A disclaimer – I am not a makeup-freak. I set my limit to the point of looking presentable. But I did have an obsession over cosmetics and makeup items which was hard to get over. It took me unlearning of the conventional idea of beauty, and a vigorous reassurance of my inner strength.
Recently, I came across a surprising piece of information in an article on women's makeup essentials – a woman uses seven makeup items daily on an average. I thought it must be an exaggeration! Then I counted the items I use on a daily basis, and to my surprise again, I was wrong!
Yes, some women love to put on makeup. And how far one would indulge in this always depends on their financial abilities or biological attributes.
Thanks to a plethora of available makeup tutorials, especially on YouTube, every woman has some basic ideas on makeup nowadays.
My first introduction to a makeup article was a lipstick – a particular item in my mother's makeup kit. Obviously, she was unwilling to share such an adult item with her 10-year-old daughter. But eventually, she surrendered to her nagging child.
The first time I put on a lipstick was to get in the same line with my older cousins – which was a disaster. The colour was extremely unflattering and I became the centre of mocks and jeers the next couple of days.
To cope up with such childhood bullying was not a very easy task. It affected me so badly that I did not resume using makeups till I felt confident about my mastery over the task.
But the complicacies of a beauty standard had more puzzling surprises for me. I have a fair complexion. An unforeseen fact, the colour of my skin became my only identity to people.
In my early childhood, people around me discussed how fortunate I was to have such a heavenly skin-tone. They used to say that "you would never need any makeup." And I felt shy for being luckier than others.
But as I grew up, being fair-skinned got me bullied. Quite contradictory to the message I received in my childhood about being fortunate on having a fair skin! Some people would casually remark, "Ohh, she is just a fair-skinned girl with not so much of a remarkable face." My flat nose and wide forehead made me a recipient of generous criticism.
These unasked for, undesirable comments subconsciously, yet actively, pressurised me into feeling that I am not beautiful. How sad!
The mockery does not end there. People surrounding me had high hopes regarding my marriage into a very wealthy and prestigious family – owing to my fair skin. Well, that didn't happen – making me more conscious of my physical beauty.
At the university, bottles of sunscreen disappeared into my skin failing to protect the fairness. Perhaps that was the time I grew more conscious about being beautiful.
My prime expense was the money spent on facewash, sunscreen, face-powder, cream, kajol, lipstick, body lotion and so on. Cosmetics consumed me. Just like me, perhaps, many women of my generation and the generations afterwards have been struggling with the expectations of looking beautiful.
Let me talk about an 'enemy' to "feminine beauty". There are very few women who did not fight against pimples – the ultimate nightmare. A mere pimple on the cheek can get a woman to sulk into depression. Pimples pop up like a shameless creature on the surface breaking your cosmetic firewall. And eventually, they prove all your expensive cosmetics worthless. It requires an audit firm to calculate the money I spent on cosmetics just to fight my pimples!
However, in the later part of my young adulthood, I realised neither my fair skin nor my snub nose registered my identity. And they had little contribution in shaping my fortune.
Another disclaimer – I am not here to preach what a woman should do because I am well aware of the inner beauty and vulnerabilities of a woman. And I fathomed how useless makeup items are in making a woman, or anyone as a matter of fact, beautiful.
What depresses me these days is women's tendency to indulge in excessive makeup and their over consciousness about being beautiful. Although beauty does not have any fixed definition or standards – simplicity and authenticity should be two vital parts of it.
I am not against the use of makeup. Rather, I am against the concept of having to look beautiful all the time. If you do not have a perfectly soft silky hair, it is okay. If your kajol gets mashed, it is fine. If you don't feel like putting on lipstick, that is simply a choice. And if there are pimples, you can let them be there in peace!
Now, in my mid-thirties, whenever I look into the mirror, I feel that I am beautiful. It is not because I am fair-skinned or because I really master the art of putting on makeup. But because I've internalised that being beautiful is just the confidence a woman gathers through her education, experiences, and a feeling of comfort about being herself.
I can look into people's eyes and can deny the deep-rooted orthodox idea of categorised beauty. I still put on lipstick, and unlike my childhood, I do so with mastery. But I don't allow my lipstick to define my personality.