Friday, 9 July 2010

Make Up

I like make up. I do, I really like it.

That little stash there, that's just what I travelled with to London, what I carry in my bag at any given time. There's more at home (even more so since starting Facegoop, possibly the worst thing to happen to my finances since, well, since I first got pocket money).

M is more about the skincare, but I'm all about the instantly transformative qualities of a bit of concealer, blusher, eyeliner. My face needs it, truly. Without lashes, I need the basic punctuation of eyeliner and shadow. The rest is optional, but I like how it looks; I like to give myself cheekbones and a colour other than my natural cadaver blue. I like to make my lips plumper and pinker than they are naturally. I do it because it's pleasing, almost meditative, and because it's something I do solely for myself that makes me feel good. There aren't many things in my life that tick that box in such an uncomplicated way.

I wasn't a particularly early adopter. Coming from the house of a radical academic, albeit one who was very partial to beautiful things, cosmetics were far down the list of priorities, behind my loathed French classes from a gloomily troubled Baudrillard disciple, piano lessons that flew in the face of my absence of natural ability, Julia Kristeva and books, books, books. Of course, I trailed round the Body Shop and bought odd idiotic bits and pieces like everyone else, but I was more enthused by the rare, heady trips to Leeds Warehouse for big, boxy t-shirts in red, fuchsia and black (oh, Warehouse was IT, the acme of sophistication). I know where I first got sucked in though; it was in the library at Quaker school and I was 16, when I discovered French Elle.

I can't imagine who decided at that rather ascetic establishment, that they should take a subscription to French Elle, but there it was, hidden discreetly behind Le Nouvel Observateur and L'Express, in the oak stacks of the John Bright library, untouched by anyone but me, each week a new issue. I would sit there in free periods and read it cover to cover. My eyes would run swiftly over most of the interviews, and the worthy pop psychology, glaze over completely for the recipes. But the fashion, and even more, the beauty pages, caught my imagination like nothing else. I feel confident that in 1990, I was the only 16 year old in North Yorkshire with an encyclopaedic knowledge of thalassotherapy treatments.

I remember copying down the names of perfumes, and products, in an exercise book and going to search for them in Browns or Fenwicks, the old school departments stores of York, hovering around the counters, terrified of the gorgons with their pantomime dame faces. I remember my first big purchases - a Chanel powder compact, and a Chanel lipstick, a very early nineties beigey nude called "Félin" (the only way I was ever going to be described as 'feline'), the smell of them, the little velvet pouch the powder compact came in, the luxury of it all. I remember how extraordinarily grown up it felt. Sure, my contemporaries were having sex, learning to drive, getting drunk and smoking dope. But I had my Chanel compact and it felt good. I wasn't the prettiest and I sure as hell wasn't the most popular, but I had the coolest make up.

Then later of course, my hair all fell out and making what was left of my face as nice as it could be was even more important. If I'm not wearing any make up, it's like that soap opera shorthand - it means Something Is Wrong. There's something a bit unappealing about loving make up, isn't there? It's says you're dependent on artifice; that you're not natural. Well I don't care. Make up has been my friend for nearly twenty years now, and I'm sticking with it. I expect that the older I get, the more I will wear, until at eighty or ninety, I will have a full, Barbara Cartland mask of slap, garishly slathered on with little regard for the facial features it is supposed to enhance. I hope to have a jauntily inappropriate wig too, maybe something voluminous in a nice coppery chestnut colour?

I converted my mother in the end, in a tiny way. After she died, I inherited the other half of the pot of Guerlain Météorites we had shared between us, pouring out the tiny balls into two containers. That batch is long gone now, tiny, shimmery multicoloured spheres proving irresistible to small boys, they ended up crushed and dispersed around various places I have lived. But the powdery violet smell of their replacements still reminds me of her when I occasionally when I open them up.

You know, presumably, that lipstick purchasing is inversely correlated with economic health?

Which, I imagine, is why I have bought THREE in the last six weeks, after not buying any for at least a year, maybe more.

And look, they are all identical:

(terrible picture, I only have my phone with me, but I love the sort of halo of fabulousness they are giving off. Quite right too).

That picture? That tells you of the total financial apocalypse that is my life, and possibly the fate of Europe altogether. But wotthehell. At least I can dance out in a blaze of, erm, nude pink.

(And YES, dammit, I bought a Tom Ford lipstick. Food and shelter are overrated)


Margaret said...

I almost cried at this beautiful ode to makeup. I have loved makeup since junior high, despite a mother who wore nothing but lipstick. My first compact was a lowly Cover Girl, but, lord, I felt sophisticated when I took it out to "check my face" before algebra class. I've been hugely depressed the last few years and it is absolutely reflected in the fact that I rarely do my face. My husband, naturally, annoyingly prefers me without, so it's hard to explain to him that a tarted up wife is a happy wife. If I'm spending the booze money on cosmetics and using them every day, he should be glad.

Grace London said...

Yes Yes Yes! I will also be Barbara Cartland, with a face full of blue eyeshadow.

It's meditative for me too, and makes me ready to face the day - it's almost quite literally war paint at the moment before I go to work. I love the disconcerting power of a slash of red lipstick.

M. said...


Jaywalker said...

M. I did not say anything about the TINY DYSON, did I?????

Facegoop Maths remember.

Anonymous said...

I am all for the Tom Ford. I spent a liver and two kidneys today in exchange for a school uniform comprising a wool blazer that would weigh down a large giraffe, a couple of ties, a lab coat and some staticky shit for 'games'; basically the price of a couple of pairs of very lovely red soled shoes. I am hitting the Selfridges counter tomorrow. And that's only the start of it. Lloydstsb can shove it right up the highest rafter of their arses.

magpie said...

