Makeup Your Mind-Part Two

This post is one in a short series about makeup, femininity, and feminism. 

“God, it’s so ugly when girls put on mascara without eyeliner.”

My friend said this to me in passing one day at school. We were sixteen. I watched as the other girl passed, thinking that had my friend not said anything, I wouldn’t have noticed her lack of eyeliner.

That weekend, I looked at a photo taken of me, eyeliner-less, and wondered if she thought me less beautiful then.

“I just don’t get why you would put on foundation without blush. You just look so fake like that.”

I sat with two friends at a table, thinking about my makeup bag and its lack of blush. I just couldn’t figure out how to put it on without looking like a Raggedy Ann doll.

In that moment, I wondered if my friends thought the same of me.

“I didn’t put on makeup at all today. Well, except my eyebrows. I’m not a savage.”

I opened up this snapchat on a lazy afternoon. I laughed in the moment, and sent my friend a photo of my usual naked face.

Later that night, I stared at my rarely plucked, never-made-up eyebrows in the mirror, wondering if she saw me, too, as a savage.

 

I don’t wear much makeup, and I never really have. This is partly because I don’t really like how I look with a lot on, and partly because I just don’t know how to do it. But statements like this still manage to sting, even though I’m 22 now and pretty confident in my appearance.

Makeup is such a personal thing for so many people. For some, doing their makeup gives them confidence. It gives them the opportunity to control how the world sees them, allows them another way to project who they are. There can be so much personal power in the ways we use makeup.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of destructive power in it, too. It gives us the power to make others feel insecure. In the wrong hands, it can be a tool of oppression, like when women are told that they are not beautiful without it, or when men are told they are weak with it. And a lot of times, it’s tiny little things from the mouths of our friends and allies that leave us feeling like this.

We’ve got to watch ourselves for statements like this. There is no reason to pick at minuscule parts of each other’s appearances. Those tiny little comments pile up, and make us look at ourselves as less than the perfect, beautiful people that we are.

It stings for me to hear other people judged for how they’ve put on their makeup. I was never taught how to do mine. And sure, you could argue that YouTube and beauty bloggers exist, and there’s no reason for me to not know. But it’s still kind of painful for me to watch those videos, and I’m content with the way I do my makeup now. I think I look beautiful with makeup on. I think I look beautiful without makeup on, too. But it took me a very long time to get to that point, and for a lot of other people, it’s a struggle to have to get up and look at their naked face while they put on their makeup.

What I’m saying is-be gentle. And think about how what you say affects those around you.

 

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Makeup Your Mind-Part One

This post is one in a short series of personal narratives about makeup, femininity, and feminism. 

I still remember the day I decided to start wearing makeup. I was in 10th grade, and I looked around my English class and realized that I was the only girl in class without mascara, eyeliner, and foundation on. I watched as a girl I considered beautiful (and well-liked by the boys at our school) spoke about something. Her eyelashes were so long from mascara, they hit her brow bone as she spoke.

At that age, I still put a lot of stock in my appearance, and thought that a lot of my value and beauty came from what the boys who surrounded me thought of my appearance. I wanted to be liked, and just like any other 15-year-old girl, I didn’t want to be different. I was already the girl with the dead mom. I didn’t want to stick out anymore.

Up until then, I had only really worn makeup for special occasions. I remembered how special it was for my mom to put on my makeup for me as I got ready for my very first high school dance. Occasionally, if I had a big zit, I would sneak into my mom’s room and steal her concealer, dabbing it on my face (probably not well) in attempts to hide the blight on my appearance. But other than that, I didn’t see a need for makeup in my daily life. Makeup was still a taboo to me, even though no one had ever told me I couldn’t wear it.

The day I realized I was the only one in my class with a naked face was about a year after my mom died from colon cancer. There were some topics of femininity that I still could not figure out how to discuss with my dad. When my grandma visited, she would buy me boxes and boxes of tampons and pads, so I wouldn’t have to face the embarrassment of asking my father to get them for me. But this time, my grandma wasn’t there, and the need was urgent. I didn’t want to be different any longer. In the kitchen, I blurted out,

“Dad, I want to start wearing makeup.”

He was taken aback by my request. Neither of us really knew what to do with this information. It hung in the air between us like radio static.

“Okay, well, I guess you can ask Jill to take you to get stuff this weekend,” he said, awkwardly. Jill was a family friend who had basically adopted me and my brother. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask her.

That weekend, Jill took me to the Clinique counter at the Dillards in the mall. It was strange, having a stranger put makeup on my face and explain to me what I should do. I had input coming from so many different places-from Jill, from the Clinique lady, from my friends at school. I had no idea what to do, and it took months of trial and error to figure out how to make my face look okay.

As the lady from Clinique made up my face, I felt the beautiful anonymity that comes with fitting in. My chest felt empty, though. There was someone missing.

