Occasionally I give in to societal pressure and try to wear makeup. These attempts are, generally, short-lived. They almost always devolve into ranting and railing about sexism and racism and my surprising lack of manual dexterity when faced with a mascara wand. And who needs that when you’re trying to slap yourself together and get out the door for work?
A few months ago I was entering one of those phases, chiding myself about wearing my face au naturel, encouraging myself to be a grown-up girl and ‘do something’ with my face. So I went downtown to checkout the makeup displays at Macy’s I figured I’d have some luck at Clinique, where they seem to realize that there are women darker than Halle Berry. (No, really. There are.)
You see, that’s one of the ways my makeup moments devolve: the frustration and disgust of color palettes created only for light-skinned people. Annoying enough to drive me away from the glass-and-chrome counters again and again. Forgive me, Ms. Truth, but … ain’t I a woman? Why aren’t there any ‘perfect match’ colors out there for me?
But some lines have figured it out, and Clinique is one of them. I walked over to the counter and waited while another woman was guided through the tricky selection process of texture, coverage and color. This shopper was (lucky her) much darker than I am, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Clinique’s colors went there. The woman wasn’t having any of it, though. She kept refusing to let the saleswoman put any of the dark foundation on her, kept insisting that she needed a lighter color.
When I first started buying makeup years ago, I couldn’t find my color anywhere. A woman at a counter in Saks tried to smooth some Vanessa Williams on my cheek saying, “You’re really not as dark as you think you are.” As if she was helping me out, as if that was something I would want to hear. Hey: I am as dark as I am, which is really not as dark as I wish I was but it works for me. I have no interest in wearing a color so light it resembles a death mask.
The woman I watched in Macy’s was angry with the saleswoman for offering up a dark color, for suggesting that the dark color was actually the right color. In the end, she bought a shade just a number or two darker than mine but at least five or six numbers lighter than the one she needed. I wondered what she would see when she looked in the mirror with that foundation on her face, wondered if her family and friends would let her walk around wearing haute maquillage clown-white.
When she turned to me, the saleswoman looked a little wary, probably worried that I’d put her through the same nonsense.
“Give me her color,” I said. “I would flaunt that all over town.”
“Right? And she was mad, too.” She shook her head. “I’m not supposed to, but if she comes back here and wants to exchange for the right color, I’ll do it.”
I went home with my purchases (two tubes of Black Honey lip gloss, too!) and maintained the facade for longer than usual. But it’s over now. After all, the weather started to get warm, and I started seeing more sun … and the sun always means I get dark, darker, darkest (yum!) and then the makeup that matches me so well in the tail of winter takes on some clown-white properties of its own. No, it’s just not me.