My neighbor, Bonnie Cooper, taught me how to apply eyeshadow and eyeliner when I was 13. Bonnie was peddling makeup products out of her brick two story home. I had begged my mom to allow me and since I was 13, I could go and learn the proper way to apply. That year, I also received a pair of Gap Jeans for my birthday from my parents. I had only ever had jeans from Walmart so spending $50 on a pair of pants was a big deal. I knew I had to cherish these jeans and never outgrow them, an impossible feat.
Puberty was a confusing time. I wore makeup every day until I didn’t. I wore clothes so large to hide my tiny frame and large tits that emerged when I was 10. I still feel like I am in that same tiny frame, barely 100 pounds. I carry myself as if I am small, demure. I think I am just trying to fit myself back into that tiny space. Living as big as I feel is terrifying. Living small is easier, I tell myself, as I tuck myself back in.
My thighs rub together as I walk creating holes in my favorite pair of jeans. I squeeze myself into pants. I wear layers to hide under – tanktop, teeshirt, long sleeve shirt, cardigan, large scarf. I cover all pieces of me so no one can discover how big I have actually become. If I can stuff myself back into the barely 100-pound body, then no one will actually know what I am capable of. I won’t have to know what I am capable of.
My breasts fill out a shirt. My stomach and thighs are soft and supple. My body is well-loved and strong. It has brought me into and through some of the hardest experiences. Although there are times it falters, bringing me back into my bed for days, with heating pads and groans, it never fails me. It slows down to remind me that it also needs the love I give so freely to others. Slow down dear Lizzie, take care. It reminds me I need to mother myself, taking care each day.
The difference between a mother who allows her daughter to learn how to apply makeup and one who doesn’t isn’t much. My mother wanted me to know how to apply makeup, change my own oil, and make my own money – she also allowed me to be small, accept less than I deserved, and didn’t speak up for me. The love I have for my body is complicated as my mom talks about the weight she needs to lose and the calories she shouldn’t eat. Her body falters too, but never fails. Mary showed me the love I could receive while also creating boundaries on what I could be open to. The difference in being able to apply winged eyeliner and unconditional love was as vast as could be.
Applying makeup again to my face feels like an act of love and care. The careful application of eyeliner across my eyelashes, the delicate squeeze of the eyelash curler, the stroke of mascara over my lashes. Each move an act of defiance towards the society who said a woman who is independent shouldn’t wear this, while also being an act of love towards my body that never fails.