Karma & Meg: Making up an identity

Thomas Gibson is so wearing makeup. Photo Illustration by Marcus Jones
Thomas Gibson is so wearing makeup. Photo Illustration by Marcus Jones

Some Buddha guy once said, “What is the root of evil? Desire is the root of evil, illusion is the root of evil.”
I guess that means I’m a pretty evil chick. Ideally, I’d like to say I’m free from all desires and illusions because then, well, I’d be enlightened. And enlightenment seems like a pretty sweet deal. Do you still have to go through the hell of finals if enlightened? Probably not. Yeah, I’d choose enlightenment any day.

The problem is I don’t choose enlightenment. I choose beauty on a daily basis. Now don’t get me wrong—I am not high maintenance. I don’t color my hair or spend two hours a day perfecting my coiffure; I very rarely, if ever, desire expensive threads; and teeth whitening and skin tanning seem ridiculous and unimportant. But then there’s makeup.

You remember the indie kids’ favorite flick “The Royal Tenenbaums,” right? Well, imagine the character Margot Tenenbaum for a second; or rather, imagine her eyes. She’s got those raccoon eyes that are so emo and enigmatic and are consequently the eyes that most closely resemble my own every day. In other words, I’m a sucker for the eyeliner. I’ve worn it religiously ever since seventh grade (which was well over a decade ago) except for about a week during my hippie phase in twelfth grade. It started out as fun; when I entered junior high, I was finally allowed to wear makeup. So I did, gladly. As the years progressed, I became a bit, shall we say, depressed and reserved. The makeup, specifically the now darker and heavier eyeliner, became more of a shield and security blanket than a fun pastime.

As they (Buddha, perhaps?) say, old habits die hard. Putting on eyeliner every morning has become a ritual for me, something I don’t even think twice about. So has ending my sentences with prepositions. Anyway, while looking at the poster for Bona fide Beauty, I noticed one of the bullet points was “a day without makeup.” For some reason, this caught my greatly makeuped eye. Could I let down my guard and give up my Revlon Colorstay  Eyeliner for 24 hours? I decided to find out.

Let me give you the Reader’s Digest version of my makeup-less day: Getting ready in the morning was a cinch. I went to IKEA and caught glimpses of my naked eyes in Swedish mirrors, which was alarming. Stopping by REI felt like home; I felt so “granola” and “outdoorsy” with my conspicuously unmade face. And then I went to a social gathering where there were a lot of good-looking people. I felt so dowdy and invisible. I headed straight for the bathroom where I sheepishly applied eyeliner. Immediately after, I felt like myself. But why?  Does makeup really make up an identity? In other words, does kohl make the soul?  Nothing could be further from the truth, and I knew that. It was time for me to stop hiding behind a mask. I didn’t need to be scared of myself or buy into some myth about beauty.

So I went back into the same bathroom, grabbed a handful of tissue, and wiped the liner off my lids. Enough with this illusion. Enough with this attachment to a stupid eye pencil. Enough with constantly maintaining this constructed and superficial identity. I am liberated! Or at least I thought I was until the next morning when I applied liner almost without a second thought. My feelings of emancipation from the previous night had disappeared when the sun appeared. It was a new day and I was back to my old self. Although this is a somewhat disappointing ending, it’s the truth. I am still uncomfortable exposing myself sans makeup; it has obviously been my crutch for a long time. But maybe each day I can start to break away from these chains. Maybe I can begin to realize what really matters, embrace simplicity, and begin to walk again on my own.

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