#MakeupMonday – Christmas Makeup

When I was a teenager, each Christmas brought disappointment.  Every year I would ask for a book. And every year my mother would get me makeup. It was so upsetting on so many levels. I was a baby-academic striving to find myself and my way in the world. I got no support on this journey whatsoever from my family, especially my mother, who considered college for women essential, yes, but only for finding a college-educated husband. And graduate school? That was unheard of.

This image is called “Perfect Gift for Girlfriend”

And while I wore makeup at the time and enjoyed it, the annual Christmas gift — always one of those huge impersonal gift sets, with 20+ shadows and blush and lipcolor —  still felt like an insult. It was a version of femininity that was not mine, and that I obviously didn’t want. The annual Christmas makeup kit encapsulated my whole struggle as an intellectual young woman in an uber-conventional family in 1970s suburban Pittsburgh.

Flash forward to Christmas 2017.  My daughter got me a Becca Wake-Up Call Kit, and I was thrilled beyond measure. And I got her a Sephora Highlighting Stick, and a Lorac Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales (!) Eyeshadow Palette, and she was delighted.  Because makeup is a love that my daughter Miyako (18) and I share, as readers of #MakeupMonday series know.  There is no conflict for us between our brainiac and our makeup-loving sides.  We geek out to the latest WaPo analysis of gerrymandering (she is a Poli Sci major at Berkeley), and then move directly to the pros and cons of a sunset eyeshadow look and the proper level of highlighter. She’s grown up with me as a makeup and fashion-loving academic mom, and when I visit her at Berkeley our agenda includes going to her lectures AND to Sephora together. It’s really a pleasure.

And our makeup gifts are highly targeted.  I adore all things Becca, and Miyako knows it.  The two items in my Wake-Up Call Kit could not have been more perfect for me–one is the kind of shimmery primer I love, and the other is a Becca version of the YSL Touche Eclat highlighter pen that I had bought at the Berkeley Sephora a few months ago but had to return because it was the wrong shade.  And her Sephora highlighting stick, and goofy Pirates of the Caribbean eyeshadow set that I found on sale at Nordstrom Rack, were just right because a) she has been wanting a stick highlighter, and  she had just been telling me how much she wanted to move out of her customary neutral palette, but didn’t want to commit to any particular color range or high end items until she’d tried lots of different options.

And our makeup gifts are a shared and evolving mutual project.  So, on Christmas morning a little conversation made it apparent to me that Miyako would actually have preferred the colors in the OTHER eyeshadow palette I saw at Nordstrom Rack, the Smashbox Double Exposure set. So when I was out doing some returns the next day, I picked that up for her, planning to take the Lorac back. But then we sat down for a long and intensive comparison of the two sets, we concluded that in fact *I* should keep the Pirates of the Caribbean palette, because it turns out that it has four colors that perfectly substitute for a little Maybelline set I’d bought a few weeks ago to try out a cool gray/taupe range inexpensively.  You can see them on the far right vertical row!

And so I am now the owner of a Pirates of the Caribbean eyeshadow palette (missing its included eye pencil because Miyako immediately made off with that). I just tried it out and love it! 

And Miyako has a new Smashbox palette that looks amazing–she just ran out to show me as I was writing this post.*

All of this to say…  it makes me feel happy in my heart to have Christmas makeup be a way to really see and be seen with my daughter. It’s healing in a way.  It really shows how makeup can be bad OR good–it all depends on how it’s used and shared, and what expectations are embedded in it. It doesn’t have to mean superficiality, and it can be a path to pleasure, creativity, and connection.

*She also just called out, “Mom, I’m out of BoyBrow!”  🙂

And, shoutout to my son Seiji (17) who got me this lovely sparkly tennis bracelet!!  They do know their mom!

*My regular intro:

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following:

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


#MakeupMonday – Christmas Makeup — 5 Comments

  1. Hello! I’ve recently fallen in love with Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes although I am not a very big or competent makeup person. But I like the idea of starting to explore a more made up me some days as I navigate to different parts of academia. A question: does your love of makeup now and the connection it brings with your daughter make you think differently about those gifts from your mother at Christmas or do they still read as the invalidation they felt at the time? Does your mother still give you makeup?

    • what a great question! I generally feel less angry with my mom right now, and more sympathetic to her struggles in trying to raise me, an extremely challenging child (and adult). But I do wish that my family could have actually been able to recognize a way of being different from theirs–one that was focused on ideas and not appearances… So i just feel sad, knowing how desperately my mom wanted a connection with me, but how much she just couldn’t grasp who i was or what i wanted…!

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