I don’t like this culture.
Hate is a strong word.
But, you know what?
I hate it.
I hate this culture,
And the way I feel ugly,
all the time, when I walk past
the shiny, white, reflecting, colorful
make-up section in front of the main mall.
Why is it there anyway?
Right before I leave the quiet, department store atmosphere
and cross-over into the wide, spacious, bustling mall…
Why does it have to be there?
All of those perfect, pretty, female attendants
with their flawless skin and rouge and perfect eye make-up.
I look at them from the corner of my eye,
hating the way I feel almost ashamed
to go up and inquire about blushes and liners
and lipsticks and mascara and whatnot.
I hate the way I feel inadequate and kind of guilty
at having avoided this quicksand of femininity.
Looking at the magnified mirrors…
I see an exaggerated reflection of my features.
Too many blemishes to count.
Scars built up over the years.
I even see the beginnings of some wrinkles.
My nose looks strange.
My lips, chin, cheeks…
I can’t even look.
My eyebrows. Lord.
But then I wonder what those women look like
under all of that foundation, all of that color.
(It’s called make-up because it’s made up)
I imagine this one woman.
She’s Asian. Gorgeous.
She’s picked a beautiful melon-colored blush
it fades beautifully at the edges.
Her lips are red and plump
and her eyes are dark and smoky.
She looks like she’s done this billions of times
before finding the right look, and just maybe
she’s going to do it a billion more times.
I compare my own face.
No blush, no foundation, no lipstick,
Heck, I even forgot my Chapstick.
But I did remember to put some eyeliner on
and I sort of let my hijab handle the rest (even though it doesn’t).
I wonder what this woman thought
what started her routine
why she feels the need to look that pretty,
why I feel like a completely different species
when I see her.
I wonder what she looks like when she washes it off,
I wonder if under all of that stuff she’s actually
really tired, really imperfect,
and not so dewy.
I wonder what her husband is like
if he prefers her looking like a Singaporean airline hostess,
or if he loves it when she dresses down and makes gooey mac-and-cheese,
Her hair tied up like she doesn’t care one way or another,
her face free of made-up make-up,
And when she puts her arms around him to give him a hug,
Maybe her shirt rides up and reveals something
that surprises us all: a belly.
Not flat, not muscular, but,
you know, a belly.
Her husband wraps his arms around her so tightly and lowers
his nose to her hair, and inhales like his wife is his breath of life.
She smiles so brightly that the crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes
appear, and the happiness is so evident in her face
that you don’t even want to look
and you don’t even remember the mall-version of her.
And it’s so beautiful, it makes me want to shut down that
make-up aisle forever.
Don’t worry, ladies! I’ll say, don’t worry.
When you see that love overcomes
all of this stuff…this made-up make-up,
I’ll re-open this place,
And you can buy lipstick with the right intentions.