As women, we are most likely masters of the mask. We wear one often, if not daily. Because, rare is the woman indeed who doesn’t alter her appearance in some way before stepping outside each morning.
Hair. Makeup. Perfume. Nails. The perfect outfit. To-die-for shoes.
Unless you’re walking around in a brown sack with hair wet from the nearest stream, you’re probably wearing a mask of some kind. I know not everyone dresses to the nines with all of the accouterments above, but we usually have our one thing.
And mine has always been makeup.
My mother has never worn a lot. She’s got beautiful skin, and when I was a girl, her makeup routine was almost exclusively liquid blush, under-eye concealer and mascara.
She didn’t wear foundation, powder, eyebrow pencil, etc. But my grandmother did. My father’s mother, my Grandma Jeanne, wore ALL of it. Liquid foundation, brow pencil, mascara, blush, lipstick, and finished everything off with that classic Coty Airspun Loose Powder.
Though Grandma Jeanne and my mother were on completely opposite ends of the makeup spectrum, I loved watching them “put on their faces.” I’d sit on the toilet seat and watch the magic happen. My mother would turn into a slightly more colorful version of herself, while Grandma Jeanne would basically become a whole new person.
I started wearing blush in fifth grade. I’ve always been very pale and was constantly concerned that I looked TOO pale. Which is dumb to be concerned about when you’re eleven, but I was obsessed with “making myself prettier.” I vividly remember stealing away at the grocery store when my parents were in other aisles, picking out a Cover Girl blush (Peaches n’ Cream, I believe) and then buying it with my hard-earned allowance, while pretending I was buying makeup for my mother—because that’s normal. I’m sure the cashier totally bought my ruse.
So, it started with blush. Then eye shadow. Then lipstick. Then pressed powder. By seventh grade, I was wearing so much that I had a double-decker Caboodle (remember those?) FULL of makeup. My dad called it “the command center” and he wasn’t wrong. It was ground zero for my makeup—my mask.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this “me” lately. Mostly because when I was at home recently on maternity leave, I didn’t drop it. Even if I wasn’t doing anything all day but partying with the baby and doing drop-off and pick-up of my son at school, I put it on. I didn’t put on much—basically my mom’s old routine of under-eye concealer, liquid blush and mascara—but I DID do it.
And I’m not sure why, other than the fact that I didn’t feel like me without it. Even though that same “me” has had a Facebook profile picture for nearly two years of myself SANS makeup in running gear. Sure, the sun is hitting my face just right to make it all glowy, and I have that “I’ve been running flush” but still…no makeup.
My friend Erin had a really smart post about this whole Catch-22 earlier this week. It was inspired by the fact that her young daughter told her: “You look beautiful but you should put make-up on and be more beautiful.”
That post—read it here—made me think about what I was going to tell my baby girl about why Mommy wears makeup. Obviously at six months I don’t need to worry that she notices it, but eventually I will. And what will I tell her? That I feel like myself with it on? That it’s my mask? That she doesn’t need it but Mommy always felt she did?
I have no idea.
But I do feel like I should let go of my “mask” more often—and make sure she sees me without it.