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I’ve been separated from one of my most faithful companions for about a month — my makeup bag.
I haven’t done much traveling outside the state in the past few weeks, but my makeup has been on quite a journey. After driving my dad’s car for a few days once he took off for the good life in Las Vegas, I had the car placed on a truck and shipped out west to him, with my makeup securely placed in the trunk. I don’t wear it every day, so it took a couple of days before I noticed it was gone. But once I noticed, the absence of it in my life loomed.
I guess I could’ve bought a new cosmetics arsenal, but it has taken me years and considerable expense to find the products that work best for me. I knew I was going to need my dad to mail it back, but since he was still getting settled and adjusting to his new schedule and time zone, it would be a while before it made its way to me. So, I had no choice but to go without.
One of the first things I noticed was how self-conscious I had become of my imperfections and my age. While I’ve never been a daily user, it felt good to be able to pull out a product and instantly mask whatever flaw was bothering me that day. For the past month, I’ve had no choice but to go out in public without the mask. Beyonce may have bent the truth a bit when she said it, but, other than cleanser and moisturizer, I really did wake up like this.
As a proud womanist, I was disappointed in myself about how hard it was to show my unadorned face to the world. I was especially disappointed because I’ve done it so often, but up until now, it was always on my terms. It has taken a few more morning hype jams on my playlist, a few more positive affirmations and a few more recitations of Psalm 139:14 (“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well”) to get me out the door and face the day.
Between my bare face and the weight I’ve gained over the past year or so, my self-esteem has taken a hit. At least with makeup, I could draw attention away from my expanding figure on days when I felt particularly frumpy. Now, it’s all there as-is, and nothing measures up to society’s glamazon standards for women.
But in this time, something beautiful has taken place — freedom. I haven’t had to worry about smearing my face when I’m conducting an interesting interview and lean in with my hands on my face. I haven’t had to wonder if my makeup was melting when walking around with four generations of a local farming family. I’ve been able to give the experiences of my work and my life 100 percent of the attention they deserve. When I’ve met new people over the past month, they’ve been more apt to ask me about my marriage than my mascara.
When people have told me I’m beautiful, I’ve been more inclined to actually believe it. I don’t wonder if they would think me beautiful if they saw the circles under my eyes or lack of rosiness in my complexion. They see me, and possibly something within me. I’ve never been able to accept compliments graciously. Now, knowing that people are seeing me as God made me, I do.
I also realized that despite my initial fears, I have walked out my door and survived every single day that I haven’t had my makeup. Some days, I even thrived.
Wednesday was one of those thriving days. I turned 39, and I saw that I was everything 29-year-old me hoped I’d be at the end of this decade. I am smart, loving, beautiful, vibrant, family-focused, artsy, geeky, and I get to write about it. And none of that has anything to do with what is or is not on my face.
My makeup is scheduled to be delivered today, and I look forward to its return because sometimes getting all glammed up is just fun. But, I love what I’ve learned about myself this month, and I had to capture this version, the best version, of me for posterity. I think 29-year-old me would approve.
LaMonique Hamilton Barnes is a reporter and copy editor for The Wilson Times. She blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.