Why are you putting crayon on your face?

Regular train-travellers – and therefore habitual Metro readers – will be aware of the following two things: 1) that women often do their make-up on the way to work, and 2) that some other people inexplicably find this thoroughly objectionable, and like to kick off about it via the pages of the free newspapers.

(On the subject of the Metro and the Evening Standard, does anyone agree that they should have a “Commuter Soundtrack” feature? They could get people to text/e-mail/tweet the songs that get them through their journeys to work, to give the rest of us some ideas. Personally I find “Radio Nowhere” by Bruce Springsteen and “Rock the Casbah” by The Clash – duh – are my Monday morning tracks of choice. Oh, and if anyone takes this and pitches it to one of the aforementioned papers, I will kill you.)

As I was saying. Seeing women do their make-up on the train is a pretty common occurrence, and it mystifies me when people get all haughty about it. Frankly, I’m impressed at both their unselfconsciousness and their steady-handedness. This morning I saw a girl successfully apply liquid eyeliner on the train. I nearly asked her to do my make-up too.

Personally I don’t do my face on the train, but that’s because I’m a freak and absolutely hate people watching me do my make-up. Sometimes if my ex was getting impatient while waiting for me to get ready to go out, he’d come and lurk behind me in the bathroom, so I could see him in the mirror. It was really bloody off-putting, and didn’t result in me being ready any quicker – the only thing he achieved was having an eyeliner pencil or something chucked at him in petulant protest. Or, on bad days, some tweezers.

Having said that, it is kind of fascinating watching someone do their make-up. As a girl, I’m curious about what products and techniques other girls use (my best friend and I spend ages in Boots, literally every time we see each other. Clarins vs. Clinique? If only we could afford Chanel… Best mascara for volume and length? It’s like we don’t have an MA and an MPhys between us). I can see why boys remain curious and perplexed by the whole “changing our faces” process. A girl I know was asked, “Why are you putting crayon on your face?” by a male friend as they got ready for a night out. Well, as she got ready and he lurked, I should imagine.

And it kind of is an odd concept. Most men I know just get up, shower, perhaps faff about with their hair a bit and then go. (The Boy has it down to a fine art, let me tell you. Never fails to make me laugh with his head-banging move that apparently gets the curls to fall in exactly the right way.) Most girls I know spend at least some time on their faces – whether it’s just a bit of eyeliner and mascara, or the full works. It’s kind of weird that most women don’t go out to work, or wherever, with their natural bare face. I certainly don’t, but years of teenage skin will do that to you. I know I look better with make-up. A bit of blusher can give some definition to otherwise Cabbage Patch Kid cheeks. Eyeliner, eyelash curlers (I felt like I’d qualified as a woman when I mastered those) and mascara can make unremarkable eyes super-expressive. And foundation and concealer can transform “God, I look like death, if it was a bit shiny and had spots on its chin” into “Well, don’t I look naturally flawless?” If it wasn’t for foundation, I’d probably have never got laid.

I’m not a fan of looking like I’m wearing a lot of make-up though. A guy in the office where I work – when I can get there, not looking at anyone in particular, Southern Rail – said to me that he thought I didn’t wear any make-up, “except maybe on your eyes, a bit”. After I’d finished laughing, I took it as a massive compliment. Having waxed lyrical about the benefits of make-up, it’s going to sound a bit odd to say I don’t like anything that looks fake. False eyelashes, false nails, fake tan – I don’t want any of these. I had to have a spray tan not that long ago (don’t ask), and didn’t enjoy having an orange face. In the slightest. A Benefit girl once ambushed me in Boots and did my face for me. It was all going well until she cracked out the blusher. Long story short, I walked away whimpering “no-one blushes orange” and vowing to shun all Benefit counters forevermore.

But it’s not about fakery, or not liking how you look – it’s about confidence, and emphasising your good bits, and covering the bits you aren’t so fond of. Looking like you, only even better. I could make some attempt at being deep and say something about living in a society where the pressure to look good, all the time, can be relentless, but that kind of takes the fun out of things. And to be honest, the only pressure I get about looking a certain way comes from my mother:

“You’re glowing today, darling.”
“I’m what? No, I’m just wearing blusher.”
“Oh, that’s why you don’t look like an anaemic blonde Goth for a change.”

Thanks, Mum.

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