Ack! You bought the Tom Ford lipstick! I am now going to go and cry in the corner and will probably have bought one by the end of the weekend. Facegoop has been bad for my finances too.
I also grew up with parents who didn't really understand the makeup thing. However, both my grandma's were very good at it in very different ways. One of my favourite smells is the powdery lipstick smell as it always reminds me of sitting at my grandma's dressing table. I miss my grandma's a lot.
My mum has come around to make up as we've both grown older and it's really nice to be able to go makeup shopping with her and give her advice on things.
Make up is wonderful and lovely and good and I don't care what anyone else says.

GingerB said...

I'm going way, way out on a limb here to tell you I don't love makeup. I wear it, I need it, and so I use it, because cadaver blue would be an improvement over red zone splashes, dashes, and a red peely thing that may or may not be a slow growing cancer, according to my dermatologist. But here is my secret self indulgent reward: fragrances. Ahh, Nordstrom's fragrance festival is one of the best days of the year. I've dropped $400 without batting an eye, yet I buy only cheap cosmetics and fairly high end skin care. But Flowerbomb! Bulgari in every incarnation! Carla Fracci! I think I'll just go spritz myself. Excuse me.

Betty M said...

I almost never wear makeup even though I probably should. I am partial though to a shiny box with something in a no make up make up line in it.

Jessica said...

You must tell me if tiny Dyson makes hoovering joyful. I need to know.

My unevenly coloured and sometimes dry lips would also like to know if Tom Ford stays put well and moisturizes, or at least doesn't turn lips into dry martian landscape after a few hours.

Kathy said...

I'm currently in love with Clinique Even Better, it works wonders on those brownish spotty bits that appear mysteriously as you get older. I also love to spritz. I like Prada Infusion d'Iris and Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue, both nice choices for summer.

When I was 14 or so, I was obsessed with Pot o Gloss. Sticky, goody lipgloss that rocked... ah, those were the days...

Jaywalker said...

Heh, Jessica, the tiny Dyson is for hoovering YOUR FACE. WIth diamonds.

(but she claims it's brilliant)

ModestyBrown said...

The make up magpie that I am, I instantly spotted the Tom Ford and wondered if you'd been writing to him again. Who needs food when you have Tom Ford anyway.

I love Fenwicks in York, I was regular in the beauty hall, though inevitable not much of a spender in my teens. I'm now of course wondering when exactly you were in York and if our paths ever crossed. In fact you've reminded me of my first expensive purchase. A Dior lipstick purchased in duty free en route to a Band Camp style tour of Belgium. Oh yes, I knew how to live!

I hope too to someday become Barbara faced. I'm sure I'll feel compelled to apply as much as possible to use it all up!

Anonymous said...

My make up inspiration is Colette. I have a lovely (black & white) postcard of her in her 80s(?) with those charcoal smudgy eyes (sorry, I don't know the "correct" terminology -- smokey eyes???) looking sexy as hell.
One problem: now that I'm wearing glasses ALL the time, applying eye make up has become a real challenge. Without glasses everything is a blur.
So I guess I'll just have "impressionist eyes"...on those very "special" occasions.
I never leave the house without blush. (Otherwise I look like a zombie.)

(Apple-cheeked) Pat (in Belgium)

a face hoover!?! Really???

M. said...

Yup, face hoovering. It is ace. I love love love love it. Last time she showed me the crap she'd microdermabrased off my face, on a tiny bit of cotton wool, and it was 100 times worse than the fluff inside your belly button.
Next time I will take a PICTURE. Oh yes.

Madame la Moue said...

I adore make up as does my 80 year old mother who still does her face religiously every day. She would NEVER leave the house without make up. I am 43 and actually worry every day that I might look Barbara Cartland-esque after I have done my face - am particularly keen on powder and heavy blusher. Has it happened already do you think? Will I be able to tell on myself? It worries me a lot(a 1st world worry obvs.)

Anonymous said...

Those lipsticks are not similar. They are vastly different and each and every nuance is ESSENTIAL!!

Jeannie said...

I loved this tribute to make up. I've been a fan for decades, and I wear it everyday unless I'm sick and in bed! I won't go to the dumpster unless I've got my face on. I don't wear too much, though. When you get older you have to wear less, not more or you end up looking like Bette Davis. I did the blue eye shadow in the early 70s when it first came out, but it would look horrible now. I use eye shadow as a trompe l'oeil in plums or browns to make them look less puffy (wish I could afford a blepharoplasty) :-(.

Anonymous said...

Mother forbid make-up when I was young, in the formative stage of make-up skills acquisition. I once got caught with an eyeshadow compact I snuk around with before school and had a friend apply at 14 and was grounded for a ridiculous amount of time. In high school, when I was finally deemed old enough for blusher, I had already entered my angry and rebelious phase, complete with army pants, thrift store sweaters, hairy legs, the Sex Pistols and vegetarianism, so there was no way in hell I was going to allow the patriarchy to dictate female standards of beauty to me!

Therefore, I missed the fundamentals in the formative years and this made me the make up equivalent of functionally illiterate.

I can manage mascara okay but to this day I've never mastered eye shadow and I can't find the correct shade or consistency of foundation to save myself from the ravages of impending middle age. (I also have a very strong olive skin tone, leading to make up FAIL.)

Please wear lots of pretty potions on behalf of someone like me, the make up illiterate. And thank you and M for starting the make up illiterate not-for-profit known as FaceGoop.


P.S. Word verification is "facesesc"!

Madame DeFarge said...

I have never really taken to make-up, due to unfortunate experiences at school with blue eye shadow and red blusher. Mostly the wrong way round.

Anonymous said...

Blue eyeshadow, black eyeliner and black mascara are my best friends. Seriously.