I never was the type of little girl that played with makeup and nail kits when I was younger. Aside from not having those kind of “luxuries” in Moldova, I was also pretty much a Tom boy. I preferred cars over dolls and overalls instead of dresses.
I did, however, have an art desk in my room where I would watch my mother draw and paint beautiful designs, flowers, and sew her own dresses. Maybe it was then that my love of art flirted with the idea of femininity.
When I was 11, I bought my very first makeup. A hideous silver lip gloss from Bath & Body Works and an even more hideous blue eyeshadow to match. It was way before I understood the idea of neutral tones or finding colors that flatter you. Instead, I just went with what felt the most artistic.
Over the years, my “art” style slowly progressed from Picasso to Monet. The kind where it looks great from afar, but up close it’s a mess. I toyed with different shades, I made my self two-tone with an overwhelming amount of bronzer, and went through all the steps young girls do until they reach a level of maturity. I never really cared about brushes or processes, I just did what felt right.
I remember my first time I was taught to put on foundation properly. Up until then, my only brushes and sponges were my fingers. I would dab, stroke, and blend just using my hand without even thinking that there was a better way.
And then, in the lady’s locker room at the gym, someone was giving a tutorial on applying foundation. I would watch these red and sweaty faces transform into smooth, even complexions and I was in awe. My face always looked red and sweaty even when not in the gym, so this was perfect, I thought.
As the internet exploded and YouTube and Instagram were put on the map, I was able to have tutorials right at my door without even having to go to the gym.
And eventually, my makeup skills, while still unorthodox and a lot of finger blending, improved even more. I was far from good and I still lacked a lot of knowledge, but it was good enough to help me transform my face into something I enjoyed looking at.
The thing was, that I had a crazy habit that only seems completely crazy looking back at it. I would only do my makeup in the dark, and if I had no makeup on then I would keep the dark on as well. I became so uncomfortable with my face and features, that they only became bearable when I was completely fixed up, hair and makeup.
I was never the one who absolutely needed to put on makeup before I left the house. There were plenty of times, more often than not, that I would go out into the world, makeup free face, hair greasy in a messy bun, and baggy pajama pants on.
It would be a complete contrast from the person who would go out with their hair done, makeup fresh, and outfit to match. My looks were on opposite ends of the spectrum and there was no balance, neither internal nor external.
I guess my inner self always enjoyed the natural aspect, and the laziest one, but then there was a part of me that desperately wished I could be the girl who would always be done up and ready to go.
Instead, I was two different people.
With my makeup done, Spanx on, hair curled or straightened and belt tight to cinch the waist, I was ready to conquer the world. I was fearless and cocky. Annoyingly cocky, looking back now. Yet, as soon as I stepped foot into my apartment, I would throw off my clothes, squeeze out of my Spanx, and put my hair up.
And then the cockiness was gone.
Instead an empty feeling and a wave of insecurity and discomfort would take over.
People who didn’t know me probably thought I was the most confident person in the world, and the ones who did know me, knew I was nothing but an insecure young child hiding in a grown woman’s body.
I hated the imbalance, but it still took over my life.
I would spend days just thinking and wondering if I could ever stop playing dress up. Would I ever find someone to love me just as I am? Would I ever love myself enough to not have to hide in the dark from my own reflection?
And then I met Boris. I already spoke about how him entering my life turned my world upside down and then right side up.
He never complained about my routine to put on a full face of makeup when it was time to “see people”. And he loved me completely when I was looking like the hot mess that I thought I was without the extras on.
So who was I putting makeup on for? If I finally met someone to love me for me, what was the issue?
The issue still was with that little girl who didn’t want to see herself in the light.
I started realizing how different I would act with my makeup on and how more at ease and confident I felt. Which led me to understand how makeup held the power in a way I didn’t want it to anymore.
Of course, I wasn’t strong enough to just say: no more.
Until we went backpacking.
When you try to stuff your entire life into a 40L backpack not knowing what weather, terrain, or circumstances to expect, you start seriously evaluating every tiny thing that you pack.
And so I did.
Here it was, ten minutes before we were to leave for the airport, my backpack almost entirely full, and yet none of my makeup packed. Do I take the last bit of space and bring the essentials? At least mascara, a lip gloss, anything?
At that moment, I made the conscious decision to leave everything.
We had already changed our lives so much. We try to eat mainly plant-based, we switched all of our products to organic, chemical free, and as natural as possible. Hell, we even decided against medicines and started using essential oils, herbs, and real food for treatment.
And, here I was, still putting makeup on my face. Even if not often, I thought, why at all?
I knew I had no time to second guess my decision, and with that, we were off to our backpacking adventure with not a single ounce of makeup, not a flatiron, curling iron, and not even a bobby pin.
Our first stop was California. We had three weeks of housesitting before we were off to Japan. I thought California would be an adjustment period, because well, everyone is so beautiful and tanned there. And it was.
But, I slowly embraced it. I would start noticing the girls that wore makeup and then the ones who were fresh and natural. At first, even for me, it was unusual seeing women without makeup on. But it was a pretty even balance.
And then we went to Japan.
Japan was even more of a shock, because while not tanned, the women are gorgeous and 99% have a full face of makeup on 100% of the time. I would walk through the crowds with my backpack, baggy sweater, purple hat, and makeup free face, and it would feel weird. I would have moments of comfort and then I would be surrounded by Japanese models and lost any feeling of femininity I could cling on to.
And then I got my hair cut.
Aside from using makeup as a superpower, my hair, too, would become a blanket of comfort. But, we were walking and running around everywhere like sweaty beasts and I was so hot, I just wanted it all off. So, we found a salon with a cheap price and a hip hairstylist, and I decided to chop it all off.
That’s when the breakdown came.
After every haircut, as traumatizing as it was, I would immediately put on a full face of makeup to make myself comfortable with my new look. It was my safety and made me feel better when I let all of my other securities fall to the floor after being washed, cut, and swept up to be tossed in the trash.
And here I was, left with a brand new look and no makeup to comfort me.
For a few hours, I walked around confused, depressed and feeling so off balance. I thought I was over this feeling, I thought I could handle it, how could I be so wrong?
Boris asked me what was wrong, as he could feel even the slightest shift in my face and energy and I just started crying. I cried for a good twenty minutes as he tried to calm me, comfort me, and assure me that it was all in my head.
They say haircuts symbolize a fresh start, and it definitely was for me.
That haircut triggered and brought to the surface every doubt, insecurity, and discomfort I have felt for my entire life as a female. A yearning desire to keep up with the unrealistic expectations of what a woman should look like pushed in my face through every advertisement, TV show, and social media channel for years and years.
It all came out in that moment. And then I stopped crying.
I took several deep breaths, connected back with my inner self and had a real, necessary talk with myself.
I understood that my beauty was not in my long hair, not in my complexion correcting makeup, and definitely not in my outfits. My beauty was in my kindness, my soul, and the person I know I am and strive to be everyday. My beauty is in the way I laugh, the simple things I find special, and the way my husband looks at me after a long day when we’re both tired, sweaty, and stinky.
My beauty can’t be given to me through makeup or a hairstyle and it can’t be taken away by my red cheeks or the blemish that appears at the most inopportune time. My beauty is with me always and I can truly say that I have never felt as beautiful as I do right now.