Brave new world of make-up

Pots of rouge, little boxes of eyeshadows, gleaming rich colours in lipstick tubes, the creamy sets of foundation and the brushes, always the brushes! It’s a world with forbiddingly high walls if you don’t know what you’re doing. I had no clue.

I think it doesn’t help that my mother didn’t use make-up. All I used was a stick of kajal. Not even lipgloss. Anyway, lipgloss in the 90s was like jam. It was strangely sweet, stuck to your lips, gluey, gooey, and your hair would stick to it no end.

But more than ma not using make-up, I think make-up as a concept left me confused. Here I was, ardently feminist, and make-up seemed to be about dolling up, about looking beautiful. Plus, there was this whole absurd thought I’d digested. Using make-up meant you weren’t naturally beautiful. So like a lot of other make-up shy women, I spunked money on skincare. I also have a feeling I was in a relationship where using make-up would signal loss of morality somehow.

So here you go. The list of things I thought make-up meant.
1. You weren’t pretty and you were desperately trying to make yourself pretty.
2. You were desperate for attention.
3. You didn’t have enough morality to be yourself.
4. You weren’t an intellectual, as you were spending money on make-up rather than books.

I’ve finally started using make-up. By using I mean, dipping a tiny brush there, or sticking on some lipstick, before quickly wiping most of it off. It’s really, really difficult to use make-up suddenly. People will comment, most of it nice, and you can’t deal with that. So you feel you must gradually reveal it all.

Pots of colour

It took me forever to figure this out but make-up isn’t about beauty at all. It’s about colour and self-expression. I have strong feelings about a blusher by Nars, in the same way that I have strong feelings about wearing handspun cotton fabrics. I love looking and being colourful. I love being able to stick some twinkly, taupy shadow on my eyelids, because it expresses me. I love wearing a deep red lipstick sometimes because well, it captures what’s on my mind! There’s no shame in embracing colour, and no, it says nothing about my intelligence.

I don’t think I look any better or different, though I can almost disguise poor sleep. All I know, is that I feel free to express myself in any bloody way I want. It’s taken me a while to figure that out. So I’ll hold onto these pots for a bit, thankyouverymuch.

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9 Responses to Brave new world of make-up

  1. Lekhni says:

    Plus, of course you can’t really use too much makeup in humid India without looking like you’ve washed your face in beige oil paint. Lipstick and powder is all one can do. The brave ones who did use make up (of course I’m talking of 10-15 years ago) also seemed to think that their bright orange salwar should be paired with a lipstick in the same shade.

    Glad to see you are back ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Rhea says:

    I’ve been trawling your archives for a while ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice blog you have

    I have always had dark circles, and once when in college I applied some kajal in a moment of vanity, whoever saw me went ” Oh, are you not well?” etc. Stopped doing eye makeup since then

    Recently, I’ve started using concealer and lipstick, and am loving it


  3. a traveller says:

    SO true! I’ve used eyeliner since forever – where it’s got to a point that if I ever don’t feel like putting it, people see me and tell me I’m looking tired, which is just depressing.
    But anything else is too difficult to get used to putting – i put a dab, feel like it’s too much, and start rubbing it off promptly. Maybe it’ll come with time.


  4. For someone who has a skin condition that is strongly visibly on one half of the face, corrective make-up is very helpful. And because of it, I began to also use other beautifying make-up as well. I am in love with the creative process of eye make-up now…eye shadow, eye liner, mascara – the works! Totally agree with your point that it is a way of expression and a form of enjoying colors!


  5. neha says:

    Lekhni – So know what you mean. I remember being slathered with really bad foundation when I was 12 years old and performing in a school play. Caked on my face, it melted in the lights. Yuck!

    Rhea and a traveller – Kajal! I am not even sure if I think of kajal as make-up. I think of it as some sort of invisible glasses that I must wear. I started when I was 18 and feel naked without kajal. But can easily imagine how it could go the other way. The first few days with a ‘new thing’ are always so bristly.

    DFSK – It is quite creative isn’t it? Hadn’t thought of it like that till I started playing with the colours. Though I have a feeling I am quite brave when it comes to slapping this stuff on when I am at home, and refusing to wear it outside home. I almost don’t want people to notice..


  6. haddock54 says:

    I never knew that lip gloss existed in the 90s


  7. dipali says:

    Enjoy!!!! I stick to my kajal, without which I look half dead, and the occasional lipper. In my far off youth I experimented, but not a whole lot- good girls not calling attention to themselves etc.:(
    Perfume is my true, eternal love!


  8. Reema says:

    its just about making yourself feel good!!


  9. AKM says:

    I chanced upon your blog while catching up on some GreatBong.
    I think make-up is not about self-expression (if it were the case, I’d be worried for the world because cosmetic companies would have compartmentalized thought, which sounds rather scary to me, because there only so many shades of ‘lip-istick’, and even then some are more ‘conventionally’ popular) but about self-image.
    Were it not the case, why would visually-challenged women ever use make-up or any kind of cosmetic procedures for that matter ever?
    Not about color, but the perception of it so to speak.
    How we view ourselves has been of prime importance to us since time immemorial, and this is true for both men and women.
    This concept of self-image is more in tune with both society and individuality, and is more precise than the vague notion of beauty, but may or may-not be a part of self expression. It may be as dour as clipping one’s toe nails, getting one’s hair and eyebrows done, or can be about vivid colorfulness like tattoos, highlights, or that green lipstick that my mum used sometimes when she was younger (that thing was bitter). It is not about accentuating your state-of-mind, but about looking good, to yourself.
    And that has been the case all along, gaining our own approval.

    Also, intellect is not enslaved by papyrus, intellectuals existed before writing. The unlettered person who can exercise his or her mental faculties is a greater intellectual than someone who has read tomes of the finest works by the greatest thinkers, but is incapable of independent thought.


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