There comes a defining moment in every young girl’s life. I’m not talking about when she has to pick the colour of her grad dress or has to decide whether she’s Team Jacob or Team Edward. While these are, of course, very important, the moment I’m referring to is when she looks in the mirror and wishes her eyelashes were longer, her freckles not so obvious, and her lips brighter.
For me, this moment didn’t come until my first day of university. Late bloomer? Perhaps. Or maybe the words “you don’t need makeup” said by my mother were fully ingrained in my mind. Or maybe I was just lazy, or didn’t own any make-up, or just never felt like it.
All very good reasons. But it doesn’t matter. Because for whatever the reason, on my first day of university, I woke up extra early and stood in front of the bathroom mirror in my grandma’s house, staring at the empty canvas that was my face.
Up to this point in my life, my experience wearing makeup was few and far between. That is to say, I was not a stranger to stage makeup but as you can imagine, that’s quite a different style. I certainly didn’t want to be running around campus looking like I was about to break out the old jazz hands or start doing the box step. (In hindsight, that actually sounds pretty fun, but alas). I had also worn makeup on special occasions: graduation or boat cruise. But never had I worn makeup as part of my everyday routine.
I was a mixture of nerves and anticipation. This was an exciting time, to be sure. To a nerd such as myself, the first day of school always is. But this day exceeded all the others: this was my first day of university! A place that was certainly much bigger and would undoubtedly be much better than highschool. There were new people to meet. Maybe…I would even meet my first boyfriend! (Spoiler alert: I did not.)
Slowly, I began undoing the braids I had carefully put in my hair the night before. Clearly, I had decided my hair needed a change too. Cue the song: I Enjoy Being a Girl. Brand new hairdo, eyelashes all in curl…
My makeup collection was spread out on the counter. By this point, it consisted of a pencil eyeliner in the colour of Pearl Grey, a shimmery purple eyeshadow that I think I inherited from someone after a musical theatre production, a bright red lipstick, and a bottle of foundation that was two shades too pale for my skintone, especially after a summer of frolicking in the sun. Oh, and I can’t forget the clunky mascara that must have been at least two years old. (Wait, what? You mean I’m supposed to throw out mascara after six months? What a waste!)
After splashing cold water on my face and drying it with a towel, I poured some foundation onto my pointer finger and started rubbing it onto my cheek, between my eyebrows, on my forehead, on my chin – basically everywhere except my neck. The word ‘blending’ was not in my vocabulary.
Next, I started to work on my eyes. After hastily rubbing my pointer finger against my thumb to clear any remaining foundation, I rubbed said pointer finger over the eyeshadow and started smearing it on my eyelid. There was no technique to my smearing. But I happily smeared away, ready for my eyes to pop with a sheer shimmer as was the promise on the container.
I put on my lipstick – getting too much on my chin and on my teeth in the process – and then I picked up my Pearl Grey pencil eyeliner and went to work like a toddler with a crayon. Proudly, I had picked it out from an array of different coloured eyeliners at Shoppers Drug Mart. Most likely, I had bought it because it was the cheapest one – picking in the same way I decide which wine I should drink at restaurants. (A tactic that, I admit, sometimes backfires).
I lifted the pencil to my eyes. It wasn’t too sharp this time, nor was it too dull like the time before. As far as I knew, it was just right. However, I should mention that even to this day, I have a very great fear of poking myself in the eye. As a result, I ended up drawing my eyeliner too low, in a similar fashion to the offensive line of the BC Lions. Last but not least, I put on my clunky mascara and voila! My masterpiece was finished.
Taking a step back, I admired my creation, as proudly as Michaelangelo undoubtedly stood back to admire the Sistine Chapel. I certainly wasn’t the picture of femininity and sophistication that I had intended to be. In fact, I was far more Jackie Stallone than I was Audrey Hepburn. But to my untrained eye, it didn’t matter that my face was the same shade as an oompa loompa, or that my eyes bore a slight resemblance to raccoons, or that my lipstick would give The Joker a run for his money. Because in that moment, I felt grownup, and more confident and like maybe, just maybe, someone would notice me. There was a touch of glamour to my face that hadn’t been there before. An air of elegance. And to an eighteen year old girl, that was everything.