Make up, watch and be watched

A few years ago, I went to one of those dermatologists who do “aesthetics” in addition to health, hoping that she would fix my rosacea and recommend some kind of treatment for the dark circles under my eyes, something that girls I knew were starting to do I do and that I had also started to try, something with end needles, laser, these procedures that at some point in recent history we decided to call non-invasive. He told me that I didn’t have rosacea, despite what I had read on the internet, just sensitive skin, for which he could recommend some things, and that for the genetic dark circles I’ve had since I was little, he recommended a “good concealer”. I went home thinking that this woman must think I’m funny, and rightly so, seeking to be injected with some strange substance without ever having tried the oldest trick of femininity. A beauty obsessed who doesn’t wear makeup: that was me. The fixation remains, but now I put on makeup.

I remembered that day about reading Fictional: An Essay on the World and their shadows, by Daphne B., a Canadian writer who is almost my age and whose name I had never heard until the publishing house Blatt y Ríos decided to publish it in a translation by Cecilia Pavon. The cover is attractive: it has a picture of its author, a beautiful girl with pink hair and the most elaborate eyeliner. cat eye that I have seen. Daphne B. is a poet, and it shows: her essays, in which makeup occupies a privileged place as a subject and above all as a language and territory, have the intelligence of a person who can think beyond the moralizing of life, but without naivety. The talent of someone who knows how to write without apology: this is the talent of poets.

Reading Daphne B. I understand that I went to the dermatologist to look for a solution that wasn’t makeup because I had a moralized view of makeup: makeup as a lie, lying as something inherently bad. Makeup as wired, impermanent solution: impermanence as intrinsically evil. Makeup as a shortcut used by the uncommitted, makeup as a cheap way, the wrong way for a responsible millennial. I say millennial because I know it’s a generational thing: today it’s ugly to “paint like a neck,” but these same people who wouldn’t paint like a neck have botox or hyaluronic fillers. Today’s divas pride themselves on not using foundation as if it’s more “natural”; I guess it would be if having “perfect” skin was something you could get without all the time and money it actually takes to get it. I’m not against either way: today I do both, make up and treat myself as much as is desirable, possible and affordable. But it amuses me that the makeup conversation is such a representative geography of the ethics of a given moment, of the way we’re taught that the most healthy Y responsible Y commendable it is invest in the future, in treatments that last, not in plain paintings. Of course, this is also a classy solution: pinturitas are cheaper, and the cheaper they are, the more artificial they look. Then, Daphne B.’s fascination with small colored shadows is quite countercultural in a certain sense; I say this sheepishly, as someone who has three identical palettes, in earth tones and pink.

Daphne B. travels in the world of consumption with an awareness of all that this world finances and produces (environmental destruction, exploitative jobs, anxiety disorders), but also tries to think beyond that, in the dimension of pleasure, of that the irrevocable pleasure of building shopping carts on the Internet, opening a new lipstick that has just arrived at your place, learning that precise eyeliner that she knows how to do and I don’t. Daphne B. knows, though she doesn’t necessarily make it as explicit as I do, that the morality of modern consumerism is full of holes: that in addition to the fact that our concept of natural beauty is worth millions of make-believe, all those girls who assume you’re buying “little , but good” They have a lot more clothes than you do. It’s good that he doesn’t do it explicitly like me: his game is not that, his game is to play, to navigate these truths as someone who sees them and lets them pass so that the fun never ends. I also like that the idiotic question of painting yourself “for others” or painting yourself “for yourself” doesn’t come into the question, as if one really knows how to distinguish between what is for others and what is is for yourself: as if these were really so bad, do things to be seen.

One last memory brought back to me by Daphne B.: a phrase from friend to friend, “look and be seen,” which I took for granted. In his lyrics, which are about everything from the Internet to sex to Elon Musk and Grimes to his grandfather being killed in a land mine to fucking sociologists who use Marxist rhetoric but no condoms, makeup works as a way to explore this: that overwhelming desire to be seen, to look in the mirror and outline a mouth that breaks all hearts, that desire that Daphne B. refuses—which I refuse with her—to think of it as a pathology or a sin, as a problem that something or someone must come to fix.

TT

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