My mother, may she rest and her name be for a blessing, was a wonderful, charming, creative spitfire of a person. She was generous and pulled no punches and left an impression on everyone she met. She was not, however, particularly fashionable and she enacted incredibly strict and controlling standards about appearance. I was not allowed to wear makeup until I was 14, except on school picture day, when she applied it for me. The result of that combination was me, as a teenager, not knowing how to do my makeup and her never teaching me. She thought blue eyeshadow, a la “Totally Hair Barbie” was a good idea well into the 21st century. I learned how to do stage makeup from my years in community theater, and I knew better than to ever use blue eyeshadow (at least, not the way she did), but I didn’t know much of anything else.
I picked up a few tricks here & there over the years, enough to look decent when going to job interviews or weddings, but my skin became increasingly sensitive and I became less and less concerned with that sort of thing. Until one day, a few years ago, I realized I was in my late 20s and there was this knowledge base that my friends all seemed to have picked up 10-20 years before and I was clueless. You mean you’re not supposed to use the little sponge applicator that comes in your eyeshadow box? What are loose mineral shadows? There’s a difference between under eye concealer and concealer used for blemishes? What the blue bloody fuck is primer?
My darling friend Jeannine came to the rescue, with Face Enhancement 065: Remedial Application Methods. From her, I learned how to do a basic smokey eye, how an eyelash curler is used (I still haven’t purchased one), and precisely what primer is and how it makes everything better.
What I did not learn, however, was how to choose products best for my skin tone, eye color, etc. Having sensitive skin complicates issues, because I can’t just go to the store & get a set made for blue eyes or whatever, because most of those products lead to a reaction ranging from flaking skin to OH GOOD LORD WHY ARE MY EYELIDS ON FIRE THIS IS BURNING ITCHY BADNESS, GET IT OFF ME NOW. Yes, the caps lock is necessary.
I flailed about this issue on twitter a few days ago, because I’m going to soon be in an environment where looking at least semi-professional/put-together is going to be required, and on-campus interviews & internships & jobs mean more days where makeup is recommended as part of a “professional” appearance. I flailed because, despite my success in Face Enhancement 065, I never progressed to Face Enhancement 101: Basics of Product and Color Selection.
Enter the wonderful friends I have made over the years, many of them with literal or figurative certifications in basic and advanced cosmetology. Erica, who I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person, hated seeing me so anxious about this. And really, I was. Still am, a little. There is so much information available. Tutorial videos, blogs devoted to different “looks,” entire (enormous) stores dedicated to makeup. As someone who needs to know ALL THE THINGS, it’s a near-paralyzing amount of information. Going to one of those stores is intimidating, at best. I’ve gone, with friends, to the M.A.C. counter to get my face done, and they always do a great job. I usually walk out with at least one purchase, but that’s a really roundabout way of doing things, and sometimes the ladies in the shop are done up in a way that makes me think, “please don’t let her near me with an eyeshadow brush, because she is scary.”
So Erica, who is not scary at all and always has flawless makeup, offered to make me a little kit. She & I wear the same shade of foundation (which she knew by seeing my pictures, but I had to read the label on my stuff because all I know is I’m pale). Samples of products she uses & loves, brushes, that sort of thing. That kit came today and I am verklempt. There are instructions and everything is labeled, and she even included mini notecards & fun pencils & elephant-shaped sticky notes for my kids, because she is so very sweet and thoughtful like that.
My friends have taken over where my mother, great as she was, fell down. I may be learning it all 15 or 20 years later than most American women learn this stuff, but I am learning it, thanks to very patient friends, some of them more than 3,000 miles away. I cannot express how grateful I am to them for this. For all my flailing, and all your patience, I appreciate your efforts.