What We Make Up

My daughter just attended her first prom. On a scale of 1 to oh-my-god, she handled it with very little emotional drama. First up was deciding whether she really wanted to go or not. Second was finding a dress which required only two shop visits and three dresses tried on. Shoes were not an issue as she is forbidden from high heels because of a stress fracture so little flat black sandals were it. Jewelry was also easy. Because her dress was full of drama, the jewelry was light.

But what really captured her, once she had the dress, was her make-up.

My daughter loves makeup. She has so much makeup. But the thing is, she doesn’t wear it every day. Some days it’s a long process of creating, other days it’s a cover-up of tired dark circles, and most days it’s I’m-not-going-to-make-time-for-this.

Which brings us to prom because for her, it was all about the makeup. It was more than a dark smoky eye. It was long (fake)eyelashes, black, grey, and white blended and applied just so. There were touches of literal sparkle. Her skin was lightly tinted and the lips were dark. It was a look that matched the dress.



She kept her hair pretty simple except for the color she’d been longing for and was an early birthday present.

Her dad did not like it.

“She’s so beautiful. She doesn’t need all that. Why is she hiding?”

I can’t say I thought she was hiding. In fact, I thought she was bold. I thought she was saying, “I love this dress and I am creating a look to match and I am not scared of what anyone will think, even my dad. Here I am.”  I’ll admit I had my own thing with makeup. But it was the eighties and sky blue eye shadow afflicted every female I knew. But this was definitely bigger, bolder, and required much more skill. I would never have attempted such a look because I was never that interested. Did I get it? Not really, but did I mind? No.

But it did get me thinking beyond the makeup to how we see people. She and I chatted about this. I tried to sort of tiptoe into the conversation without bringing in judgements. It is surprisingly hard. Parenting really is so much more difficult than people let on. I’ve wanted to so badly to have no judgements about appearance, about their choices regarding fashion, looks, etc. I think kids and young adults are meant to explore, take in the information regarding how they feel as the world around them responds and how they see themselves in that context. Clothes and makeup are all a part of it and the world sends out such mixed-up messages. A man, say one like our current president, wears a top-of-the-line suit and tie in conservative colors every day. His character is tattered and full of holes. Making critical judgements based on appearances seems pretty difficult to defend. But the world is complicated and full of double-standards for women so the topic, when broached, is done so thoughtfully.

And so, this look. The thick makeup was about a creating a statement and she’d actually thought carefully about what she wanted. It wasn’t an act of rebellion or hiding. It was, for her, fun and a way to express herself. She’s introverted and tight-lipped in the arena of sharing her emotions. She releases them when dancing and through her makeup.

To his credit, dad said nothing except to me.

The short take is that her date seemed pretty enamored, and my girl! How she glowed from something more than makeup. She was shining in the fullness of what she made so.

I saw so many young men and women who looked uncomfortable. And there were others who’d clearly chosen what was perfect for who they were which is what made what they wore “work.” Another bold girl I noticed wore no makeup and her hair was in the same style she wore every single day. Her dress was simple and the color was perfect for her. She glowed as much as my daughter did. She was revealing who she was which is exactly the point- when we let them be who they are in the moment they are in, they shine.

It’s hard being a dad watching his baby express something he doesn’t understand. It’s hard being a teen girl in a world that bombards with you with messages about how to think, act, look. It’s hard being a mother trying to navigate and honor both of these people at once.

I don’t know how she will feel when she looks back to this day, but I know how I will feel. The same as I do now. Proud of the woman who is following her heart’s desire. Doing what she wants despite reservations she may sense from those she cares about. It might seem silly to devote my writing to diving into this concept of makeup. To those who are not women, to those who have no inkling about teen girls I know better. This step leads to the next. Trust your heart, your desires, make them happen. How the world responds doesn’t matter, but how you do is everything. Show up as YOU want, on YOUR terms. She was happy because she was who she wanted to be.

I am learning from her, which is the gift of parenting if I let it be. Inside the struggles and uncertainty, I can dig in and learn a bit more about who I am and even shift a bit in how I view the world.

Perhaps my daughter is a magician. In creating the eyes that were perfect for her, she has given me a new way to see as well.

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Postscript: This post was vetted and approved by my daughter and her dad.