People have been painting their bodies since forever, to make love and war, or to show devotion to a cause.
I have been painting my body for not quite forever, but a fairly long time, ever since I grew up and left home, where body painting for teenagers was not allowed. The women, my mother, my friends’ mothers and some older teenagers, I knew as a child did not wear much make up, except for that neighbour, Louise. “She wears too much make up,” the other women would tell each other virtuously, and I got the idea that something about make up was not quite nice.
I came of make up age in the time of heavy black eye make up and pale lips. Everyone was doing that, so that’s what I did.
Then, for a long time, there seemed to be no need to wear make up.
Awhile ago, my daughter challenged me, “Just because you’re old, doesn’t mean you have to give up on your looks.” I didn’t think I had given up. I strive to be clean and tidy with what I hope is an intelligent look. Actually, I hope people will notice my pretty scarves and cute shoes and not me. Usually works.
The other day, I was in a store for something else and noted that they did make up demonstrations. If not now, when? I prowled casually around the make up counter checking out the cosmeticians. If someone was going to get her hands on my face, I wanted to be sure that she had some understanding of what I might want from make up.
While I think the high-fashion look suits some women, not just the young — it’s a matter of personal style and personality rather than age, I knew I was not one of them.
I approached Romaine, younger than me but the closest to my age, who had the attractive, understated look that gives make up a good name.
“Do you do make up here, that is, well, if you do, well, would you do it for me, if it’s possible, maybe?” I managed to get out, feeling like I was attempting to do an illegal substances transaction.
“Yes, of course. You can sit there and I’ll be right with you,” she said pleasantly.
I sat there, right where people could see me, with my naked face. I go out with a naked face all the time but this was so public. People could see that I was trying to look better. They would laugh at me.
Romaine looked at my face and I was afraid she was going to say it was no use to even try. She didn’t know who I was, I could thank her for her opinion and leave gracefully. It was nothing, really. She didn’t laugh. No one laughed that I could tell.
Instead, she told me that I had good skin but it could look better if the colour was evened out. She said I had big, beautiful, blue-green eyes. I liked that. I’m going to put that on my next passport application: eyes: big, beautiful, blue-green. The eyebrows measured up, needing only brushing but apparently my lips are small.
I asked what mistakes most women of a certain age make with make up and she told me that it is using too much foundation in the wrong colour and too much eye make up. I had to smile because I was reading a book set in the early 1700s which made fun of a woman character who wore more and more paint as she got older.
Romaine took the time to ask about what kind of look I wanted and the colours I usually wear, and reassured me that wearing glasses is fine, it makes the eyes look bigger. She applied light foundation, eye make up and blush and soft lipstick. I liked what I saw. I looked brighter and fresher, not a faded, jaded rose. It would be great to look like that every day.
She answered my other questions, gave me some samples and wrote down the products she had used, with a diagram of how they were to be applied
This was done on a lunch hour and I went back to work. No one noticed. No general public outcry of dismay or admiration could mean that the make up was the subtle improvement I wanted, or, that like family, we co-workers see each other so much that we don’t really see each other. It could also mean that it was a deadline day and everyone was really busy.
I think there is something to this painting idea. It seems that it’s not just a passing fad, and I think I would like to have some of that paint.
—Cara Brady is a reporter for The Morning Star