When I was younger, my relationships with makeup and things I considered feminine were fraught. First, I was a fat kid and a fat teen, so it was hard to find clothing that appropriately captured my sense of style and also fit my body. This led me to wearing a lot of baggy clothing and t-shirts. I’m not really a fan of the t-shirt and jeans look, but I didn’t know what else to do. For awhile, I consoled myself by being into hair and makeup. Maybe if I dyed my hair the right color (as close to eggplant as possible) and I wore the right makeup, I could still count as pretty.
Second, because I grew up internalizing a lot of misogynistic ideas that traditionally feminine activities were frivolous and stupid and not-something-you-wasted-your-time-on-if-you-were-a-thoughtful-person. And, that was hard. I was interested in “girly things”. I wanted to wear dresses and play with makeup and color and style. Those things seemed fun. But, I also wanted to be thought of as smart and I wanted the nerds, particularly the nerdy boys, to think I was good enough for their time. So, I walked this line where I appeared to not care about my interests and also appeared to not care what other people thought of me. It is a lot of work to affect that much disinterest, especially when I really did care about both. I am lucky in that I did find people and my performance was accepted. But, I did occupy a space that wasn’t particularly feminine and it was made very clear to me that I wasn’t attractive. I was fun to hang out with. I was invited to play Vampire: The Masquerade and DnD. But, most of those kids didn’t really get a chance to know me. I didn’t let them. I didn’t even let me get to know myself.
It hurts to think about that. I was so ashamed of my body, and therefore who I am because to be fat was to be stupid and lazy and not worth anyone’s time, that the thought that anything, even something small that might somehow mitigate those things was something I latched onto with desperate hope. (Not coincidentally, and like a lot of nerds I suppose, I read a lot and worked very hard to appear like I just effortlessly knew everything. And, when it became apparent that none of my efforts did the trick, I pretended like I didn’t care and spectacularly crashed and burned. But, that’s another post for another day.)
My relationship to makeup, like my relationship to my body, has changed. I think I consciously started to try and love my fat and (as I thought) unattractive and unruly body in 2009. I went to Re/Dress with my sister when it was still in Brooklyn for the first time that Spring and I bought so many clothes. A friend of mine was a friend of the sales lady (sales femme?) and tweeted at her to take good care of me and my sister. It was a wholly uplifting experience, maybe the first one I had ever had a clothing store. At least, the first one in a clothing store that wasn’t the result of weeks of dieting. It was certainly the first time I’d ever had the experience of feeling supported and seen for who I was now and not who I would be in 20 pounds in a fitting a room. I still have some of those clothes and I still wear them. When Re/Dress re-opened in Cleveland, I drove there from Buffalo with some friends. I definitely still have and wear those clothes. I bought a Size Queen dress that weekend that I couldn’t afford but that just fit so well. I makes my boobs look good, it makes my waist look good, I feel lively and fun it. It’s a great dress.
The longer I’ve been on this journey to just-be-okay-with-myself-as-I-am (that should be read in the most exasperated voice you have in your head), the more I’ve gotten into clothing and makeup. Not as a way to hide myself or even as a way to be prettier, but as a way to create, and express my feelings and have fun. I know people say things like, “I don’t do it for the world, I do it for me.” and that doesn’t sound believable. It sounds cliche and hollow and maybe even a little like a lie. But, I don’t actually care if anyone else believes me when I say that I don’t wear makeup for other people, I wear it for me. (The one exception might be that I do love a compliment from a fellow makeup enthusiast.)
Lipstick is one of those things I wear for me. I feel very powerful in a bold lip.
It is the ultimate armor against a dangerous world for me.
I can be scary.
Or, I can just be me with all the pieces put exactly where they go. In order, as if they’ve never once been out of place.
It is infuriating to me, thinking back on all of the time I’ve spent being anything other than this person who is just trying to do their thing. But, there’s a perfect shade of red to match that fury, so I’m going to go ahead and wear both of them.by