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.
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 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.
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:
- Yes This Post Is About Long-Wear Lipcolor
- Welcome to Makeup Monday
- Why Makeup Why Now?
- Face Makeup, The Basics
- Face Makeup, Getting Fancy
- All About Eyes
- Brows Get Their Own Post, Because Of Course They Do
- More on Lipsticks and Introducing Shae
- Big News on the Lipcolor Front!
- Travel Tips
- Introducing Sailor-J: The Makeup Blogger U Need When Ur Exposing Sexual Harassment in the Academy
- The Makeup Tool I Can’t Do Without