Day 9: Putting on mascara now constitutes a task on my to-do list

I always imagined that if I was cast away on a desert island, I would relish being away from the misogynistic undertones of mascara. Coveting a voluminous fan of long eyelashes – while a functional and beneficial accessory on a windswept and sandy isle – I know is a latent hangover from patriarchy of the silent movie variety. That golden era where women were plucked and starved and corseted to within an inch of their lives and yet still expected to be satisfied with simpering one-liners and a lot of either timid looking down or saucy gazing up. Did I say silent movie era? I meant Fox News casting. Lol.

It’s only taken me over a decade to properly put this theory to the test and I would like to report that this is a downright lie, used as Goebbels-style propaganda to, I suspect, fuel their strict uniform agenda and keep the nuns happy.

Being freed from the weight of this constant friction between expectation and inadequacy, I envisioned to be liberating, a radical awakening of a self that would never again waste precious minutes that could be spent writing poetry, fermenting kimchi, executing a badass yogi crow pose, or making an elderly neighbour a batch of vegan cupcakes “just because”. I thought it would bring me to a version of selfhood that would NOT wilfully throw away minutes trying to twirl my eyelashes into upturned, umbrella-ed perfection for honestly no good reason. This (this of course being newfound happiness in a makeup free life, if you, like me, got lost on that tangent) THIS, as it turns out, was completely unrealistic.

You see, when I imagined my makeup-less self on this island, I realise now it was through the lens of a filter and the wayward new phenomenon of a “no makeup” makeup look that, in my opinion, could give Keith Barry a run for his money in terms of optical illusions. I assumed that in taking away the unguents and powders, this island would equally take away the “flaws” that necessitated their existence: the gammy complexion, eruption of recidivous acne, unexceptional eyes. Essentially, I thought I would turn into Gwyneth Paltrow or Alicia Keys or one of these completely unattainable paragons of unaddled beauty. After two weeks in quarantine, I can now confirm this is not true.

And thus I would like to sue my secondary school principal, SPHE teacher, and every other female member of staff who tried to convince us that going a mere three days without makeup would improve our skin. It’s only taken me over a decade to properly put this theory to the test and I would like to report that this is a downright lie, used as Goebbels-style propaganda to, I suspect, fuel their strict uniform agenda and keep the nuns happy.

For the first time in what feels like 73 years, I put on real clothes, a smidgen of foundation, a brush of highlighter, a brisk comb of mascara.

My skin is, if anything, getting worse. Every day I wake up to a new mountain range, a new blemish insulting me with its bald stare in the bathroom mirror, a new chin to marvel at and slap in moments of boredom and thus cause a swinging avalanche, a pendulum wobble or earth-shattering proportions.

Your skin does not define you, I tell myself, trying hard to ignore every other adage that tells me otherwise. And then, true to every urban dweller now shunned to the ether of rural remote working, I hop on a Zoom call where, as an inherent narcissist, my eye is consistently and uncontrollably drawn to my own, increasingly haphazard and minutely more decrepit image.

Yesterday I reached an all-time low and strongly considered feigning a poor Internet connection on my daily Zoom check-in so I could turn off my video and thus apply my makeup while chatting.

I keep meaning to mitigate against this ritual of shocked bewilderment – “is that really what I look like when I’m concentrating?” “This can’t be what my colleagues see when I’m making an incredibly insightful and well-articulated point in a meeting? Surely?” – by just putting on some frigging makeup in the mornings to cheer my sad, male-gaze-brainwashed self up a little. Instead, I invariably sleep in or impulsively decide at 8am that I really do have time to do the 7km loop instead of the shuffle to the kettle and suddenly it’s 08:59 and Zoom is waiting for me and the whole blasted horror starts again.

Timekeeping has never been my strong suit but efficiency and minimal waste is a true passion of mine. This is why most of my home meals consist of sibling’s unwanted potato peels and the rump of various, unidentified vegetables. YUM.

Anyway, this is why yesterday I reached an all-time low and strongly considered feigning a poor Internet connection on my daily Zoom check-in so I could turn off my video and thus apply my makeup while chatting. I mean, I didn’t, but I really wanted to. Anything that will give me five extra minutes in bed is a viable option, in my opinion.

This morning, I promised myself things would be different. I slapped myself out of the unprofessionalism (SO out of character) and took the leap. To be fair, I had slept in to the point where none of my morning rituals were no longer feasible – no brisk morning walk to birdsong, no improvised workout in the one remaining free room that my father says sounds like I’m having really loud sex, no solitary sipping of a poor imitation of an oat milk latté while trying to think up something profound to write in impeccable handwriting in my journal so, when it’s found by aliens in 50 years, I’ll be their generation’s Anne Frank – and so I really had no choice but to use the fifteen minutes allocated to me to reacquaint myself with the bronzer-stained melancholy of my makeup bag.

For the first time in what feels like 73 years, I put on real clothes, a smidgen of foundation, a brush of highlighter, a brisk comb of mascara.

It was thrilling. A real achievement. Because this is the thing about lockdown – the small things really become the big things, don’t they? Hence why I’ve taken to writing the most banal and inherent of human rituals onto my to-do list like I am the world’s biggest overachiever. Text back important person. Eat breakfast. Turn on laptop. I honestly high-fived myself earlier for unsubscribing from an email chain. Madness.

In other news:

My colleagues – most of whom are my parents’ age – are not coping well with the concept of Zoom or OneDrive. I won’t even mention Microsoft Teams. There’s a lot of upset, a heap of patient tutorials that I am absolutely unqualified to be delivering from my bedroom, a lot of passive-aggressive emails over suspiciously “lost” documents, and a strong mistrust in this thing called “the cloud.” I’m not sure the die-hard subscribers to the belief “better to have twelve versions of a document saved than one streamlined, real-time version” are going to survive this pandemic, you guys. You heard it here first.

Attempts at veganism failed again today. Chocolate cake, I am a SLAVE to you, dear mistress.

I learned that I was on my period today. Another great day for the planet as I play my part in climate action and achieve one of the top three ways to save the world: successful egg-leaving from my womb. I say learned because I feel like I’m back in Honours Maths every time it arrives – I start to feel nauseous, my legs go all wobbly and weird, strong urge to urinate, lose all colour, break out in a cold sweat – and just breakout in general. I also use the word learned because it perfectly encapsulates the menstrual experience. Every month, at some point in my cycle, I forget not only the time of the month or date I might expect my “flo” but even that periods exist in the first place. I then act completely shocked when, after a few days of hysteria and exceptional mopiness in which I convince myself I was, am, always will be, unlovable and my family are paid to tolerate me, a belly that is practically touching England it’s so bloated, and a tiredness one might feel after running several marathons in one go, after all this, I still act as though I’ve just learned the limit doesn’t exist (Mean Girls and maths reference – bingo!) when I find a reddish-brown sludge – similar to the paste Rafiki smears on Simba’s forehead – in my knickers.

Was that too graphic? I enjoyed it. Best to leave it there, I think.

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