I have started to wear make up again, after a seriously long absence at the coal face (and I use this term advisedly given the current state of my skin) of daily make up wearing.
One of the reasons for doing this is that I have, over recent months been engaged in a regular battle with both the powers that be at the NHS and my own migraine hell, and I am not weathering either of those particularly well.
I am, at best, a sallow, pasty creature who looks like they live under a rock. My skin has never been what they call glowing. I am pale to the point of luminescence, something which means that I have to spend at least a month in tropical climes to come home with anything remotely resembling a tan, and which assures me an instant bump up any triage nurse’s ‘worry’ scale on entry to hospital.
Even if I have only come in to accompany someone else.
Currently, the what my husband calls ‘lard’ coloured complexion, is accompanied by monthly menstrual related spots, middle aged wrinkles and under eye pouches so large one could easily hide a drug dealer’s plane in either pouch and still have room for a picnic lunch. I also have greying areas where lack of sunlight and a semi-permanent attachment to the chaise longue of death (TM) have taken their toll.
I am not ageing like a fine wine.
If I were a cheese, for example, I’d say I’m going for a cross between a brie that has been left out to ripen just that bit too long, and a bit of parmesan that you forgot you had, that is now so hard you can actually bludgeon someone to death with it.
Mostly, it has to be said, I am accepting of these things. I am not one to fight the rigours of ageing. Once I realised, at about aged 19 that I was never going to be Kate Moss, it was pretty much game over. Once I realised that all my make up work mostly reduced me to looking like a biscuit coloured clown, I surrendered.
This is easy to do when your life mostly consists of hanging around with small people whose default is to automatically think you are ‘old’. You do not have to make any effort for a person who asks you if you knew Shakespeare, or what my opinion of the triassic period is, as someone contemporary to the mastodon. There is no point putting on slap for these people. It does not make you feel any less aged.
It is also easy to give up when you spend the large part of your day alone, in front of a computer screen in the dark, throwing words about. Everyone looks haggard in the reflected glow of the unforgiving screen.
And it is even easier to give up when you have a husband who loves you exactly and perfectly for who you are, and doesn’t count an addiction to the MAC counter as a necessary element of his affection for you. If he has seen you with morning hair and a face like the bottom of a bird cage, and he still adores you, you a) have a keeper, and b) you know your time could be better spent than trowelling on slap.
I have taken it up again with new vigour mainly because I now spend extraordinary amounts of my time meeting people, all sorts of people, in all sorts of settings, and I am tired of people being solicitous of me because I look ‘ill’ or ‘tired’. As I am almost always ill, and I have been tired since 1998 thanks to three children, I am not likely to ever not look ill or tired, and I am bored of people being kind to me in that way.
That way where it looks like they’re going to offer me a drink of water and a lie down at any moment, and you can see them casting around for emergency exits/first aid kits.
Apart from putting a bag over my head to avoid having this conversation, the only thing I could think to do was to go back to wearing make up.
I am never, ever going to be able to master the ‘natural’ look. This is clearly, I now realise, because what is natural for me is actually the; ‘permanently hovering at death’s door’ look.
I am, however, wielding a couple of secret weapons. The first is that I can now actually afford to buy myself some nice kit. I have invested in Lancome mascara and eye pencils, Urban Decay eye shadow and MAC lipsticks, which despite what they tell you in cost saving magazines, are actually significantly better quality than the stuff from the Rimmel stand in Sainsburys’, even though Rimmel has its place.
The second is that my only goal is for people not to tell me how ill/tired I look, and therefore I can slap the whole lot on with a trowel rather than fanny around worrying about contouring and being ‘on fleek’ whatever the hell that is. I leave that to Tallulah, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of such fashionable things.
I have settled for what can only be described as a part drag queen, part ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ look. This is by accident rather than design, but it is startling enough to make people think ‘crikey!’ and not ‘aah! Let’s book an impromptu grave plot just in case.’ It also means that if people are going to talk to me about my appearance they have a plethora of things which are not actually part of my real face to go at, and therefore I do not feel insulted/attached/worried about them. They say ‘vibrant lip colour!’ instead of ‘blimey, your lips are as thin and disapproving as those of the Trunchbull’ or ‘what mascara do you use?’ instead of: ‘could we climb inside your eye bags and sleep off this appalling hangover?’
It works a treat.
There was a bit on Woman’s Hour the other day on the wisdom or otherwise of older women wearing make up. It was could they? Should they? Are there any tips for the ageing woman? etc.
I didn’t listen to this, due to the fact that I was infuriated by even the idea of whether it was acceptable for an older woman to wear make up.
Wear what the fuck you like, and if you don’t like it, don’t wear it. But it is a very good disguise if you don’t want people to keep looking at you in ‘that’ way, because they have to look at you in a whole ‘other’ way, and it’s one you get to choose.