I remember the first time he noticed I drew in my eyebrows. We were lying in bed, he was close enough to kiss me, and said something like, "Is that pencil?" Whatever romantic moment I thought we were having was ruined. And while my first high school boyfriend thought he was making some off-hand comment, he probed at an issue I tried deeply to suppress: I had a makeup problem.
Every morning I would stare in the mirror, diligently separating each lash with mascara. When it came to the right eye, which was always more finicky than the left (don't ask why), I would feel panic: What if the lashes clumped together? Could I put it on perfectly with only five minutes to spare? What if I had to wash my face and start over? "Angeliiiiiiiiina," one of my parents would usually start yelling at this point. "You're going to be late."
I would curse them under my breath, take a dry mascara wand (yes, I had two) and try getting rid of any clumps until I looked like that Cover Girl close-up of whatever celebrity wearing fake lashes. I was obsessed.
During my high school years, I walked around with cosmetics in my bag for a noon touch-up, which usually involved another coat of mascara among other things. Teachers began to take notice: One (male) told me I had an interesting "cat-eye" thing going on while another (female) spent an entire parent-teacher interview with my mother applauding my cosmetic artistry (finally, some respect).
But like an addict, when those close to me pointed it out, I snapped.
When I saw the pictures of makeup-less Faith Hill going viral this week (including, admittedly, on our own site), that high school girl in me cringed. Huffington Post's own headline was "Faith Hill Without Makeup Hardly Recognizable," which quite frankly was always my fear when I thought of leaving the house without my face on. And she was catching a freakin' morning flight.
Apparently, six out of 10 U.K. women share my anxiety of being seen bare-faced according to online beauty site Superdrug.
Obviously celebrities are put under a microscope, but this kind of commentary fuels real-life female hysteria and insecurity. And to be fair, a makeup trend is now starting to affect men. I'm not saying we should all go au natural because I think makeup can look great and be a real confidence-booster, but I am saying women (or men) should never be afraid to leave the house without it.
Making fun of somebody's natural face is as sinister as making fun of the kid with acne, or the fat kid whose genes make him/her pre-disposed to obesity. That is to say, it is a mean, childish, bully tactic. There is no honour in criticizing people for something they can't help. It only proves your own ugliness.
My makeup rehabilitation came when I enrolled at a liberal arts college, where it was much cooler to have dark circles under your eyes from reading Derrida all night than it was to look fresh as a poppy in lecture hall. Gradually, I loosened my grip on the mascara, and every other makeup wand I could and did possess.
I even walked into meal hall the next day, and let guys I may or may not have romped with the night before see my un-made face. And guess what: I still got male attention. (A study conducted by skincare experts St Ives revealed that one in five men wish their partner would tone down the slap-on, while one in 10 said they liked women who wear no makeup whatsoever.)
I'm not completely cured. I would still have a heart attack if I left my makeup case somewhere, but I certainly don't treat my face like an unpainted Sistine Chapel anymore. But I will say that seeing Faith Hill berated on the Internet is the kind of thing that could throw me into a relapse. And I really don't want my father to tell me I have "pharmacy eyebrows" again at the dinner table -- whatever that meant.