At the age of twelve, I was allowed to start wearing makeup. I'm not sure this was a good call on the part of my parents, not because I have any uptight notions about little girls growing up too fast but because I'm horrible at it. I've got no mad fat makeup skills. All those hours styling my Barbie Head did no good at all.
Very soon after turning twelve, I was admitted into the local children's theatre program. The first day I arrived wearing Guess overalls, a pink shirt, a pink bow and enough makeup to make a clown feel uncomfortable. I remember carefully applying stripes of pink, blue and yellow eyeshadow on my eyelids. Purple mascara and glitter Bonne Belle lipgloss completed my look. I thought I was truly outrageous like Jem. The older kids were nice, awesome even, despite the whole child whore thing I had going on. At the end of the Summer, funny awards were given out. Mine? The Don't Do Makeup As A Career Award.
In Jr. High, my mother filled my Caboodle with makeup from a brand called Beauty Control. I proudly carried the compact in my little purse until one of my guy friends noticed me checking my reflection one day at lunch. "Please control your beauty, Kendra, it's just too much," he taunted. I suffered abuse for a week before the guys forgot about it. I gave the compact to my little sister and pretended I wanted her to have it because I was such a cool older sibling and whatnot.
By high school my look had changed even if my skill level remained the same. My Freshman class photo shows me wearing black eyeliner, dark maroon lipstick and (the key to my vampire appearance) baby powder. Ah, baby powder! Takes you from translucent pale to deathly pallor and you get to smell like a baby's butt! All for less than a buck!
In college, I figured out I looked better with a tan. Instead of piling on the baby powder, I fried my skin in tanning beds like a good Texas co-ed. Unfortunately, the humid Central Texas climate wrecked my West Texas skin and I spent many hours shellacking pimples with concealer thicker than Silly Putty. I'd lightened up on the eyeliner and evolved to actual face powder but I still applied dark lipstick in between classes and rehearsals as if my sense of identity depended on it. Trudging around the hilly campus in the hot, wet weather with all that stuff on my face gave me a slightly melted look, like Robert Smith mid-concert. I'm surprised anyone talked to me.
These days I still don't have a clue. I mean, I try. I really do. One glance in my makeup drawer and you might think I know what I'm doing. I am, after all, adept at copying down Beauty Editor's picks from magazines and scooping them into the little black basket at Sephora. It's the application part I have trouble with. Sometimes I think I've got it down. When I leave the house, I'm satisfied with how my face looks but I'm always horrified on the first visit to the ladies' room.
A smart person would take a makeup class or ask a friend who looks like she knows what she's doing for help. A savvy LA lady would stride into a MAC store or plop down on a stool at the Benefit counter and pay attention while someone shows them how to contour or fill in or whatever the hell it is you're supposed to do with your face. But as soon as someone starts to teach me, my brain glazes over exactly like a guy's does when a girl starts talking about her monthly cycle. I can't do it. I just don't care enough. But, I've got a better solution. A truce of sorts. Instead of figuring out what I'm doing, I just say to hell with it and I buy fancy blush. Lots of fancy blush. There are currently eight different types of blush in my makeup drawer and this brings me some amount of comfort. My eyeliner doesn't smudge quite right and my lipstick never really works but look at that pretty blush! At least one part of my face is happy.
*photo by plounsbury.