I got my first lipstick this month. I wore my first lipstick this month. It’s part of a larger trend in my life. Of becoming shallow, yup – kidding!
Jokes apart, ever since I moved to Delhi, I’ve had to take the metro. Sometimes covering long distances across the NCR to reach places that I need to reach. And sometimes these journeys have been in the morning; think 8 am – which means waking up early, taking a shower, breakfast, and reaching the station on time. And I couldn’t help but look at these Delhi belles standing about in the ladies’ compartment, chatting away with their girlfriends, with their perfectly groomed eyebrows, kohl-lined eyes, lips glossy, shoes matching their well-put-together outfits, … I could go on forever! The truth is Delhi girls are so well-groomed, but that’s not a big deal, right? I disagree.
Throughout winter, my wardrobe that consisted of sweatshirts and my grandmother’s cardigans put me to some shame. Not that I don’t like wearing them, but because I wore them so carelessly. Eitherhow, watching these women, groomed and dolled-up made me feel like I don’t put enough effort to appreciate my physical self. And as if the timing couldn’t have been better, I came across one of Chimamanda Adichie’s recent speeches where she talked about the transformative power of makeup. How hard could this be, right? I’m a smart girl. If a quick swish of the eyeliner is going to help me show that I put a lot of effort into my person, then that’s not too bad!
So, I went to buy myself an eyeliner, only to find out that a good brand – so I could ensure that I didn’t contract allergies and such – cost me as much as a monthly pack of organic walnuts. It was a tough decision, but I went ahead and bought it! Next, I abstained from using it for almost a month because I had no clue what to do with it. So, that marked the beginning of my endless viewing of youtube makeup videos. Turned out that there were levels of expertise when it came to makeup. Some women used as many as 14 products for their morning routine. I was struggling with one product- my eyeliner. After fishing out some helpful beginners’ videos, I think I could confidently say that I KNEW how to use an eyeliner in a most basic manner.
But there was no end in sight to my woes – I noticed that the product ran and smudged! I’d have inadvertent raccoon eyes (which apparently can be a deliberate and tasteful makeup technique too) every 15 minutes and I’d have to keep dabbing around my eyes with tissues. Turns out I’ve deep-set eyes, but the world of makeup artists were miles ahead of me. They’d already found solutions to every possible question- no opportunity for innovation left unturned, I tell ya.
There’s more to this story as I figured out colours and hues that match and compliment different skin tones, and makeup being done to occasion. I can’t really say I’m anywhere close to being well-groomed; there are still days when I step out to work with flyaway hair and a bare face, but at least I’m aware. There is power to grooming and makeup, like Chimamanda pointed out. While I love my bare face, it makes me look younger than I actually am. This is great for when I’m on a vacation or out having fun as it goes with my impulsive friendliness. However, when I am at work, a meeting or networking at a conference, God knows I’d love to be taken more seriously. I finally realize why there are lists made about good-looking female geeks– it’s take effort to put those together!
Curious to find out more about the women’s approach to and philosophy about makeup, I found Thandie Newton’s website, which had a more or less staple questionnaire that she women she found wonderful. One question caught my eye- Did your father refer to your mother’s beauty, and how? That is a such a thoughtful question. Not if you thought your mother was beautiful, not whether you knew how beauty standards are defined. The question suggests that every woman was beautiful in her own right, she has her set of good features, and she might choose to play it up or otherwise. It is important that her partner expresses his appreciation for that which he finds attractive.
Beauty is in no way superficial. It can be mesmerizing, and is known to have launched a thousand ships and thrown heroic men into battle frenzy. Beauty can be mysterious, alluring, deep, and the keeper of secrets. To be told that you’re beautiful is a supreme compliment, an expression of fondness, an allusion to a certain quality of magnetism, an inherent power. If the women in our lives haven’t been told that they’re beautiful, their power lies hidden and unrecognized. They are plagued by low self-esteem and poor confidence in their ability to live lives that conquer curveballs. They are implicitly taught that their only claim to power is through battling it out in the rat race- through rank and status, as trophy wives, as cold dominatrices, and other such archetypes. The roles of wives and motherhood are looked down upon; intuition, deep healing, and care are not recognized as traits that we ‘need’ in the world for meaningful lives, and I believe that we do! This is not to say that a career woman is not living up to her feminine potential, but a mere remark in the belief that if she were one, it would be by choice as opposed to compensating for a perceived lack, or to prove a point to society.
So, ladies everywhere- you be beautiful! And fellas, tell her so. 🙂