations!

      And I’ll hop on over to your blog and check out your new draft 🙂

  2. artstylelove August 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I like your honesty here.

  3. Katie August 8, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Esze you are a goddess. Not to mention that you speak so much truth here.

    • elizabethballou August 9, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      I was actually thinking of you as I wrote this post, since to me you embody fearless and innovative makeup!

      • Katie August 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

        That is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received! Thank you ❤

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