If you came to this blog today hoping for an awkward, over-honest, and embarrassing story from me, congratulations! That is exactly what I've got! I wish I could get away with not telling this story, because my incompetence at life is occasionally so great as to embarrass me, but I'm a crappy liar. So story it is!
Now, I am what I enjoy calling a "late-bloomer," but other people call "slow, misguided, and/or juvenile." My attempts at getting on the Fashion U-Bahn have already been reproduced here, but this post is an official documentation of that time I tried to navigate the confusing world of make-up.
I have always been staunchly anti-make-up, mostly because I a) resented the concept of putting on a different face, and b) was always fine with how I looked. In fact, I have historically rather liked that about myself, that I can walk outside make-up-less, confident, and be happy with myself. When it came to boys, I tended to rely more on my wit and my hair than on my supermodel good looks (which may or may not have something to do with my general relationship failures) and plus, people always told me I looked like a sixteen year-old, so why the hell did I need make-up?
The problem is that I've also had crappy skin for most of my life. Unlike every other adult woman on the planet, my body never got the memo that puberty had ended years ago, and instead of holding on to all the good puberty traits, like boobs that never stopped growing, I was stuck with all the shitty ones, namely, skin that never stopped breaking out. Mostly it was hormonal, and I was more or less resigned to breaking out once a month for a week, and then being done with it. But then, a few months after I arrived in Germany, something bad happened. Suddenly, my mildly shitty skin actively mutinied, and next thing I knew, my face was breaking out in giant, painful cysts that refused to go away and scarred like a bitch.
You know the really annoying Pro-Activ commercials, where girls get up and complain about their faces and say they refused to leave the house until Pro-Activ got them boyfriends, and cured their AIDS? Secretly, I'd always mocked those girls, I mean, really? Sorry to break it to you love, salicylic acid does nothing for your HIV. Except suddenly, I was that acne commercial, and I did not enjoy it. I stopped wanting to go outside, I stopped making eye contact with strangers, and I avoided mirrors like the plague, lest I stand in the middle of the store staring at myself in horror. I tried to harass myself out of it, and get back into my standard Tina cheerfulness that's oblivious to social cues and grates on people's nerves. But I discovered that not only does this make you hate yourself more, it's also virtually impossible to do when you're sitting in front of your computer blankly watching Tough Love Miami, alone, miserable, and with ice packs slapped to the bottom of your face in the hope they'll make the swelling go down.
Finally my misery outweighed my paralyzing fear of all things medical, and in mid-December, I went to the dermatologist...who took one look at me and basically said, "Yeah, this shit needs to get fixed PRONTO," that's how bad it was. She immediately put me on a whole slew of medication I could sell for a lot of money on the black market, antibiotics, medical creams, the whole nine yards. Slowly, very slowly, the cysts cleared up, but left behind as a parting gift a particularly sexy brand of mottled purple scarring. LOVELY.
In the meantime, however, I had discovered that almost as bad as my face were people's opinions on why my face was so suddenly terrible, which they shared with me in the unprompted way of those who think they're doing you a favor, but are blissfully ignorant of the fact that they're actually making you want to throw yourself into the river tied to the family piano. Host Mom told me it was because I eat white flour. Other American told me it was the bread. The Portuguese Tias told me it was chocolate. The cab driver told me it was the weather. The dermatologist told me it has nothing to do with what I eat or drink, or how I take care of my skin, but that it's probably a delayed reaction to major stress experienced in the last few months...i.e., moving to Germany.
I could only take so many comments about how it's my own fault my skin blows before I decided this shit needed to get covered up. Luckily for me, I'm a chick, I can throw on some make-up, e voila! Oh wait, that's right. I'm 23 years old, and I have no idea how to put on make-up. Woman fail.
So, as I am wont to do in times of doubt, I turned to the internet. I looked up make-up tutorials, I wrote down product names, I did grade-A research. But the thought of walking into a drug store with a post-it note and zero concept of what I was doing terrified me, and I was almost as scared of doing it wrong as I was of asking Helen of Troy's smug German counter cousin for help. Because in swearing off make-up, I had successfully avoided that awkward phase where you put on too much blush in eighth grade and make yourself look like a mistake from the 80's, which at the time I congratulated myself for. But in retrospect, I'd also skipped the part where you eventually figure out what you're doing. All these tutorials I was watching were talking about brushes and minerals and toners and all sorts of dangerous-sounding shit that sounded less suited to a medicine cabinet, better suited to a surprise safety inspection of a Chilean iron mine. They were tutorials meant for people my age, except they also assumed that people my age knew that foundation was something other than the bottom part of a building.
