*Disclaimer: There is some swearing involved. Bounce if that stuff offends you.
When I was fifteen, an asteroid hit.
Not in the atmosphere (Duh). Somewhere inside me.
It made everything dark. It made everything slowly implode as if the earth was sighing into its center to a sad score of pleading violins.
I don’t know why I felt that way.
I only know that suddenly, it became really hard for me to wake up in the mornings.
An undercurrent of nausea would make my movements sluggish. My assurances of “five more minutes” to my mom would sound slurred and laced with subconscious fear.
Fear of being alone in a crowd of skirts and kippahs.
Fear of being too inexperienced, too much of a failure, too far from my dreams of me.
Fear that people would see my vulnerabilities, fear of never being the best, because the best was all that you had the right to strive to be.
The best student, the best dressed, the kindest, the most organised, the skinniest, the prettiest.
I think the asteroid was long in coming.
Something from the outside seeking an in. I learnt, early on, that I had to grow a thick skin to survive any attack. That’s why when I started wearing makeup much later on in life, I discovered, that like sunglasses, I could mask the part of me people could use as ammo, could pick on.
But, before I knew what foundation was, I used what I could.
Before makeup I began working on how my eyes communicated. I was not some aidle maidel, scion of shmirat halashon, nor was I the type of girl who had her eyes modestly downcast. When I did have the courage to raise my face to yours, I was a storm with a loud voice and a pointed look that said, I do not agree.
It is still my best power, my strongest armour.
I perfected this death stare early. It protected me from those who would hurt me.
Like that 17 year old who took to calling me ugly when I was 13 and awkward, with a dutch boy haircut growing out into a mullet, chubby cheeks, and scotch taped glasses.
I flipped him off once for trying to boss me around. I thought I was being rebellious and badass, standing up to him and his somewhat cruel behaviour.
For about a week or so after my impudent flip off he’d call out “hey ugly” every time he saw me in the halls.
I death stared him until one day he caught me in a staircase in the high school side of the building.
It lasted about a split second.
He called me “hey ugly.” He blocked the way at the head of the stairs. I was at the bottom, and didn’t really think he was serious until his minion came down to cut me off from the other side.
I honestly didn’t think they would do anything. His sense of entitlement had hit a brick wall was all, his ego had been wounded. I couldn’t have offended them that much. They wouldn’t be malevolent or violent. They weren’t.
Even so something happened in that split second.
No, that tiny little minute. It was a battle of wills, a frightening flicker of something greater and colder and far more sinister.
I knew I needed a death stare, a battle gaze, to fight off that niggling feeling of helplessness, that terrifying feeling of being trapped.
I doubt my stare worked because they laughed. I stomped up the stairs. Their fun was spasmodic. They felt it for a blink and then didn’t even realise it had happened. They left, forgetting why they even cared about “Hey Ugly.”
For a week I had been death staring them, using all the fire in my soul’s arsenal, directing it to blaze out of my eyes and push them away as if some demon goddess in black could be conjured up and thrown at them through my very retinas.
I remember feeling that resolve. “Don’t let them see. They can not break you. Sticks and fucking stones. You’re made of goddamn fierceness. You’ve got Gutholc in you. We don’t take shit from anybody.”
I had that swirling inside me through the five minute walk to class. Just keep moving, I told myself. Get to class. It was Navi. I sat down.
Then I burst into tears.
I was angry. I was spent. This was my first time needing to be brave since I was about…seven. Being fierce takes it’s toll. No one tells you that. Being strong breaks you from the inside and no one knows. Not even you. Until you stop.
I never really learned to hide how I felt. That’s a Leipnik thing. When we are hurt it’s the saddest sight you’ve ever seen. I could rival the Madonna. Honestly. When they are joyful it’s like a light goes off in the room. Their emotions bloom like a sunburst.
I laugh loudly.
I smile widely.
But my death stare, as my mom puts it, “is like a storm.”
Don’t anger me. Don’t catch me when I’m passionate about something.
It’ll scorch you.
Don’t worry. There’s a medium. My resting bitch face is only a by product (honestly THAT’S JUST HOW I DRIFT OFF.)
It means guys don’t catcall (most of the time. Full cars of arsim are never deterred by anything.)
It means people think I am way more confident than I am.
It also means people won’t approach me. It also means a guy I want to come up to me won’t.
It means, that though I am stronger, I am still alone in a crowd.
