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Mascara - to Mask OR to Marvel?


There was a line on London’s underground underneath a few make-up items which read “A whole new way to mask in 90 seconds” .

Which prompted a pondering; make up - - What does it really mean to us women? Is it a confidence giver, a camouflage trickster, weapon to seduce or tool to recluse? A cure for insecurity, tonic for anxiety or antidote for timidity?

Might we be wearing make-up as an aid to try and look younger, thinner and sexier?

Are we concerned that a man may not accept us unless we are all glitzy, ritzy, bright and shiny, nails varnished, hair polished, eyelashes extended and blemishes concealed?

Whatever the reason from this pool of assortment, one thing is certain - - - we are increasingly and at large using make up to mask as opposed to marvel. Here is what I’ve witnessed:

Scene: London underground commuter’s train, morning rush hour. Protagonists: 4 women different ages, stages, colours, shapes and forms. Action: Full on make-up session. Yep, with all the bobbing up and down, Newton’s laws of motion in full swing, train speeding, breaks squeaking and passengers observing, the carriage resembles a beauty parlour rather than a means of transport with the added bonus of free audience.

Increasingly, women can be spotted applying makeup whilst texting, walking, talking, eating and checking out the beauty in the car next to them. Buses and trains make-up sessions before alighting for work destination have been around for a while. But there is a newer, more unfamiliar ‘trend’ on the block - - make up sessions in cars, mostly at traffic lights but also whilst in motion too, plus when standing and even walking on escalators. Talking of safety hazards!

One gets a sense of a feeling of anxiousness amongst some passenger observers particularly of the opposite gender when mascara, essentially a small fairly sharp brush is used so close to a part of the body that is super delicate and sensitive where all that’s needed is an abrupt jolt, sudden break, a stumble….for the white of the eye to be robbed of its purity…

On the other hand, it is impressive how these ladies manage not to look like a toddler who has just figured out how to open mum’s make-up bag and is hopelessly mimicking her normally careful movements whilst applying lipstick, mascara and blusher (all in one) in an open, free style manner. Credit to these women for the skills, for I normally struggle to highlight a few words in a book I might be reading on a train or a bus, without going above or under the designated area, let alone attending to each eyelash with any precision.

And so one wonders whatever happened to those Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn days when each morning and evening women sat in front of the dressing table, gently, lovingly and deliberately brushing their hair, marvelling each movement and tenderly applying cream, make up and perfume before embracing the day or settling down for the night? Where have they gone and what have we done with the good ol’ days? Something tells us there were no demands then for a 90 seconds masking job!

There is something much deeper behind this make-up-on-the-go shift, and its solely mechanical execution of what we still might be referring to as a beauty routine, which calls for a stop moment. All of us.

Questions that naturally arise are:

  • How have we choreographed our lives in a way where we allegedly don’t have ‘time’ to apply make up in the comfort of our own home before leaving for work, meetings, rendezvous etc…and…

  • What is it that we’d much rather not see if we were to sit still in front of the mirror?

  • Are we not worthy of those brief but precious moments in front of the mirror every morning?

A moment to treasure and make space for. A daily opportunity to be with you, to marvel all that lies under the skin, beneath the eyelid and underneath the lipstick. An opportunity to practice cherishing, admiring and appreciating oneself.

If we are avoiding the moments of stillness at home, what choices are we not liking that are staring us back in that mirror the ones we’d rather conceal (pun intended) and instead we’d prefer to be looking into a small hand held mirror, often even an iPhone, rushing, on the go, distracted by all the commotion around us. Is it because we might be seeing less of what we are avoiding? So when we sit down at night before bed time what are we effectively cleansing, toning and moisturising; the hangovers, the sleepless nights, the rotten relationships, the dishonouring, the self-abuse, self-bashing, the unworthiness we hold onto and allow to fester, the jealousy, comparison etc etc ….? Is it possible that we can actually see more in the mirror than what we are prepared to be honest about?

What if it is not the actual facial or body features that should be making a statement about ourselves, but what if instead it is what lies deep within our eyes and beneath the lips, hips, cheekbones and chins? All that communicates all that we are.

What if the most effective mascara, blusher, eye shadow and lipstick money can buy are not to be found behind any counter. Not even on anyone’s face. Not anywhere where the eye can see. Rather what if they are the long-forsaken treasures that all reside on the inside.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – R.W. Emerson

We say what matters is what we see and not how the world perceive us. We say as long as one feels good on the inside, you can look beautiful without any makeup. Women and in particular our young girls are receiving mixed messages. On one hand, we are encouraging positive body image, to love who we are, yet on the other, the marketing industry loads us with makeup, and all manners of accessories to turn us into someone we are not.

And yet, all the make-up in the world cannot and does not make a difference if we don’t care deeply for ourselves and make self-loving choices that are the best foundation for any make up to follow. “Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.” – Shakespeare

Although the outer props (make up included) may temporarily alleviate any tension we feel for not wearing our heart on our sleeve, in other words for not living who we truly are, it is a band-aid that doesn’t stick and not for long at all. And so we have built a culture where self-criticism is rife where many women would claim it’s what keeps them in line, a culture that communicates being hard on yourself is the way to be, where we overvalue what we are not and undervalue what we truly are. And yet, in all of this, the only person pulling us down is the very same person who is responsible to take us up, remove ball and chain so that we are to take off. It is us.

In truth, being truthful is attractive. Being sweet, sensitive and tender with yourself is attractive. Knowing and claiming the worth of what you already have on the inside is attractive. Treasuring yourself and not settling for anything that is less than the jewel you already are is very attractive.

When we make the aforementioned our norm once again it is easy to go back to using make up to confirm us in our innate beauty instead of using it to mask our not so loving and even loathsome choices. Making connection to our inner beauty has to be our main make up of choice, which would crush down the assault course we have built to keep us away from the Love we hold within.

For all the make up in the world does not and cannot touch nor change the purity of our heart and soul on the inside.


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