Redefining normal in the age of Covid: You just can’t wear lipstick under a mask
There is something oddly arduous about getting ready not to be seen.
During my morning hair and makeup ritual, I had always to some extent considered how others would view me. It’s a practice society has taught most women to do.
Over the years, I learned to use makeup to hide any blemishes and mostly stuck to hairstyles I knew would win me compliments. I perfected a style that made me look my “best.”
Between working every day and meeting chic friends for brunch on the weekends, I never had the chance to try anything riskier.
But during the pandemic, I’ve gone weeks in which I couldn’t remember where I last put my makeup bag stuffed with Clinique products, egg sponges and lip gloss. Stay-at-home orders freed me of a daily obligation. Finally, I had the chance to let my skin “breathe,” like my mom always urged.
Then one week of quarantine became four, and then three months, and now we’re into summer. As the days got longer, the world started to feel a little less scary. And so, on a recent Friday afternoon, I made plans to meet a friend. I began by going on a scavenger hunt through my apartment to find my makeup bag.
I go on autopilot when applying the look that I’m accustomed to presenting to the world. A sweep of light eye shadow. A thin edging of black liner. Mascara. Shape my brows. Dab on foundation and pink blush. Not too much. I look down at my shirt and coat my lips with a coordinating color. As a finishing touch, I reflexively tie back my hair and plop on a baseball cap. It’s only as I’m heading out the door that I remember to grab my mask.
Then I snap out of it.
This much makeup with a mask is too messy; my entire lower face needs to be re-thought. I wipe off my handiwork in reverse: lipstick, blush and foundation. I keep the eye makeup though. In fact, I apply a thicker line of eyeliner and attempt a smoky eye.
I look down at my cloth mask and I’m relieved that its Yankee design matches my blue overalls. I probably need more colorful masks for other outfits too. Who knew 2020 would be the year my wardrobe expanded to include a mask collection?
Still, the added eye makeup isn’t enough. Something is missing. I unbraid my hair and let it sit full and curly on my head in a twist out style. It’s less restrained. It’s doing what it wants. It’s perfect.
Doing hair and makeup in the age of lockdowns means unraveling the entrenched beauty standards I was sticking to — and redefining them while I’m at it. For the first time in my life, I’ve had months to retreat from the gaze of others.
While sequestered, I can try out new appearances. I have the freedom to decide if I like what I see before anyone else tells me that they don’t.
When it’s safe for me to book an appointment with my hairstylist again (New York gave salons the green light last month) I know it’ll be because I want to and not because I need to. As for makeup? I won’t give it up forever. I just can’t believe I used to do it every day.