 

A Promise

On Monday, I will start a new career with the Department of Child Services. I will work with abused and neglected children – children whom many Americans have showed they don’t care about, as they just chose a xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, ableist, homophobic bigot over a women who built her career fighting for children like those I serve.

So today, I am making a promise – and I’m publishing it on the internet because saying things out loud makes you more likely to stick to them – to the children whom I am about to go to work and fight for. 

To my children – I vow that I will never, EVER, stop fighting for you. I will go to the ends of the earth for you. Because YOU MATTER. No matter what your family, your state, or your country says to you, YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOU ARE ENOUGH. I will fight for your right to live in a home with family who will support you. I will fight for your right to quality healthcare. I will fight for your right to stay in with your family, should someone else decide that your parents shouldn’t live here.

To my girls – I vow that I will fight for you to live with someone who sees your worth as a whole person. Someone who does not take advantage of you, or hurt you, in any way. I will fight so that your mothers know that they can be enough for you. I will fight so that you receive the best possible education, because I know that you will be the next ones to step up to the battle.

To my boys – I vow that I will fight so that you will live with someone who respects your sisters and mothers. I will fight so that you are surrounded by other men who see your value, and show you that you should respect all people-regardless of their gender.

To my trans, non-binary, gay, lesbian, bi, pan, and asexual kids, and any other kid who feels like they do not fit into our society’s binaries of gender and sexuality – I vow to fight so that you will live with people who recognize your strengths, your brilliance, and most of all, respect your identity. I will fight so that your family loves and cares for you exactly as you are. Because you are enough. And you matter.

To my children of color – I vow that I will fight so that you know that you are just as important, just as wonderful, and just as valuable as any white child in this country. I will fight so that you are not overlooked by a system that wants to beat you down. I will fight so that you are surrounded with the support you need to grow up into the incredible person I know you will become.

To my non-Christian children – I vow that I will fight so that you are not belittled by your peers or foster family for what you believe. I will fight so that you know that your religion – and your parents’ religion – is more than what others tell you. That in your heart, you have the capacity to be a genuinely good person, and you can use your religion to guide that light. I vow that should you be moved out of your family’s care, you will be placed in a family that knows and respects your beliefs before you come to stay with them.

To my differently abled children – I vow that I will fight so that your family understands your needs and takes care of you the way you should be cared for. I will fight so that you will always have access to quality healthcare. I will fight so that your family understands that your differences do not make you a burden, they make you unique. And to my children with mental illnesses, I vow that I will fight so that your whole family understands what’s going on in your brain. I will fight so that your family knows that your illnesses are not a weakness, and that asking for help will only make you stronger. I will fight so that you grow up in a world where no-one ever tells you that you are stupid, or overly dramatic, or insert stereotype about mental illness here. You matter. You are enough. Your existence is enough for me to fight for.

To my mothers – I vow that I will fight so that you never feel like you are trapped in a relationship with an abuser. I will fight so that you will not be forced to stay with a partner who treats you like a lesser human. I vow that I will fight so you and your children can lead happy and comfortable lives. And I vow that I will fight so that you will never feel like you have no other option but to raise a child with an abusive partner. And if you are a woman who loves another woman and wants to help raise a child-I vow that I will fight so that every person in this country sees you as a valuable and wonderful parent.

To my fathers – I vow that in this age of toxic masculinity and rigid gender roles, I will fight so that you are able to be a father to your kids. I vow that I will fight for your rights as a parent. I vow that I will testify on the side of truth, and will not give in to society’s expectation that you are the only one to blame. And again, if you are a man who loves another man and wants to help raise a child-I will fight so that you, too, are seen as a valuable and wonderful parent.

To the children and families of Indiana – I will fight for you. I will never stop fighting for you.

Love,

Aubrey

Commemoration

There is a monument in the center of town (partially) dedicated to fallen Indiana soldiers from the War of 1812. It may be the only monument to the War of 1812 I’ve ever seen. But it’s huge, and the whole city centers on it. And though it’s only one side of the monument, perhaps it makes up for the lack of other shrines to those men. Or perhaps it doesn’t.

Commemoration is a tricky thing, and one Americans take deadly serious.

I wonder who will commemorate me when I’m gone.

I’ve long since given up on my childish dreams of stardom. If I am destined to fame, it will be limited to some small, niche field of psychology. Though I occasionally indulge in dreaming of touring the country, playing shows in small venues, I know that’s not the life for me.

I gave up everything to move to Indianapolis. The security of my parent’s house, the cities I’d called home for ten years of my life, even friendships I’d thought would last a lifetime. I gave it all up to be teacher to 20 kids.

And now I’m giving that up, too.

My life has allowed me to see a great number of beautiful places and strange things. I have seen incredible hate juxtaposed with unfailing love right across the street. I’ve made friends with strangers passing in the night, I’ve been yelled at by a former idol, I’ve retrieved a cat from inside a wall. I’ve also had a cat climb up on top of my head. (Multiple cats, actually.)

