Princess (age 11) had to be sent to school with her annual day costume and “full stage makeup”. We had no makeup at home!! Not the heavy makeup required for stage performances. We had no makeup at all. No foundation, no pressed powder, no mascara, no eye shadow, no lipstick!
For a household of four with three females including one teenager, you would think we would be better equipped for just this type of situation. But we were not prepared.
As the Mama Bear, I ensure we always have fresh home-cooked food, for us and for friends who may drop by. We make room for unexpected guests who may wish to stay over. We have books to read and lend. There is music to lift your spirits and a willing ear if you need one. DQ helps create colorful rangolis for Diwali and Princess makes rainbow loom wristbands and earrings for friends. We dress modestly and spend moderately. But when it comes to adorning ourselves with cosmetics we are severely lacking. And it’s totally my fault.
I grew up in an era where makeup was used only by movie stars. Makeup was a luxury available to a few. Growing up in Mumbai which has two levels of humidity – monsoon (100%) and pre-monsoon (90%), makeup was not even practical. Why pay big bucks to put stuff on your face that will run down in rivulets within minutes? My mother didn’t color her hair or visit a beauty salon all her life. I lived with two brothers who wouldn’t give me a second glance even if I had horns poking out of my head. I figured fairly early on that in order to get attention, I would need to work on stuff that would last longer than mascara in the Mumbai heat.
Over the years, as I lived in other places, I acquired products that served the basic purpose of hygiene and personal grooming. My stash of beauty products includes common stuff like shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. I use sunblock everyday and a moisturizer for my dry skin at night. I apply kajal (kohl) to my eyes occasionally and colorless (cheap) lip balm as needed. I choose from this small list when I step out to meet clients, hang out with buddies or attend parties.
I have spent all my adult years staying away from chemical cosmetics that embellish only the surface. I dislike lipstick. I cannot stand strong perfume. I don’t have the patience for eyeliner or a fascination for eye shadow. I prefer to let my skin breathe instead of layering foundation and concealer over it. I live a basic “earth mother” life which is authentic to me.
But have I done right by my girls?
I was stumped that day. I felt foolish, incompetent, out of touch with today’s world. I was caught off-guard, shocked at missing something obvious and necessary for life. Like salt in the pantry, I seemed to have forgotten a common but critical item normally found in a women-centric household. What would my husband think of this lapse? How could I approach other women to lend me stuff just to tide me over? How would Princess feel when she showed up at school with a bare but clean face? I was such a loser.
There was a time when DQ loved putting lipstick on her face (not just her lips!), using the makeup samples that came with the moisturizer I bought at Macys. DQ and I spent a few hours painting our nails at Frankfurt airport one night when our flight to San Francisco was delayed. She would apply eye shadow to her cheeks and eyelids, wear her Snow White outfit, step into plastic high heels and hold court with her stuffed toys. Somewhere in the years between five and fifteen she stopped playing dress up. I threw the old cosmetics out and didn’t buy new ones.
My daughters don’t have access to makeup at home. Will that be a long-term handicap for them? There is enough pressure through peers and media to look pretty, to focus on the superficial, to be obsessed with image, not achievement. Will they secretly try makeup outside the house? Will they harbor an unnatural attraction for cosmetics on the rebound? Would they turn into social misfits in their adulthood? Do they resent me for not stocking up on makeup essentials at home?
I had an hour to get Princess ready for the school program. The questions could wait. DQ looked through her supplies and found eyeliner. I handed out my lip balm. I combed her hair and helped her into her costume. Princess looked in the mirror, proclaimed “I look weird,” and rubbed her eyes. Now she looked like a raccoon. I mopped the soot off her eyelids. She looked fine. And set off happily for school.
“Should I buy some makeup this weekend?” I asked my husband.
“Didn’t you see what just happened? It was so awkward for me, not having makeup at home.”
“All of you look great without it. I am very proud of my women.”
That made me really happy. And proud, of my girls, who also prefer to let themselves be seen as they are, happy in their skin.
I may not have makeup to share with my daughters, but I want to share these words by Audrey Hepburn:
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”