I had forgotten what it was like to have someone watching your every move, a little someone taking in the world excitedly because there's a new person in the environment. Kids have an interesting way of looking at the world, and I loved hearing all about this five-year-old's musings on everything happening around her. What's leading me to write today are just a few minutes I spent with her while I was hurriedly trying to get myself ready to leave for a reading one evening.
I'm rifling through my suitcase and trying to locate my make-up. When I do, I throw it all in a pile on the bed and hover near the gold framed mirror on the wall to begin a quick, five minute makeover session.
My small friend is looking for me, calling my name, and when she finds me, she stands beside me, looking up. Admittedly, I am not paying a whole lot of attention to her at first, but as she chatters on about how we still have to go to the park (which we never do, and now I owe her for life), she grows silent, causing me to look down. Peering up at me through her thick eyelashes, dark against her baby skin, she asks, "Marissa, what are you doing?"
"Putting on make-up," I reply, turning back to the mirror.
"I know what that is," she says.
"Yes," the little girl nods, and the earnest way she is taking all this in just kills me. She's a bright and serious kid. Momentarily, I wonder what kind of impact little actions and situations like these leave on kids like her. Is she going to forever remember this exchange, or will it be something that never crosses her mind again? She dances at my side, hopping from foot to foot. "Do you need one of these things?" She holds up eyeshadow.
"Nope," I tell her, "I already used that. Can you hand me the black stick one?"
She takes a moment and surveys the scattered collection of cylinders and squares and carefully selects the eyeliner I want, laying it gingerly across my fingers.
I pull the cap off, glance at my phone for the time, and quickly begin to line my eyes in black.
"Why are you putting make-up on?" Her little voice asks.
I stop for a moment. I want to tell her that I'm not putting it on. That I never used to put it on. That I hope she never does it herself. But I don't know what to say. There's so much ground to cover here.
Instead of any of that, I tell her, "Because I like the way it looks."
It's not a lie. I do. I like the way make-up erases the hours I don't sleep. I like the way it changes me. I wish I didn't. When I first started wearing make-up, it was only for special occasions. That's what my mom did, so that's what I did, too. Otherwise, my face was always naked--nearly all the way through college. When conversations arose regarding mascara and bronzer, I often remarked that I just didn't know how to use it. That wasn't a lie. But really, I had sworn make-up off early on. I felt like make-up itself was a lie. I feel like it is a lie. I didn't want to be the kind of person who'd show up to school one day without it on and make everyone do double-takes. It wasn't me. But it was. It is. My make-up routine is minimal, and I don't wear it every day, and I won't touch foundation with a ten-foot pole, but I'm in the liars club now. That I can't lie about.
The five-year-old is quiet for a moment again. She's quiet, but she's not still. The child is never still; she's always filled with an energy that keeps her body in a state of perpetual motion, an energy that knots her hair so badly by the end of the day that when she hands her mom the hairbrush for her nightly de-tangling session, she automatically covers her eyes, claiming that she's going to try not to cry very loud.
Then she says, "I don't put on make-up. I don't need to."
I want to clap. Cheer. Scoop her up and hug her. Tell her not to bow to all the stupid societal standards of beauty. Someone has been telling her the right things.
I say, "You're right. You don't need to. Not at all." I look down at her, and we exchange smiles. "I can wear Chapstick, but only when my lips are dry. Only when I go to sleep."
I wear make-up when I go to sleep because I am too lazy to wipe it off.
I pat the top of the little girl's head, feeling the knots beneath my fingers, the knots her mother will fight through later, the same knots that will cause tears to stain her otherwise perfect apple cheeks.
The conversation devolves from there, but I am still thinking about what she's said, long after I've hugged her and her quite naked Hello Kitty goodbye.