Why Makeup, Why Now?

I’m starting Makeup Monday with some background story. While reactions to the Makeup series here and on social media have been uniformly positive, there has definitely been some surprise also. The Professor Is In is doing makeup now?? What??

And indeed, my newfound obsession with makeup is a bit of a surprise even to me.  So here’s the story.

I’ve worn makeup since my teenage years, and really enjoyed it, and never totally stopped.  But, when a person works at home in a place like Eugene, Oregon, where Birkenstocks rule, the opportunities to wear makeup quickly shrink to a vanishing point. I didn’t give it up entirely, but my enthusiasm definitely waned. There just wasn’t much point, and aside from my beloved Kellee, almost no appreciative audience!

And then three things happened. The first is, I started giving more and more public talks around the country and internationally.  And almost every time I gave a talk I had to provide a publicity photo, and every time I gave a talk, I was photographed.  And lo, I was not happy with the results. Not Happy At All.  I’ve never been particularly photogenic. I’m awkward in front of the camera, and my tendency to shrink back in anxiety leads to a multiplication of chins, among other unpleasant outcomes.  The photos were not good.  Something had to be done.

At almost the same time, my then-high school age daughter Miyako began her own explorations in makeup.  She spent endless hours with friends at Sephora and Ulta, and subscribed to Ipsy, the monthly makeup sample bag.  She would come home and regale me with her finds and newfound knowledge. Eventually she started giving me the cast-offs from her Ipsy bags.  Then we started watching makeup tutorials together. It dawned on me that there was a whole world of makeup products, tools, and techniques that could potentially help with the public talks/promo photo problem above.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening, I was also getting more and more deeply into dance in Eugene.  I dance with a women’s group called Dance Empowered three times a week, and do other kinds of dance or yoga 1-2 other days, every week.  And I am a very overheated kind of person.  At dance and yoga I sweat gallons. I wanted to look glamorous in dance class, but to my dismay, every day I’d come home from class only to find rivulets of mascara running down my cheeks and my lipcolor vanished. I’d see other women in class leave with makeup as fresh as the moment they arrived. This annoyed me. What was I doing wrong?

This confluence of events piqued my curiosity. Was there makeup that might solve these issues?

I started tagging along to my daughter’s Sephora trips, and actually using all my newly acquired cast-off Ipsy loot. It was a fun, and frankly, the best way to spend precious time with my daughter (along with regular mani-pedis!)

It helped that I’d recently subscribed to Teen Vogue to follow their amazing new political writing. An unforeseen benefit: makeup tutorial videos started arriving in my inbox. My life became rather confusing.

Indeed, as I pursued my experiments, I soon learned that the makeup I’d used and loved from age 15 to 40 would never do.

It no longer worked.

At all.

50+ year old skin is no laughing matter.  Colors that used to look cute look garish, or invisible.  Foundation that used to work like a dream settles into wrinkles in places I didn’t even know I had wrinkles.  Eye shadow smears all over droopy eyelids.  Mascara slides off thinning eyelashes.

No joke, middle aged makeup is not for the faint of heart!

And that’s not counting the allergies! I’ve always been allergic– I have an anaphylactic allergy to tree nuts, hayfever, allergies to antibiotics, even allergies to my beloved bunnies.  But now, I couldn’t put a product on my face, it seemed, without breaking out in hives or tearing up and crying it off within a half hour.

Outcome: frustration.


But I am never one to give up in the face of a challenge.

So, in the last two years I got serious. I started seriously researching makeup products, and seriously buying, and seriously trying.  I have spent a small fortune, there is no doubt about it. (Sorry, Kellee!)

But I can happily report that I have solved every one of these problems.  I have great makeup that looks great, that works on my middle-aged face, that vastly improves my appearance in photographs, that I am not allergic to, that even stays on through a mid-summer dance class.  Not only that, I have makeup solutions to take with me travelling.

The weirdest part of it all?  It has actually has helped me deal with Trump. I’m not kidding.  Makeup has given me a new creative outlet, a place to pursue color and shimmer and glow in a time of gloom and despair. I never go to a protest, and Kellee and I go to them weekly (I’m actually an organizer), without a great lipcolor.

My delight in this accomplishment is what led me (with great trepidation) to write the first makeup post, on long-wear lipcolor. Honestly, for me, long-wear lipcolor is the HOLY GRAIL of makeup. And when I found a product by an African-American owned indie brand (Beauty Bakerie) that stays on for 12+ hours, well, I just had to overcome my embarrassment and share it.  I honestly did not expect the response to be so positive, and so enthusiastic.

But it was!  So, now I’m going to blog about makeup every Monday.

When I texted Miyako, now away at college, to tell her that I’m going to be a, um,  makeup blogger, she responded:

“that’s hilarious.”

Followed by: “Am I going to be featured in this series?”

So here is Miyako (with her brother Seiji), my makeup sensei, the inspiration for all of this!

She promises to share a post about foundation and contouring techniques.

Next week:  Face Makeup, The Basics.

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Why Makeup, Why Now? — 11 Comments

  1. I got a good laugh out of the fact that your “bad” picture is in Mosse Humanities at UW Madison — as someone who works in the concrete bunker, I’d put a good part of the blame for that photo on the building 🙂 Looking forward to this new feature!

  2. As a 52-year-old MSW student, who will start applying to doctoral programs in the future, and is a former Mary Kay Cosmetics sales consultant, this blog post makes my heart sing. I love wearing my eye shadows, lip glosses and lipstick. I’m a self-described “make up junkie.” Have fun!

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