child wearing makeupWhenever I put on makeup, I feel like a seven-year-old girl rummaging through her mother’s things – I have no idea what I’m doing, my entire feet have slid down into the toes of her high heels, I’m one step away from smearing lipstick all over my cheeks or eating the mascara.

My cannon of knowledge of the subject of makeup application is pieced together from dog-eared waiting room copies of Cosmopolitans, senior prom, watching women on the train, and the half-dozen times my friends have tried and failed to make me over during junior high sleepovers. My makeup bag consists of presents my aunt gave me a few years ago at Christmas (very subtle hints) and  that time a few years ago when I dressed up as a gypsy for Halloween (non-sexy, people).

I probably wear the stuff a few times a month. Mascara, lip gloss (I think), eyeliner, roll-on eye shadow (or something) and foundation or conceal or liquid power – whatever the brownish stuff is called. In the end, I look like some sort of cross between a painted baby doll and a whore, although my friends touch my shoulder lightly and reassure me that it just looks strange on me since I rarely wear it. That they would look strange if I saw them without it.

To insult everyone who can’t read, the situation feels like what it must be like to not be able to read. I walk the streets everyday, looking at the women with shining pink lips and flawless-looking skin and eyes that pop, and it’s so easy for them. Natural. They take it for granted. They do it every morning without thinking, like how I read Newsweek or the back of the cereal box.

But really, when I think about it, I’m not even sure I want to wear makeup – and that’s not merely sour grapes. First and foremost, it’s expensive. Lately I’ve been consciously trying to cut spending that’s unnecessary to my happiness, and I remember when I was a teen I read about how much women spent on beauty products a year and it was staggering. There are just other things I’d rather have, like the money, for one.

Next, I have to wonder what makeup is doing to women, right along with uncomfortable shoes and botox and padded bras. Why are women expected to wear makeup while men are not, for example? It might seem like a silly question, but I’m not so sure – if all men walked around in lipstick, wouldn’t that seem weird? I guess we could talk about genetics and ancestors and gender roles and whatever, but I say that even if it is has been “natural” for women to rely on their appearance in centuries past, it doesn’t mean we have to abide by that or use it as an excuse. I mean, I want you to close your eyes and picture your father or boyfriend with bright red lipstick on. Maybe some sweeping blush. That’s weird, right? Then why would I do that?

On the other hand, I want my eyes to pop. Maybe not every day, but every once and a while. The feeling creeps out sometimes, like when I put on a skirt. Maybe it is genetic. Maybe I’m just getting older and that’s making me less idealistic or more materialistic or, simply, more splotchy and uneven, especially in the T-zone.

I’ve been talking about this with some of my more savvy makeup friends. They’ve suggested a visit to a nearby makeup counter and a consultation. As terrifying as that sounds on all levels (the face level, the comfort level, the talking to strange painted ladies level, the being in the mall level, the wallet level) it sounds like something I have to go through before I know what’s right for me. And I’m not just talking about eye shadow shades.

I’ll report back next week with the results.