I steal a lot of my makeup from men, I've noticed.

I've been helping a friend of mine with what was once a homework assignment, but which has now taken on a life of its own. She had to do some documentary photography, so she asked around to see if anyone would let her photograph their jobs/hobbies; I told her she could watch me paint faces, people immediately volunteered to have their faces painted, I rummaged through the internet for interesting face-painting ideas, and somehow this resulted in an afternoon that at one point involved two models -- one in gold leggings and kabuki face, one in a suit with her cheekbone contouring in mica glitter -- in a bathtub, with a single lowball glass of scotch.

This happens a fair amount in my life. I don't know any normal people anymore.

As it turns out, I have a lot of friends who respond to a polite Facebook inquiry about turning them into an outrageous rock star for the camera with a shower of exclamation point and emoticons. (Reply to 'would you like to play Joan Jett?' -- "YES!!! I don't even need to know more details. I'm in. I'm so excited! In fact, can I pay you to do this? I should probably stop talking now.") We seem to be skewing mostly glam/punk/Goth, if for no other reason than they all involve a lot of makeup, and hence show up well on camera.

A lot of female pop stars do wear a lot of makeup, but much of it is... kind of samey-samey. There's a lot of Kim Kardashian-style contouring, a lot of the standard smoky eye, a lot of identical heads of extensions and casual waves. Not all of them, mind; P!nk at least has a kicky haircut, and while I'm not keen on a lot of Lady Gaga or Kesha's actual music, I have to admit that those two have worked very hard on the fine art of showering in glitter. Nicki Minaj has just rolled herself in the Colourpop stockroom. Other than that, though, the main difference between pop starlets is how big and pointy they make the wings on their eyeliner.

Not so for the men. Men are not interested in painting over whatever imaginary flaws Cosmo has told then that they have this month, or creating a subtle sun-kissed beachy look with a natural/nude palette. No. By the time a man has decided he's brave enough to wear makeup in public, he wants to decorate his fucking face. Mens' makeup involves eight pounds of kohl eyeliner and sometimes colors visible from Mars. Brian Molko is one of the few humans I have ever seen successfully wear red eyeshadow without looking deceased. David Bowie even managed to look stunning without any eyebrows.

My philosophy on makeup is similar. While admittedly, I do wake up fabulous, I do not '#wakeuplikethis'. Anyone who thinks I do needs their head examined. It takes a lot of time and effort to paint my eyelids in three shades of shiny green with glitter accents, thank you, and I want that acknowledged.

I also don't wear makeup most of the time. My face is perfectly fine without it. I wear it when I know I'll be on camera, because I'm super pale and wash out without it, and when I feel like putting it on. It's a lot like holiday decorations. I don't frantically string shit up all over my house every day to conceal things I think might be wrong with the architecture; I just think some occasions are a great excuse to throw tinsel all over everything. And I own a lot of tinsel.

Men in makeup also seem to avoid a lot of the homogenizing effects of trends. When a particular color or technique gets trendy, about three-quarters of the female guests on the MTV red carpet show up wearing it. Coral lip gloss on someone popular this week? Coral lip gloss on fucking everyone. The men, not so much. Once they get past the ubiquitous 'guyliner', they develop some striking looks. I just spent three goddamn weeks looking for a match to a specific icy, sugary, sticky pink lipstick Molko used to wear with a heavy, sleepy-looking Goth eye. It's not the color you'd expect with that eye makeup, it wasn't a trendy lip color when he was wearing it, and it's really not a trendy lip color now, which is why I must have checked half a dozen CVSes before I found anything even kind of close, and even then I basically mixed it via alchemy.

[Milani Color Statement lip liner in "Pretty Pink" + L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last lip color in "Rose Tattoo" + Almay color + care liquid balm in "Nudetrients". As I said: Alchemy.]

I often wonder what prompts some men to start painting up. Having grown up female, I got it the idea thrown at me all the time -- "You should look like that! Why don't you? Go put some lipstick on, it's part of growing up!" Makeup is sold as a way of plastering over everything that's wrong with you, and maintaining the façade. Theoretically, you're wearing it as a way to attract men, but men generally have no idea what the hell is going on with any of it, and anecdotally a lot of the time they're rubbish at even realizing when you're wearing it, if it's all in reasonably normal face-colors. It seems to be mostly meant to impress or intimidate other women. Who can look like they put the least effort into appearing perfect?

[Mind you, it took a while for anyone to show me how. My mother's taste in makeup seems to have ossified when she was about twenty; either she loves that look or she doesn't know how to do anything else, and in any case she didn't really give me anything in the way of lessons, a pattern she repeated with other life skills like cooking, laundry, bookkeeping, etc. A friend in high school taught me basic makeup. In retrospect, she was probably worried I'd be insulted by the offer, but it didn't occur to me that I ought to be -- I wanted to know what the fuck was going on, and she was a beauty queen with an aunt who sold scads of Mary Kay, so I figured she'd know.]

What does that even look like to someone who's always been taught it was at best, not for them, and at worst, stupid and beneath their notice? Is the appeal the performance of femininity, or just the more gender-non-specific feeling of performing pretty? Or is it just a kind of body art that happens to be mostly done by women? Probably depends on the person. I wonder mostly about male-bodied roughly-male-identified people who do this. It's much easier for me to grok why you'd do it if you identified as a woman, or at least on the female end of things. It's a traditionally feminine practice, which you can begin learning and putting into action regardless of your anatomy, and scrub off with soap later if it keeps you safer.

Can't imagine how brave you'd have to be, to walk into a store somewhere and be the wrong kind of person buying makeup. Guys get all weird about buying tampons, and -- as my father always pointed out -- all that means is that the guy in question has a woman to bring them back to.

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