Just a little more. There. No, no, wait. Just one more daub of powder. Stand back, smile. No, it still needs more. More, more, more. Pile on the layers. Hide what you are. Make yourself attractive. The magic’s in the makeup. Before she knows it, she has turned herself into a grotesque clown-drag queen hybrid. The eyeshadow had been placed too heavily on each lid, and so far over that it had gotten onto the bridge of her nose, forming a navy blue unibrow. She blinked at herself, as though staring long enough at the final product might suddenly make it look better. Alas, it did not.
She was suddenly overcome with a sense of overwhelming ugliness. She reached for her nearby makeup cleanser and poured it onto a tissue that she swiftly wiped with furor all across her face, removing the entire mask with an urgency typically reserved for trying to achieve an orgasm under the time constrictions of employing a prostitute. But it was important that she start over again. That she make herself look beautiful before going out into the world where, granted, no one really looked at anyone anymore but also where she feared that she might catch one wrong glance in her direction indicating that said person thought she was hideous. She had to–needed to–be beautiful. Of course, at the same time, she absolutely despised when people looked at her. It vexed her to no end. Who the fuck were they, after all, to lay eyes on her? At times, she felt she was too ugly for this earth, but then when she assessed the average passerby, she had to wonder how they themselves could be so comfortable in their own flagrantly unattractive skin. As though they never thought about how utterly unsightly they were to others. But no, it was as though they went about their lives totally unaffected by just how physically revolting they were.
That people could leave their house without covering their dark circles or their pimples or bedecking their eyelids in the essential armor of concealer and eyeshadow was anathema to her. How did they do it? What was the secret? She knew she could never spare her life the countless hours upon hours spent on perfecting her face. Making it “just so” in order to present a version of herself to others that would be palatable. Meanwhile, she was finding it difficult to resist the urge to shatter all of her palettes against the mirror, heaving all of them at that odious reflection of herself. Cracking them into enough dendritic pieces to no longer recognize herself any longer. Shatter the image, shatter the imprisonment to it.
In the end, that’s what she decided to do after the second failed application of her makeup in a manner that was satisfying to her. She couldn’t stand the disappointment any longer, the flare-up of rage via self-hate that was more intense than any gonorrheaic burn. If she had to feel it for another day, another second, she would go mad with the unshakeable disease of her self-loathing. It was thus that she proceeded to break every neatly packed square of powder, every brush, every mirror in compact form into pieces. As many little pieces as she felt she had been broken into by the pressures of society’s and her own expectations. The expectation to be more, the most. But she had to admit to herself once and for all that she wasn’t. That she really ought to just surrender to the other extreme of societal acceptance: being completely banal in her ugliness. In this way, she would no longer draw scrutiny of any kind. The scrutiny that drove her toward the cliff’s edge of insanity every time she felt she wasn’t living up to demands. Which was, of course, constantly.
So fuck it. Fuck it all. She would give in to the other spectrum of existence. The one that plain and ordinary people seemed so content and complacent with. They with their solid color clothing and “fresh-faced” aesthetic. For why bother putting on makeup when there was no way to enhance that which was not special to begin with?
She despised the phrase “just working with what the good Lord gave me.” That’s what she would hear every Sunday at church when she was met with the biddy parade of middle-aged women who had applied the requisite pancake makeup to look their best for Jesus. But wasn’t Jesus supposed to love all of his “children” no matter how unsightly? It was the first contradiction that stood out to her about the message of Christianity (though, of course, she was well-aware there were many others). And one that made her turn away from her mother, the party responsible for forcing her to these weekly sermons on damnation and hellfire, all the more. Her ex-beauty queen mother, constantly side-eyeing her daughter as though to make doubly certain this was what had come out of her womb. This “plain Jane” beacon of lackluster allure.
It wasn’t that she was precisely hideous–no visible scars or birthmarks or even overweightness–but she was such a forgettable face in the crowd (even when her drag queen-clown makeup took hold). It was in direct contrast to her mother’s own striking beauty. The kind that made people stop in the street, regardless of whether it was a small town or a large city, to compliment her or ask her if she was famous. She would, without fail, entertain their questions and, if they were men, obsequious “banter,” even if, just five minutes before, she had chastised her daughter for “lollygagging.” It was, thus, early on that she had developed an obsession with blurring her actual self from the self that proved too blurry for her mother (or anyone else) to notice.
After she had expended all of her energy upon the destruction of what she formerly believed were her tools of empowerment, she sat in the middle of the wreckage of that glass and powder, smearing some of it onto her face before leaving the apartment looking as though she had just exited from a Holi celebration. No one on the street appeared to notice, begging the question: why had she–why do we–put so much time and money into beautification when the only time people truly look at anyone (other than themselves and if at all) is on the internet?