Au naturel I ain’t… a history of make-up.

17 Dec

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When I was little, my mother and father went out most weekends. I used to sit in the bath, watching Mum apply her make-up in her Chanel-scented en-suite. She never needed foundation, so it was all about the eyes and lips. She’d fill the sink with hot water, place a couple of mascaras in (always carbon black) to ‘warm up’ and then use kohl to define her beautiful big brown eyes. Lipstick was generally pink, her nails were filed into a Faye Dunaway point, in a nude colour usually, and her fingers dripping with rocks. Sublime. The ritual of getting ready fascinated me. I also used to sit in the spare room when we had guests, which must have been unnerving for them, and watch the lady removing and applying make-up. I even used to watch dad applying makeup – bear with me, it was always before a stage performance – and loved the smells of aftershave and soap that wafted around his very speedy routine. So is it any wonder I was into make-up from an early age?!

Obviously at school, make-up was a duck-and-dive option – you would bravely apply a feline slick of eyeliner a la Kate Winslet in Titanic and then duck from the attention of each passing teacher. Nails were an obsession as you could always hide them with your sleeves. I even tried Tip-Ex during an especially boring history class (yes, I know – wrong on all counts). I did my own french manicures, stripes, polka dots and even a very ambitious but slightly uneven plaid.

I could get away with a little more by the time A-levels came around, but I also went to a school where the all-American, sporty look was en vogue, so I was out on my own a bit there. But my real test came at University. The first boy I took a shine to was very outdoorsy – a seasoned snowboarder, traveller and hiker. God knows what drew me to him. He, in turn, attracted a similarly outdoorsy girl – an amazing snowboarder, all natural honey-blonde hair and not a stitch of make-up, of course. I wasn’t letting go that easily though, and persevered with my peacock strut past him wherever possible. It came to a climax in the hall bar one evening, when he had invited me down for a drink and I knew the other girl (we’ll call her ‘Dawn’, since it rhymes with ‘yawn’) would be there ready for him. It was a real dingy, old man’s pub of a place – sweaty, sticky and generally a sea of hoodies and ripped jeans. I knew this, but refused to dress down for it, and never regretted that stance until that fateful evening.

I was around 15 minutes late (due to my lengthly make-up regime) in my ‘subtle’ look (no false lashes), and found ‘Dawn’ flicking her un-straightened flaxen locks all over his rugby shirt. She in hoody, ‘oops-my-pants-are-showing’ jeans and flip-flops. Her greeting? “Grace! Are you going out later? You’ve got so much make-up on!” I ask you, what can you say to that?

1. Screw you, Pollyanna. 

2. At least you can’t see my pants.

3. I’m not wearing any make-up.

I didn’t think of any of  those retorts at the time, just “I like it, it’s fun” while she nonchalantly pinned her hair up with a bloody Bic Biro, and shrugged: “It just takes so much effort, I just floss-and-go.” The much-admired man in the middle of this had the good grace to eye her flossed nether regions as she shifted to reveal a little more white thong, while I struggled to find an answer. I ended up repeating my inane, “I like it, it’s fun.”

Because it’s as simple as that. Maybe I’m not as naturally beautiful as some Alpine-bound, sporty chick who barely stretches to lip balm. Maybe I actually need make-up because of some deep-rooted insecurities about my looks. But either way, I like make-up – it’s fun. And no matter the venue, the company or the state of my face, I will be wearing it and enjoying it forever more, mans or no mans.

Incidentally, I was the luckier of the two of us in that I managed a snog from Mr Outdoorsy. It didn’t blossom into eternal love because I couldn’t do the ski trips, rugby matches and paintballing required, but still he didn’t mind the make-up. And ‘Dawn’? At the end of the semester she swung by my room with a bashful request: “Could I possibly borrow your fake tan?” I ask you, what can you say to that?

1. Screw you, Pollyanna.

2. I haven’t got any, but Immac works in much the same way.

3. I don’t wear fake tan.

Naturally I handed over my Rimmel Sun Shimmer, gloves and all. And I didn’t tell anyone she hadn’t got that dreamy glow on the slopes of Charmonix.


6 Responses to “Au naturel I ain’t… a history of make-up.”

  1. Fashion Limbo December 17, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    Loved this post, very nicely written! i had a similar thing at high school, except I really had no clue how to use make up properly and wasn’t the natural beauty or popular girl, so yes, had a whole bunch of pretty girls walking all over my love interests all the time, but I still remember those years with fondness. Especially when I bump into old friends and they marvel at how different I look, now that I finally know how to style myself and sort of wear make up (“ha!that was easy, did you see me back then? the only way was up!” I almost feel like saying). In my case it was about looking a bit like Alanis Morisette and dressing like Gwen Stefani, just picture the scary combination.

    So yes, Alanis, Gwen and I have indeed come a long way.

    SO great to read about your memories in that way, thanks for sharing!

  2. Jo December 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Absolutely amazing post; beaming smile whilst reading it all the way through.

    Your writing ‘about you’ makes me vision it in my head whilst reading it; sounds like a magical time.

    I always use to watch my friends put on their makeup at school, getting ready to go out etc. Envious I guess as I didn’t have any/wasn’t really allowed makeup when I was younger. It was my Dad that introduced me to makeup when I ask for some one Christmas, I was always intrigued by makeup, it was so girlie and my Dad was always one to mention a girl should wear makeup and smell Divine.
    Dragging him to Superdrug he couldn’t quiet bare it, so… he took me to the Chanel Counter at the age of 16 and said “This is how you should wear makeup” – now that was a magical time and I’ve never looked back.

    Thank you for sharing this.


    • The Three Graces December 18, 2010 at 11:34 am #

      So nice to have those memories1 Thanks for your comment x

  3. Emily December 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    What a lovely post. I wish I had known you at university, much to my chagrin I did not discover bronzer or fake tan until after my uni days. Thankfully digital cameras and facebook did not really take off until the end of my uni days either so there are not so many shameful pics floating around the internet!

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