Am I thought pretty?
You are generally thought to have been pretty
This week I did something totally out of character. I gave up makeup. For a full seven days I conducted my life with a completely naked face, a face I might add, that no one has seen since I was thirteen. To understand just how monumental this is I should explain that on my first day of secondary school I was a picture of sense and propriety – my school skirt hung past my knees, my tights were thick and woollen, hair severely scraped back and shoes… shoes that were BOYS SHOES.
It began to occur to me that girls who enjoyed school were the ones who wore short skirts and high heels. By my final year the fresh-faced and earnest thirteen year old was barely recognisable. I had skin as dark as mahogany, hair as yellow as the sun. The six inches lost from my hemline was quickly gained by my heels (resulting in my being roughly the same height as a double-decker bus). My hair became blonder, and bigger – oh, so much bigger (think Kylie in the 80’s) and I lovingly applied my make-up with a trowel. My transformation from 13 year old to 35 year old in a school uniform was complete, and I knew I looked good.
My changed appearance gave me entry to a social realm where all words were abbreviated. We said such clever things: ‘The bant was rife’ was an incredibly witty way of saying something was fun; all sentences were punctuated with ‘like’; we fell out (for life) over haircuts which caused emotional distress and mocked people who played musical instruments. When the right of passage came – the ritual otherwise known as the post-A level holiday, it was decided that 20 of us would go to the culturally rich destination of Playa de Las Américas, Tenerife. I was under the unfortunate impression that reading books on beach holidays was acceptable. Books, it was soon announced, are what ruins holidays for everyone.
It was then that I began to suspect that all this fitting in had created someone I didn’t really want to be. I liked correct grammar and books and art. I didn’t really hate people who played the trombone. And so began a journey of recovery.
It’s true that old habits die hard; my hair is still blonde (though no longer peroxide) and my skin is a vaguely normal colour – though the years of St Tropez abuse have left a permanent stain which I fear will always make me look slightly jaundiced. It did take time to come full circle; I view my week without makeup as the culmination. The character I took on as a teenager was undoubtedly a coping mechanism for my new life, but in coping it altered me into someone who felt stretched and self-conscious. I’ve learnt to detox the unnecessary; the friendships that were superficial, the image of myself that was never true, career aspirations I thought I should have but didn’t really want… and in doing so I’ve come to know myself better. Does that sound trite? I suppose it does a bit. What’s surprising is that for the first time in my life being thought pretty is no longer so important – which is almost as liberating as the realisation that reading books on holiday? It’s ok.