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Disclaimer: One of the products mentioned below (the bronzer) is from a brand (Kosas Cosmetics), in which I invested last Spring.
I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror the other day. My skin was so white it was green—that same, drained-looking translucency I see in the winter when I’m spending so little time outdoors that we—my skin and me—become a stranger to natural light. The bags under my eyes were starting to droop and there was a ring of white around my lips like I had not washed my mouth after brushing my teeth.
Damn, I thought, I don’t think I can’t go on looking like this.
Now, this thinking might run counter to what you believe about me and the broader Man Repeller brand given that: (1) I don’t really wear makeup and (2) There is a misconception out there that our philosophy is rooted in looking “ugly.” But I will debunk these ideas and clarify that (1) I do wear some makeup (brow gel, lip tint), it’s just the no-makeup-makeup kind. And when I do choose not to wear any, it’s not because I’m trying to make a point. I genuinely prefer how I look without it, so the reason I don’t wear makeup is motivated by the same vanity that would probably compel me to wear it. And (2) this brand is not rooted in looking ugly. Looking ugly is as subjective as is looking pretty, but I never wish to look either because I don’t think such opaque adjectives, co-opted by predefined standards that don’t leave enough to develop my own, allow for the kind of nuance that makes an outward aesthetic interesting to discuss.
Beautiful, on the other hand, that’s a loaded fucking word. And I have a strong opinion on what is beautiful. You might call it ugly, you might call it pretty, and I am very loyal to this opinion. I do not wish to persuade you to buy into it but I do wish to persuade you to reconcile the world’s beauty standards with your own, then act out the latter. That’s what Man Repeller is really about.
When I say I could not go on looking like this, by the way, what I meant was: I could not go on feeling like this. The wilting in my face was at risk of becoming the wilting of my spirit, so I went to my bathroom to visit my makeup cabinet but did not extract the quotidian “essentials” of my erstwhile routine (the aforementioned brow gel and lip tint) but rather picked up two artifacts that would become the sum of a new routine.
Under a “regular” circumstance, I would probably consider them the frivolities—as interchangeable and insignificant to the beholden’s gaze as the color of my underwear, but from quarantine, they have become the most used—the only!—products in my paltry rotation. I’ve spent the last 48 hours trying to figure out how to put in words the reason why, but I think it’s simpler than I’m letting on.
The reason I’m loyal to my opinion of what’s beautiful is because as time tweaks me, I let it (the opinion) change. It contracts and fluctuates and redefines itself to accommodate my shit.
And right now, I just wanna smell good. I wanna smell good because I don’t shower as much and even though the perfume does not stop Abie from participating in his new favorite hobby of shoving his nose in my armpit to see if I have body odor (nor does it change the fact that most days, I do), catching a whiff of 11:11 is a unique kind of unilateral luxury that provokes this little voice in my head who says, “See, Leandra. You haven’t given up.”
And I want my skin to look like it has been kissed by the sun because there is either a gigantic window or a cloth face mask that stands between our contact under a normal circumstance, but when I feign liveliness on my face with a dab here and a dab there, I am reminded that I’m not dead inside. It’s not a great thing that I have to be reminded, I admit, but it’s refreshing to remind myself that I’d never let that happen! I care too much!
And that caring—it’s a beautiful thing, you know?