Unadorned faces

As a twin, questions about life - as a twin, perpetually loop like the refrain from a modern-day pop musical composition, with the only sensible answer to many of these questions being - twin life is like any other, the only thing that makes it different is the oddities others know little about.

For the sake of providing a more categorical answer, life as a twin has many benefits such as, constant companionship, someone who apportions the same odd tendencies, that secret twin language and a constant stream of inequitable support. Apart from the aforementioned, another conspicuous benefit is some form of recognition, which, for some twins, comes with the territory. 

As life would have it and as a result of this twin recognition, the chance to apportion a little about twin-life proudly danced into grasp like a Latin dancer into the arms of a dance partner. This opportunity was a feature story in one of the more popular Trinidadian newspapers - the Trinidad Guardian. The interview was on a school day, after school of course and mummy, like any other, exhibited such exhilaration about the makeup and styling for the shoot.

With a dab of lipstick and some blush for that rosy cheek look, this was the first of many experiences with makeup.

As the article says, "You can't help but see the beautiful vein of simplicity on their unadorned faces" - truth in its simplest form.

From attire to entertainment preference to demeanor and otherwise, unadorned is the best adjective one can use. Racy shades of lipstick segregated themselves from lips and pretty, powdery shades of eyeshadow never held eyelids in a warm embrace. Cheeks wore natural blush instead of an applied shade and though teenage self-esteem quandaries, acne, and issues with diet paraded like a beauty queen on stage, something about the simplicity of being simple kept one grounded and true. A comfortable time of life with a fuss saved for other things like homework, coordinating sleepovers and movie dates with friends, swimming competitions, and artistic ventures than beauty and all the work and worry involved. Getting dressed was easy and so too was looking at oneself in the mirror without judgment.

As a teenager, in those days, having pictures taken at the photo studio was a trend. These pictures would be given to significant others, friends, or simply put in a frame and hung on a bedroom wall. Recall brings to mind images with a bare face and sometimes lacking jewelry. Compliments on natural beauty were often given and flattery from these compliments came rushing like a younger sibling into the bed of an older sibling after having a bad dream. An opinion of self was auspicious and cerebrations of beauty were vigorous and ancillary. Peer pressure to have a made-up face never subsisted and although friends were dabbling in simple forms of makeup such as translucent powders and color tinted lip gloss, personal yearning for simplicity made their efforts seem questionable.

Once the modeling and beauty pageants began, then makeup application became something one had to learn, and expeditiously. In these industries, evasion presented itself as an arduous task, as beauty in a sense relied on makeup. A bare face, bushy eyebrows, wind-blown hair, uncolored lips and so on were frowned upon, especially in the fashion and beauty industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Makeup artists covered up every single imperfection and comments about better skin care regimes consumed an already consumed mind. At this time of life, acne was a struggle. Photographers made the most astringent of comments about the acne covered skin, they had to photograph and so makeup became a way of obnubilating the truth.

As life moved on, an incremental indispensability for makeup attached like vines to an old house. Having been a beauty queen and having endured constant criticism for deplorable skin, insecurity about such things was a flamboyantly discernible crutch, further affirming perpetualized makeup use and heavy makeup at that. Certain vocations pursued in early adulthood also claimed a made-up face as mandatory, at times even being scrutinized and assessed for it, so for a while, an uneven skin tone, puffy eyes, open pores and other imperfections made one feel like a prisoner to makeup. That was a different time of life and a challenging one in its own right - a time when hiding things under body camouflage, concealers, and multiple layers of foundation became an unavoidable preference. Heavy eyeliner became a tool for distraction, the thought being; make the eyes look pretty so the focus would be on the beauty of them not the bedding of bags and dark circles which circumvented them.

Every girl, correction, most girls dote makeup. As a child, watching mummy apply makeup exuded feelings of ecstasy and jealousy. The conception of becoming an adult "makeup wearing" woman was refreshing. But when that time came, the reason for makeup use was quickly deluded. Previously mentioned imperfections created inadequacies with an unadorned face, though, during this time, homely is a better choice of word. Beauty came with coverage. It came with colors. It came with the right type of product. Beauty was not enhanced through the usage of these products, rather created. Harsh analysis of oneself, but truthful. Then, many years later,  as the acne and life in the fashion and beauty industry started to fade, gradual disconnection from this involute and layered world commenced bringing with it a sense of deep renewal and rejuvenation. Life changes like occupation, place of residence, significant other, friends, eating habits, diet, and general experiences also played a part in this switch as it sanctioned individuality to seek out and embrace a deeper connection with subconscious beauty.  This journey allowed for a drastic shift and ever since, the reason for makeup use has shifted. Nowadays, makeup is generally not sought after. A little coconut oil, warmed from the friction created by rubbing palms, is lovingly applied to the skin one once turned detestation upon. Even on those more formal days, makeup still holds very little reign. Fresh, dewy skin with that allusion of shine on the T-zone, freckles, open pores, forehead wrinkles, acne scars, skin discoloration, dark circles and the current polka dot pattern of pimples lining my cheeks are all welcomed. Forehead wrinkles and freckles take me back to childhood days of crazy sunburnt bodies and ridiculous squinting in photographs - my beloved defining characteristics that were once covered up and hidden under layers of chemical based products for the sake of being and feeling beautiful. 

These imperfections were perfections all along. 

As a large, full, and unused makeup case sits atop a wardrobe, a little white box stands proudly next to it, with only a handful of items inside - a reminder of the shedding of both self-doubt and the dependency of makeup. Yes, makeup is still worn but minimally and boastfully so. A dab of this and that used not as an expedient of hiding anything but merely for enhancement. A made-up face no longer holds that much power or worth. Nowadays, the power lies within those perfect imperfections and today I can proudly say I once again feel like the girl whose beautiful vein of simplicity was seen on an unadorned face. In a way, it feels empowering. Maybe liberating is a more accurate description. The pressure of covering up imperfections has left. 

As a woman who felt this attachment to makeup for many years, truth in saying that many others feel the same exists. Experience tells of ease of losing oneself in the disorienting world of beauty as one becomes consumed with hiding things rather than embracing them and even at times feeling like one cannot leave home without having a made-up face.

A woeful reality in a way because once one ends up too deep in the dislike authentic self-appreciation is challenging to regain.

Society outlines the way women should act, dress, and look. Part of this same society is also made up of the voices of women, who at times, make the harshest judgments and criticisms when someone, especially in power or in the spotlight, embraces the beauty of an unadorned face. But, if anyone should understand how empowering and freeing that is - it is women, yet still, insecurities are harbored under layers of makeup and harsh criticisms are lashed out at others who lack the same amount of layers. If this emphasis can instead be placed on the empowerment of subconscious beauty and all of its complexities and layers, then maybe one day, beauty can be dissociated from superficiality resulting in a more grounded and holistic idea of it all.

Features, 1998Tiva Samaru