Photo by Aidan Doyle featuring Albina Silchuk for Mad Sounds Magazine Issue 24
Hair up, music playing. I pencil in my otherwise sparse eyebrows. I make weird faces into my mirror as I apply mascara. I suck in my cheeks as I fan bronzer along my bone structure.
This is my ritual for getting ready, a process mimicked by most women.
But also a societal expectation that transcends a makeup routine. I was 16 when I created my own rhythm for getting ready, meant for concerts, dates, and city exploring. Winged eyeliner, concealer under my dark circles, and a loud outfit that might or might not fit the occasion. Once, a learning process to feel extra glammed up. Now, second nature, an assumed part of my going out.
If I go on a date without makeup, I feel naked. Irked. I worry about whether I could still be deemed "pretty" without the cosmetics. Despite how toxic this belief is, I prolong the ritual because I long to be desired more than I care for the “why” of my habits. I recognize the power of makeup, and I often don’t pause to identify its role in my life.
This fear marks the distinction of my getting ready from special occasion to expectation. I see makeup as a medium of self-expression, but when it feels necessary to go out, I wonder what it has done to my confidence. I consider myself a self-assured person, so why do I feel this way? Why is getting ready integral to my mood when going out?
We experiment with makeup brands, buy curling irons, and shop for flattering outfits. We do this even when we're not in the mood to "look good." We do this without question. I'm participating in a culture that I don't always agree with simply because I want to be "pretty." Because there's a comfort to the ritual. Knowing you're presenting the best version of yourself, even if a tad contrived. I'm not going to deny the camaraderie between girls over getting ready either, the care towards each other when going out together. But my discontent stands; we devote so much energy towards this thing, and most of us don't know why.
I’m not anti-makeup, but sometimes it’s healthy to put our habits into perspective. Part of me sees the ritual as a feminist act, like “here we are, doing what makes us feel confident, not for the sake of others.” Part of me sees it as an insecurity-ridden crutch. Motives aside, getting ready has become another form of meditation to me. As weird as it sounds, I feel this deep calm when comparing the shapes of my eyebrow penciling. And maybe that’s just what I need before a first date: reassurance and peace.
I’m still navigating my thoughts on this issue. I hate how getting ready has become an expectation, but I see how it can make someone feel powerful, having complete control of their image. Ultimately, I want people to feel comfortable in their skin; makeup can be a tool for that empowerment but also a security blanket for insecurity.
Regardless of whether I’m right or not, at least I’m thinking. And that’s more than I can say for my 16-year-old self applying eyeliner for the first time.