“She’s wearing eyeliner,” my oldest daughter complained.
“I know,” I replied, sipping coffee from my ‘Mama is the Best’ mug, a theme I find myself questioning often.
“But she’s only ten!” she protested, “I had to wait until I was thirteen to wear makeup.”
“I’m sorry,” I sighed, “but you grew up in a different family.”
My oldest kids were raised on a harsh planet by alien parents. There are very few remnants of the Plastic Robot Mother they once had.
Sometimes these two worlds collide with massive emotional and philosophical devastation. Other times, we endure mild meteor showers; burning chunks of theology and morality crash on the terrain of our single-parent-family lives. These fragments burn themselves out and eventually cool down enough that we can investigate the smoking crater.
Makeup was a mid-sized meteor.
Plastic Robot Mother would not have allowed such a thing, since clearly, eyeliner was created by satan. It’s in the old testament somewhere.
Eyeliner was the first step. Soon came eyeshadow. Then lip gloss followed by its bolder big sister, lip stick. Foundation covered my young daughter’s flawless skin. I dug in my heels at mascara, until I realized this wasn’t about makeup or self expression.
Yes, yes, we feminists should feel fully confident with all our bumps and wrinkles. However, feminism means empowering oneself, not trying to play to expectations of others.
My daughter (all three of my kids, actually) were going to German school for the first time. They had to listen to the teachers, follow instructions and take tests in a language they couldn’t really speak yet. They had to endure a million little insults and injuries (from students and teachers) they wouldn’t even mention, because it was just part of their day.
Native Americans, as well as other groups of people throughout history, would often paint their faces before significant events. Sometimes it was for weddings, other times it was for war. The symbols signified rank and tribe; and the colors represented certain attributes.
Red was for blood, strength, power.
Black was aggressive: someone who had proven himself in battle.
Blue symbolized wisdom or confidence.
Green was for endurance or for healing.
My daughter, by tending to this early-morning ritual of applying makeup, was steeling herself for battle. It was something that made her feel good and confident. It helped her maintain this “Screw them all” attitude, which she needed to survive.
Nowadays, both my daughters wear makeup. It’s not always about doing battle — they choose eyeshadow the way we would pick out a pair of shoes. Thanks to youtube tutorials, my girls have become skilled in this art.
My kids have had a 180 degree turn of lifestyle. We are no longer the shiny plastic Christian family. My daughters shave parts of their heads and dye their hair different colors. They pursue what they love, no matter what anyone says.
I admire them for this attitude — the way they live fiercely.
And when I have one of those days where I can only stand with my mouth hanging open as another meteor hurtles towards me; I take a lesson from my girls and put on my lipstick.
And a little perfume.
And brace myself for whatever is coming my way.