The point here is-I don’t ever know where my life will take me. One day I might be lost in the middle of Berlin, the next, in St. Louis with no explanation. Strange things happen to me, but I seem to keep moving in the right direction.

I quit my job after 2 months. It’s okay. I moved here, and without this job, I would be back in Colorado, in my old room, wondering where my life was headed-if it was moving forward at all.

I know I am moving forward. I’m following my heart blindly, and trusting that it knows the way better than my head.

 

The Liminality of Planes

Planes are an in-between space. Between the Earth and the universe. Point A and Point B. Reality and fantasy.

Plane travel offers us what nothing else does-the space to relax, without relaxing. The chance to be weightless, while still weighed down by gravity. When we travel by air, we occupy space, but not location. We are unreachable, though we can still make contact.

We are not here or there. Our minds allowed to wander, to explore the places we dare not go on land.

We see ourselves in a different light, though we do not change at all. Our lives are altered by way of not altering them at all. We think the things we cannot speak aloud, wondering if the feeling is shared by anyone else-on the plane, in the airport, in the whole goddamned world. Planes make us feel alone, despite the cramped quarters.

We stope once we disembark. Our thoughts return to “where’s my bag,” “who do I call,” “what do I do now.”

For those few hours, we are suspended-from the air, from our daily thoughts, from ourselves.

I Am (Not) A Narwhal

Last week, my friend sent me this. I replied,

That’s so me. Except I prefer to think of myself as a narwhal.

I, too, enjoy swimming in freezing cold water, and, if given the chance, would gladly eat nothing but fish tacos for the rest of my life. I am also thought to be mythical by most of society, except for the few who actually do their research into the topic at a young age.

Being asexual is, pardon my French, fucking hard. I find myself frequently having to explain what asexuality is (less annoying), and what my personal level of attraction is to everyone I meet (more annoying).

 

Everyone seems to think that being asexual means I want to tell them exactly what my sex life is like all the time. In truth, I find that quite disgusting because why the hell would I want to divulge very personal information about myself to a complete stranger. Did I ask you how frequently you have sex? Did I ask you if you still like to masturbate? No. I fucking didn’t. Because I am a normal person who knows that there are boundaries that you just don’t cross until you’re reeeeeeeaaaaaalllllllly comfortable with someone.

Also, lots of ace people, myself included, are pretty repulsed by sex. Yes, I do eventually want to be a sex ed teacher, but there is a very big difference between talking about sex theoretically, and having someone detail their sex life for you. One is gross in the way that you still kind of want to poke at it, like worms, or a tadpole. One is gross in the “please, for the love of god, GET THAT THING OUT OF MY FACE” kind of way.

Once, my friend told me that her husband wanted to meet me because, “he doesn’t think asexual people exist.”

Honey. I’M RIGHT HERE.

If there are any narwhals out there looking to pull a Little Mermaid and trade spots with me, I’d be happy to oblige. Because narwhals don’t ask other narwhals weird, pointed questions about their sex lives.

Also, narwhals aren’t allergic to shellfish, so that would be nice, too.

Moving On

Since I last posted to this blog, I have moved from Alabama up to Indianapolis, Indiana. The last week has been nothing short of a whirlwind.

There’s a line in John Green’s Paper Towns that I couldn’t get out of my head as I started driving away from my apartment.

It is so hard to leave-until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

It took me an hour longer than it should have to leave my apartment that morning. It took so many deep breaths and walks out to my car and panicked runs back in because what if I forgot something? What if I didn’t actually want to throw out those pillows or that lamp and what if I really don’t need that old Xbox that I just need to replace the plug for (but haven’t in the 2 years it’s been with me)?

And then I started walking toward the office to my apartment. And then I gave them my key. And then I walked back to my car, took one last look at my front door, and drove away.

I had a few errands to run that morning-I needed to pick up a prescription and get gas before I left, and I wanted to have one last cup of tea at my favorite coffee shop. But by the time I’d gotten my medicine and filled up my car, I just wanted to be on the road. I wanted to start that lovely, 8-hour drive through some of the prettiest parts of the country.

I wanted to move on.

It is so hard to leave-until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

There should be a second part to that quote, though. Something like,

“It is so easy to arrive. But once you do, it is the hardest goddamned thing in the world.”

I came within 10 seconds of having to pull the car over once I crossed over the river into Indiana to have a panic attack. I spent the whole first night feeling totally overwhelmed and scared. I felt like (and still feel like) maybe this isn’t something I can do. Like maybe I’m not capable of striking out totally on my own. Maybe I’ll be a terrible teacher, maybe I’ll hate Indy, maybe I’ll wind up quitting everything and moving back to my parents’ house in Colorado.

But there’s a bigger part of me that wants to stay. I want to prove to myself and to the world that I am more than what they think of me.

I am more than what think of me.