I’m Learning to Love You

Zadie is 17. She's from Melbourne, and loves to write. She's also fond of glitter, to-do lists, books, film, TV, fashion and art.

By Zadie Mccracken, February 5, 2019

I’m Learning to Love You Image

Makeup, to me, was always just messy and undervalued.

While many people feel uncomfortable without makeup on, I always felt uncomfortable with it on, as if it exposed me in some unprecedented way, as though I was hiding something, hiding how I really looked, the real me.

I remember watching my younger girl cousins paint their skin with lip gloss and blush and feeling so alone in my disinterest. Despite my indifference, I felt a pressure to conform. As a tween I wished desperately that I had learnt how to apply mascara or lipstick, how to wing eyeliner (still have no idea), how to blend foundation. I wished, too, that one day I would actually want to wear make-up, that one day I would feel good with it on.

I watched and worshipped beauty gurus like Zoella and hoped I would reach a time in my life when I had a “daily makeup routine”, and drawers full of bronzers, eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, foundation. I wanted to fit in, and to enjoy make-up, to enjoy this thing which I feared so deeply, but which seemed so essentially, intrinsically, importantly feminine.

When I hit fourteen there was a shift; I came to resent the beauty standards I couldn’t conform to, and dismissed beauty as a shallow, empty idea, not something a smart girl like me should be worried about! I repressed all my complex feelings about makeup, and turned to white-hot anger. I longed to ask questions of make-up – why don’t I love you? Is it me that’s wrong? Why don’t I want you? – to speak to it and understand it in some way, but I hated makeup too, the way it made me feel. As though without it I was incomplete, unsuccessful, not a “real” woman.

It’s only very recently that I’ve let go of some of that anger and hurt. I’m now navigating a new relationship with makeup, one in which I can be playful, indulgent, have fun. One in which I am not afraid of beauty, of femininity, of blush and bronzer. One in which I can feel confident and comfortable with, or without make-up.

I still don’t wear it much, but I adore mascara and a red lip! And all I would say to make-up now is: I am learning. I am learning how to live with you. I am learning how to love you.

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