A good friend recently said to me that I look better now than at any point in the decade she’s known me. This is despite the fact that in the last few months I have:
- Left my marriage of less than a year
- Experienced one of the longest and most severe bouts of depression I’ve known
- Waded through an enormous workload and navigated a tricky step up in my career
Yet, apparently, I look great. How does that work?
The thing is, when I get low, I doll up. I put on make-up. I do my hair. I talk to friends. I do yoga, or go for a walk. This is the complete opposite of how I would deal with stress or depression less than a year ago.
I used to hide under the duvet. Overeat. Lash out at anyone who would try to shake me out of my stupor (one of the reasons behind the aforementioned short-lived marriage).
Then I started experimenting with eyeshadow, lipstick, perfume. Hard-living, tough birds like Liz Taylor and Vivienne Leigh became my icons. Even though it didn’t cure how I felt inside, making myself look more like the ‘real me’ – that is, the person I wanted to be, sans the imperfections, the stress, the mental health issues – woke me up. I finally realised why it was called warpaint. I was going into battle with my own demons. Only this time, I had donned bloody gorgeous armour.
By investing more in my appearance, I was telling myself that I was worth something. It may sound shallow to some, perhaps even contradictory coming from a committed feminist who maintains that women are held to impossibly high standards of beauty. But I believe that an interest in make-up, hair and perfume is not at all at odds with politics, art, music or any of the other more ‘serious’ pursuits, as deemed by the gender mores to which we are sadly still subject.
Taking an interest in myself is exactly that: I’m using all the tools in my arsenal to get well, to move forward, to be the ‘real me.’
(Special thanks to Babyliss Hot Rollers, Clarins Everlasting Foundation, Sleek iDivine Eyeshadow Palette and Rimmel’s excellent collection of red lipsticks for helping the author look like a bad-ass boss bitch during some spectacularly shitty moments over the last few months.)