As I write today, I’m sat in my usual home attire when I’m having a day of low energy – pyjama bottoms, a t-shirt with a food stain on it and no makeup, I’ve done the basics to keep myself clean and comfortable, washed and moisturised my face, sprayed some antiperspirant but that’s all I have the spoons for today. When I go out, however, and that includes any time I leave the house, even if it’s just going downstairs to Bingo at Memory Loss Manor, I put my face on.
I’ve had a long love affair with makeup, starting when I first went on stage as a tiny dancer. I loved the bright lipstick we had to wear, I felt grown up and pretty, although taking it off at the end of the night with baby lotion was always a drama, that stuff stung your eyes, I still can’t believe makeup remover wasn’t around in the late 80’s/early 90’s! I started wearing it out in my teens as soon as I could get away with it, even shamefully delving into my Mother’s makeup drawer and putting on my contraband after I’d left for school. Most young girls just wore a bit of eye shadow, mascara and lip gloss. Not me, I was so self-conscious about my appearance I was wearing the full shebang by the time I was 16, never leaving the house without foundation, concealer, powder, eyeliner, shadow, bronzer, blusher, mascara & lipstick. I learnt to contour to counter my chubby cheeks, and mastered the eyeliner flick – the ultimate girl challenge according one magazine I read. This soon carried on into my working life, although I did go out barefaced when I commuted by train, using the journey to put my face on, much to my parents’ horror – not the done thing apparently!
Fast forward a few years, and I had a job that was 30 miles away from home where no-one knew me. Only a few days in, I overslept, no time to do my face, and I couldn’t be late whilst I was so new, not for that reason! I took my makeup bag with me and figured I’d slip in and do it in my office before I had to see anyone. When I got there, I had some kind of an epiphany – I didn’t need to put it on. No-one knew me well enough to know that I never went without it so they wouldn’t say anything. I put on just my lipstick, as a compromise, and went on with my day. From that day forward I only wore makeup for social events. I stopped getting up and putting it on when camping with my Cubs (yep, my obsession went that far!), I’d pop to the supermarket without it, not worrying that people would think I was sick if they saw me barefaced, I’d go and visit close friends without it, not feeling anxious about how I looked, friends are friends with or without contoured cheeks and eyeliner flicks right?
By the time I became sick and disabled, this was still my habit. I still loved my make-up, but I only bothered with it on evenings and weekends, the extra 10 minutes in bed had become far more important!
When I came out of hospital last year, my own appearance shocked me. I’d lost a lot of weight, my hair had fallen out in clumps, and I was washed out and harrowed. My first excursion out was to the hairdressers to get my mop sorted, and I immediately reached for my trusty makeup bag to make myself feel better. I didn’t want people to see me and think I was seriously ill, already being in a wheelchair people tend to pity me anyway, so I didn’t need any more of ‘those’ looks.
So it became my norm to start painting my face each time I went out, just as I did in my teens and early 20’s. It might seem like a step backwards, or that I should hand in my feminist card, but right now I need it. When I attend social functions, I’m continually told how well, or good I look, which is lovely of people to say, but it’s all down to the makeup. I come home and don’t want to take it off, because underneath it is the face of a sick person.
Putting it on now is a challenge in itself. With my tremors, my flicks that I was so proud of often end up a mess, or have to be wiped off and redone. Some days I can’t manage eyeliner at all, I’ve even had a little tremors whilst applying lipstick and it’s ended up on my chin or up my nose – I’m not sure that helps to disguise my illness much! The one upside to my life now is that I’m never out for long, so I don’t need to worry about carrying supplies for touch-ups.
I’m lucky that my hair is relatively low maintenance (for me, not my poor hairdresser), it’s curly so as long as I put enough product on it, I can get away with just letting it dry naturally. I have got a hairdryer, but I have to dry my hair in stages as I can’t hold it for long. I don’t think I could be trusted with straighteners, very hot things in the hands of someone who shakes is a recipe for disaster! I can’t do my own nails, see pic below for the result 😂, so I treat myself to gel nails. I need something that can withstand a lot of bashing with lifting and manoeuvring a chair.
I’ve had a couple of negative comments about my use of cosmetics. One person on social media said I was too done up to go to a hospital appointment, and I overheard one of the older ladies at Memory Loss Manor say I was ‘tarted up’, perhaps bright lipstick for Bingo was a bit of overkill, but putting it on felt like a hug from an old friend. Of course if a couple of people have said it, many will have thought it, but I have to shrug that one off, how it makes me feel is far more important that what other people might think. Makeup now is one of my tools to keep my going, it might not be as practically necessary as, say my chair, but if it stops me from looking, and feeling like a sick person for a few hours, then perhaps they should put No7 on prescription!