For some, it’s lipstick. For others, it’s concealer. For me, it’s eyeliner. Eyeliner is my cosmetic security blanket. Most of us have that one product we absolutely can’t live without, but have you ever stopped to think about how you got there? I did.
Read on for my personal account of an eyeliner obsession.
In sixth grade I decided I had squinty, too-small eyes. No one ever told me I had squinty, too-small eyes, but I had a mirror and a collection of insecurities thanks to impending puberty. I had other problems too: I never owned enough pairs of Dickies overalls, I was probably going to need braces to muscle that one weird tooth into place, and my hair was unintentionally orange because I liked to spritz Sun-In onto my strands before lying by the pool. But, unlike my other monumental 11-year-old concerns, I learned that my squinty eyes could be remedied with makeup … namely, eyeliner.
I first discovered the power of one little tube of liner while sitting in the back row of a yellow school bus. Sixth-graders at my school were not allowed to wear makeup, but I was desperate. In my mind, that tube of liner was my gateway to everything mature and womanly (you know, like acrylic nails and boyfriends). I dabbed the glittery blue drugstore liner onto my lash line, slowly crafting a squiggly cat-eye, then sat back to behold myself. Birds chirped and the heavens sighed. I felt as sexy as a Spice Girl … and I was hooked.
My affection for eyeliner did not wane throughout the years. In high school, my jet-black liner served as a personal form of rebellion against my frumpy school uniform. In college, I’d roll my hungover self out of bed and straight to class, but never before applying a perfect ‘60s-inspired swipe. As an adult, my coworkers would bring lipstick or concealer to touch up before happy hour, but I always toted my—you guessed it—eyeliner.
My dependency grew to the point where I wasn’t quite sure how to do my eye makeup without eyeliner. Working as a beauty editor, I’d assess every Fashion Week trend and think to myself, “Great, but how can I add a swipe of liner to that look?”
Then one day at the car wash I saw a lady, who I am sure she is a very kind woman with a robust life and wonderful shoe collection, but her makeup scared me straight. First of all it was tattooed, which I’m sure is time-effective, but it’s also a little jarring. Secondly, her eyeliner was drawn on in a dramatic Cleopatra-style flair, inches past her eyes.
I couldn’t peel my eyes away. Was I headed down this path? Would my cat-eyes get longer and bolder as the years went on? When I soon turn to the hard stuff and head to the tattoo parlor? Would I ever be able to put down the tube and embrace my eyes that might not be squinty and too small after all?
In the wake of my encounter I decided to challenge myself to put down the pencil. The steps were gradual. First, I swapped my black liquid liner for brown, which was less jarring on my fair skin. Once I got used to the subtlety, I readied myself to do the unthinkable: go out, in public, without liner.
I envisioned everyone I knew gasping with horror and wondering who shrunk my eyes—or worse, telling me the ultimate annoying comment: “You look tired.” Instead, as you may have guessed, no one really noticed or cared. I was shocked, stunned, and giddy. Going without my signature cat-eye made me feel fresh, free, and even a little bit cool.
If this had a Hollywood ending, I could tell you that I’ve never picked up the pencil since that day, but the truth is I still feel most confident with an authoritative swipe of liner on my lids. Maybe it’s that little sixth-grade voice telling me I have squinty, too-small eyes, maybe it’s habit, maybe I just like the look, but most likely it’s a combination of all three.
So tell me, can you relate? What’s your cosmetic security blanket? Have you always loved the same product or has it evolved over the years?
For more from Jessica Hagy follow her blog, The Lady Freak, and catch up with her on Twitter @Jessica__Hagy.