I’ve been educating myself lately, on the topics of make-up, hairstyles, and dressing right. If you informed someone who knew me in high school or college that I was doing this, the surprise in their voice would be notable. I never wore make up in high school, mostly lived in delightfully baggy black t-shirts and Tripp pants, and limited my jewellery to earrings, and even then, at one time the holes in my ears closed up due to rarely wearing them. In college, I mainly wore skirts because the chub-rub between my thighs ruined many pairs of pants due to the long-term effects of friction, and skirts hid my “thunder thighs” more effectively. Otherwise, I was more or less known as being quite butch compared to my other woman friends, and I embraced the identity wholeheartedly. It was my mask of protection.
But I offered to teach Jaime basic beauty tips and tricks, and so I’ve had to educate myself in the process, and have gleaned most of these lessons from my hairdresser auntie, beauty blogs, and experimentation. We’ve been shopping together for clothes to flatter her shape, hunted for bras and shoes, and have combed around for make-up which doesn’t make our faces itch, looks attractive, and isn’t too environmentally objectionable. I drew the line at high heels though. Damn, do those pinch!
Along the way, as I’ve combed the internet for the best ways to shave legs without promoting ingrown hairs, looked for the best eyebrow shape for your face, and learned the difference between “warm” and “cool” complexions, I’ve lost my fear of traditional femminity. I used to fear that playing with that would make me vulnerable, that I wouldn’t be taken seriously, that I would be dismissed. Since I was raised in an extremely gender-binary household, I grew up associating femminity with weakness, discipline, stupidity and complacency, whereas masculinity was associated with strength, fun, freedom and adventure. I wanted to live a life like my father, and saw femminity as a cage which would trap me unless I rejected it outright.
And so it was only when I was picking out lipstick shades on the internet, and laughing at the sometimes absurd make-up colour names, that I realized it wasn’t a cage. Wearing make-up isn’t going to make me or my girlfriend change who we are. We’re in control of that, and we are approaching this with open eyes, aware of the world that we live in, how femminity and the feminine is construed as less valuable than masculine traits, and perfectly aware of how confining the gender binary is.
Helping my girlfriend become more feminine through these routes though, has erased those fears. Jaime and I, regardless of how butch or femme we may have been in childhood or now, are fearless, adventurous, fun-loving women, who are both at ease in our professional fields and in our private lives. Make-up is not going to form a wedge between our true personalities and ourselves. I see these tools, make-up and other traditionally feminine items, no longer as cages or tools of the patriarchy. They’re ways we can experiment with each other and bond as lovers and partners. My budding lipstick lesbian girlfriend and I are having fun with this!
Nothing is going to stop me or Jaime from doing what we love, least of all a bunch of tubes and compacts and sticks of coloured pigments and powders. I should never have assumed that it would.