Where did I go wrong? I wondered. How did I miss something so integral to the lives and self-esteems of women all over the damn world? So I googled that too, and apparently, you learn this shit a slumber parties. I understand now. Because at our slumber parties, we played Charades and Trivial Pursuit while watching Teen Girl Squad on homestarrunner.com. At some point, someone would put on the Spice Girls and the movie Clue (not simultaneously), and around midnight, Sam would start come up with innovative experiments (whispering in Japanese) to be conducted on the first person who fell asleep (me). Then my mother would pick me up in the morning, and I would be sick as a dog from lack of sleep. We would go home, I would eventually throw up, she'd vow to never let me sleep over Sam's house again, I would discover random Japanese words slipping into my protests, and then I'd take a three hour nap. Repeat in two weeks. Best Saturdays ever.
Unfortunately for me, I never attended the slumber party where pillow fights take place in training bras, nails get painted, legs get shaved communally, and seventy-five dollars of Mom's Dior cosmetics are destroyed in an organized raid on the medicine cabinet that results in nine little escorts. I was conspicuously absent when that particular girl posse gave each other facials, practiced making out, and shoved bananas down their throats. I was too busy trying to get the godforsaken orange sports wedge.
But because crashing a strange twelve year-old's slumber party with a smile and a barrel of Chiquita bananas was both creepy and a fast-track to not being allowed within one thousand feet of a school, I decided I needed a new plan. So I thought about it. And thought about it. And steeled myself, then lost my nerve, then steeled myself, then lost my nerve, and then finally, I texted The Plan, and The Plan's name was Claire.
Here is an abridged version of that text conversation:
Me: Okay, don't laugh at me, but when you come to visit, can you teach me how to put on make-up? I feel like this is a skill I should have.
Claire: Do you own make-up?
Me: No, and I have no idea how to buy it, you'll have to teach me that too.
Claire: Okay. We will buy it together and I'll show you what to do.
Me: So my goal is to wear as little make-up as is necessary to hide the fact that my skin blows lame ballz. In your professional opinion, is this possible?
Claire: More than.
Me: You're the best friend I've ever disliked enough to sell into Mongolian sex slavery for the price of a turkey sandwich.
Well, The Plan eventually arrived in Germany, and after a particularly brilliant weekend in Berlin, we hit up Celle to shop for postcards, honey, and shit for my face. Claire marched me around town like the professional she is, while I had mental breakdowns every other moment and made her explain every cosmetic product in the store to me multiple times. We bought mascara. We bought eyeliner. We bought eye shadow. We bought 27 euro foundation, because apparently, that's what you do. More accurately, Claire told me what to buy, and I bought it. How she put up with me, I do not know, but I bought her chocolate for it.
But the most frightening part lay ahead: actually learning to put this stuff on. For that, we bussed it back to my house, sat ourselves down in front of my mirror, and monkey-seed, monkey-doed our way to more or less success. Claire had to slowly and painfully demonstrate what goes where and when, and how brushes can also be used for things other than horses. I slowly and painfully attempted to copy her, all the while complaining incessantly.
The next week was spent coming up with excuses to go to the drug store so that I could buy more shit; concealer, blush, the one affordable makeup bag that did not have "Good Vibrations" printed on it. I spent an obscene amount of money on this crap, which is what happens when you buy in one go what normal people have been slowly collecting since they turned eleven. Meanwhile, my sister was dealing with increasingly panicky Facebook messages from me as I grilled her on everything from eyeliner colors to whether or not blue eye shadow could conceivably make me look like a Teletubby.
On the downside, what I wound up discovering was that while make-up has more or less solved the problem of my skin, it's opened up a whole new can of worms to worry about, like Is My Mascara Running? Am I Twelve Different Colors? Are You Sure I Don't Look Like A Teletubby?
In the end, it has turned out to be not nearly as horrible as I imagined it, and thankfully, you don't need to devote two hours of your life to putting make-up on in the mornings. I've got it down to under ten minutes, which is more or less acceptable. It's (sort of?) easy, I guess. And the end result is...still me! I look like me! Except with slightly better skin and bigger eyes. And I have to remember not to rub my eyelids, or else my hands come away all sorts of fun colors.
So all in all, this is the unfortunate new direction my life has gone in, but it's better than holing myself up inside the house and refusing to talk to anyone. And while I enjoy not blessing small animals with heart attacks when I look at them, I still don't think I'm going to put make-up on every day.
Just on the days I go outside.