A Rant on the Make-Up Aisle

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.

Nesha Usmani