Femme Livin’

As part of a class, or you could call it an old-school consciousness-raising group I’ve been part of for the past month, I spent the last week experimenting with my gender presentation. In the form of wearing the most makeup I’ve ever used on consecutive days in my life and taking hella selfies. This is my story, starting with my usual gender presentation:



I choose makeup specifically because I’ve refused to learn how to wear it up to this point. Now that I’m old and go to weddings, now that I’m old and am in weddings, I feel like I’m failing at femininity by wearing it so poorly. That’s right, I feel that even though I don’t want to do this thing, I should be naturally great at it. It’s a hard life being a lady.

Because I don’t know what I’m doing, I decide at some point that I will follow YouTube tutorials so that I learn something and push myself well beyond my comfort level. These kids may be using “age reversing concealer” before they can legally rent a car, but they sure do own a lot of different makeup brushes. I’m sure I’ll learn something about myself and about contouring. Away I go.


I only leave the house for a bike ride in the afternoon, but I put on purplish lipstick, too much eyeliner and mascara. I feel conspicuous in my inability to put on eyeliner so I wear sunglasses the whole ride. When I get home, the BF asks, “What’s with your eyes? Why are they so dark and gloomy?” He claims he likes it.


I find this Kathleen Lights tutorial while looking for beginner makeup routines. She uses 15 products on her face and I don’t own that many things so I go to CVS to buy more and I do this sort of pink-oriented thing:


It’s decidedly ok, but I spend most of the day alone in my apartment, which makes me profoundly self-conscious. I go out for drinks with a friend and she compliments my outfit. (It is a good one! Look at that blouse!) When I get home, the BF accuses me of being “body-snatched” because I’m wearing so much makeup. I tell him what I’m doing and he says, “Oh.”


I go for a bike ride in the morning so I throw on a quick whip of eyeliner and lipstick. I haven’t really established rules for exercise, but I’m vaguely aware that other women sometimes wear some form of makeup when they exercise, and it annoys me, because if not during exercise, when can’t a woman wear makeup? For that reason, I put on the makeup.

On my way home, my seat falls off my bike. Walking to the metro, I realize my front tire is falling apart before my eyes. I give up. At home, I watch Kellylovesbeauty’s video to learn how to use the eyebrow pencil thing I bought yesterday. In the course of filling in her eyebrows, Kelly brushes them three different times. I am fairly certain I’ve never brushed my eyebrows. I barely brush my hair:

My brushed and penciled eyebrows, however, turn out just the right degree of 90s fierce. I am very into them.


I am supposed to have a meeting in Shirlington. I follow a subtler-looking tutorial (I think it’s this one from Cass Sersemis) and end up looking like this:


The tutorials that promise a “natural” look frustrate me because they use as many products as a more colorful or dramatic look, so the outcome is less fun. Also it feels like a giant, patriarchal lie to call this much effort natural. This shit takes me 20-30 minutes to apply and as much time to take off yet I still wake up with gunky eyes every morning.

Also on Friday, my other bicycle gives up and I reschedule the meeting and take off all the makeup when I go running around 3pm. I go out in the evening wearing red lipstick, but when I get to where I’m going, I find out the room is well-lit and only has about 10 people in it. Just outside, I try to dab off the lipstick with my bare hands and spend the evening worrying that I’ve just smeared it all over my chin.

Saturday and Sunday

I cover two races and don’t wear any makeup. I LIVE MY LIFE.


My week is coming to an end and I only cheated a lot! I try to put into practice the things I’ve learned from the young women of YouTube. I am going to physical therapy and the bike shop, and it is raining, and this is the face I muster:


At the physical therapist’s office, my face leaves a foundation-colored smudge on the evaluation table.


Of all the idle anxieties that pass through my mind this week, the most persistent is that I’ve smeared something all over my face and don’t know it. I am not in the habit of checking my makeup and I don’t want to be. It’s so much work.  Am I supposed to carry stuff with me? All the space in my bag is reserved for books and too many notebooks and like 40 pens and….

Next, I feel the sense of betrayal that comes with actually sometimes liking the way this stuff turns out. I haven’t embraced makeup because I hate the expectation that women should wear it all the time, spending money and time that aren’t demanded of men. But confound it, I’m a lady in a patriarchal society and I can’t deny that these selfies are ace and I’ve given myself eyebrow envy. At the same time, I’m hyper-aware of the flaws in the makeup and think it makes me look older. Being 30 is a complicated moment of maturation. If you can skip from 29 to 31, I highly recommend it.

Although I don’t think I’ll become the queen of cosmetics, I’m in awe of the artistry and skill of these YouTube makeup artists and teachers. They deftly blend and brush and shape new faces for themselves week after week. It’s impressive. I hope they’re able to convert these skills into careers in the entertainment industry, or visual art, or something else beyond keeping their own faces pretty for the indeterminate future. As established, I’m all about valuing your skills and especially valuing devalued personal habits. But until I see lots of dudes worrying about their dark circles and the eyeshadow that best compliments their eyes, I will be an intermittent makeup wearer at best.


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