I’m a horrible judgemental person who looks down on the girls who show up to the gym with a full smoky eye and/or flawless red lipstick. I’m a hypocrite. I will say that right now.
I don’t like having nothing to do on the weekends and also I don’t like doing anything on the weekends. I’m a contrary person. Honestly, my favourite thing to do is go for a walk with a friend or sit in a café and while away the hours being ‘active’ without really doing anything.
Last weekend was a particularly lazy weekend. I did basically nothing and relaxed on my bed for most of it. Sunday in particular I pretty much stared at Netflix and worked on this blog (I find it very therapeutic. The Netflix, not the blog. Kidding). So when the time came to go to the gym, I was quite relieved to get out.
Until I found myself in the bathroom, putting on make up.
Leaving the house with make up on is second nature to me. I pick at my skin, which isn’t something I’ve mentioned here before, and it’s not a thing I talk about very often at all. The compulsion is called dermatillomania, and I’ve never been officially diagnosed but the collection of scars that spread across my face and down my arms and back are a pretty clear indication that this is more than the odd squeeze here and there.
I don’t hate my skin, I hate myself for not being kinder to my skin. When I was fourteen or so I had lovely, clear skin. There’s no history of acne in my family and I can’t say I’ve ever actually noticed more than one or two actual, real spots at a time on my face. But every time I see (or imagine) a blemish, I have to get rid of it. I have to get it out of my skin. It’s a release, and particularly when I was going through a rediscovered fear of bathrooms (yay, emetophobia!) I found it comforting to focus on the mirror rather than the toilet. As a result, my face is pocked and marked and normally has several oozy scabs that I just can’t leave alone.
So despite telling myself repeatedly that it was stupid to put make up on at 7pm on a Sunday evening just to go to the gym where I would sweat it all off again, I still went ahead and tried to cover my face up.
Cliché though it may be, I use make up as a mask. I’m ashamed of the scars on my face. They don’t fit my image. I’ve cultivated a confident, capable personality when I’m in public or around people I don’t know. If there is a question to be asked in my tutorials, I’ll ask it. I’ll speak to strangers. I’ll give presentations. And the whole time the real me will be cowering inside going “don’t let them in, don’t let them in”.
It’s utterly terrifying for me to let people see who I really am. People often tell me that I’m confident and strong and independent and I don’t need no man but the truth is I’m constantly fighting to keep them from seeing that the real me is a needy, vulnerable, insecure person who can be irritating as hell and who certainly wants nothing to do with any public speaking.
I grew up in a household where weakness is not an option. My mother forced herself to get over her arachnophobia the day I was born because she didn’t want me to grow up with a learned fear of spiders (though I’m still a bit iffy with the big ones). Going through chemotherapy, my mother was suffering from the most horrendous nausea (oh hey again, emetophobia, I wonder how you got in?) and nothing anyone did worked until the day she told herself to stop throwing up. And she stopped throwing up. No, seriously, my mother kicked chemo in the nuts when she was at her weakest because she was sick and tired (geddit) of always being sick and tired (double geddit?) and being bedridden didn’t suit her. She is currently using her downtime in her new job to teach herself French, and when she’s not at work she’s running the house and running a semi-professional bakery service for close family and friends and a few of their close family and friends who’ve heard of her.
My father has taught himself just about every skill you could possibly need in life (and a few you don’t). Aside from being an engineer by trade, he has taught himself French, basic building skills, advanced building skills, plumbing, decorating, mechanics, landscaping, the basic aspects of AQA Psychology A Level because I was struggling to understand some of it, and he correctly diagnosed a pony with fibrotic myopathy when the vets were stumped.
And people wonder why I go around constantly needing to be good at whatever I do. Don’t get me wrong: my parents are the exact opposite of pushy. Their attitude is ‘be the best that you want to be’ and so they don’t interfere if I want to stay in bed all day or do no work or eat myself into a chocolate coma. They just like my brother and I to figure things out for ourselves. There is no room for whining or complaints in our household: if you can’t do something, double check you’ve tried as hard as you can to do it. If you really can’t do something, come up with a suggestion for how it might be done, then go and tell Dad and he’ll help you with it. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be perfectly capable of figuring it out for yourself and he’ll just watch you fix your car/computer/hovercraft (my family is weird, OK) with a knowing smile that is just so irritating.
So it’s little surprise to me that, while I may have failed at many things in my life, none of the things I’ve actually tried to do have gone wrong. As long as I try, I can’t fail and that seems to have held pretty true for most of my life.
So here’s how I go about my daily life: if I try my hardest to put on my big-girl clothes and my big-girl face and shield myself with my big-girl attitude, I’ll be fine. I’ll do great. And my make up is a part of that. If I pretend hard enough that my face is beautiful, one day it’ll become true. If I make every effort to be the person I want to be on the outside, it’ll filter through to the inside.