When I discovered how to put on makeup properly I was late to the game. Foundation came a little before I started college, and the rest came after one Zoella tutorial spiraled into binge watching Youtubers who had all sorts of tricks about the basics.
This was like finding nirvana. As a girl who had just had the worst break out of cystic acne all I wanted to do was hide.
People stare when you look like a rats been let loose on your face. People wonder why you look like the burnt side of the moon.
People don’t walk up to you.
Trust me, they don’t like helping you either. For some reason they have a visceral reaction to the angry ugliness of a breakout. They find it aggressive, uninviting. Babies wail, old people in their sickbeds sigh and wonder where the fresh looking sprite of a nurse has got to.
Then, not only are you alone in the crowd, your scars are visible and are held in contempt as if it was your fault and not some pesky hormones not doing the job right.
The scars speak.
The ones on your skin and the ones from within, the shadows of the wounds left by the asteroid turned meteor that splintered inside you years ago.
It’s suffocating, living under skin like that.
It hurts. Oh it’s painful. No one understands that either. It burns, it throbs even. Literally.
And you’re left with bursting planets that settle down angrily on your face forever, marring whatever poetic youth you were supposed to emulate.
People have no idea. You never peaked, you never knew what it was like not to be a faulty model, to have an imperfection that means you’ll never be young and most certainly will never be beautiful.
Sure, others have it. They go out, striding confidently into the world, with an invisible armour.
The kind I don’t have yet.
For years I lived with that fear. I wouldn’t go out.
I wouldn’t have fun.
Later on I’d carry that. I’d wake up with that stomach pain, afraid of a world that didn’t forgive my face.
When I discovered makeup, I suddenly had armour to accompany my death stare.
I was no longer vulnerable as I delivered the fatal blink.
Putting it on in the morning, just the routine of it, makes me feel like I am donning the skin that says I am ready for life, though my stomach takes its time catching up.
I’ve had people tell me to go without as if it somehow makes me vain.
No really. Please, go **** yourself.
I don’t do this to inconvenience your life. SO WHAT IF IT TAKES ME TWENTY MINUTES INSTEAD OF FIVE TO RUN OUT TO THE DAMN GROCERY STORE.
My well being and ability to function means a lot to me. You may not like it. But I don’t care.
Just because I am wearing makeup and my mornings take me longer doesn’t mean I am high maintenance. I like hiking and walking and the grit of sand from beaches.
You fight a fucking avalanche of nausea every morning and still come out looking strong…then maybe i’ll hear you.
Am I making this argument a little late? Are you going to tell me it’s been done already in every column of the Huffington post women’s section or in a monthly Mic. article?
Good for you.
Why am I still being bothered about it then?
I put makeup on because it is my battle chant.
It is my ritual before I break the wall or climb over the top of the trench.
With this makeup I am painting my scars, not hiding them. I am building above the destruction and devastation. You can see their faint outlines, they are there, and I choose to make them works of art, little prayers of encouragement, little fuck yous to a world full of secret imperfections.
It’s not vanity. It’s healing.
You can sit there and judge it. But don’t tell me you prefer me without it.
That’s saying you like me powerless.
In my own home, in my own comfort, in my sacred two meter space of trust, if I choose to wipe it off with a makeup wipe, then you can say you like me better this way.
I chose to be vulnerable around you , I trusted you with the sorest points of me that are thrown out to the world at face value.
If I trust you enough, you’ll get to see me without my armour.
Until then, I NEED TO BE STRONG.
Until then I WILL ALWAYS BE BATTLE READY.
Only God gets me at night, only my parents have me paused in a glowing moment of eternal youth.
Until then I am brushing it on.
Until I say so, I am wearing the war paints that make me fierce and full of vitality.
I am not ugly. I am beautiful. Somewhere, deep down, very deep down, I believe that.
I am not doing this for you. I am not doing this for a potential him.
I am facing the world in the superhero mask I know how to don and remove with expertise.
Next time an asteroid threatens to hit, I’ll be ready.
I’ll blast it to bits before it hits the atmosphere.
There is no room for that now.
It’s partly down to my armour. It’s partly in credit to what donning my armour has given me over the past few years. Confidence to see that there is nothing left of the asteroid within.
It is not dark.
It’s hues of blue now. Bright or duck egg or navy. Hopeful, content, roiling, or sad.
But it is never ugly. It’s a mural of lipstick shades. It is never dark.