When it comes to cosmetics, I'm not much of a risk taker. As much as I'm addicted to reading about all the new trends, styles, and techniques developing in the beauty world, I'm admittedly far from skilled enough to execute many of those looks with any kind of ease. And now, as a mother, I somewhat lack the zeal I possessed in my younger years. Back in the day, I used to rock a fierce Amy Winehouse-type look. I'm talking full on thick, winged eyeliner, a faux-bouffant, and sassy attitude. These days, a sky-high bouffant with a toddler in tow just feels a little impractical for me.
But just because I don't change up my cosmetics routine as frequently as I used to doesn't mean I'm out of touch with things. Well, I hope not, at least. My hair color is constantly changing (right now it's a galaxy blend of teal, emerald, and violet), my clothes are somewhat hip, and I know what most of the songs are on the radio. Still, I wanted to try and reclaim that "edge" I felt like I was missing. Honestly, it's been a hot minute since I've tried anything outside of my comfort zone when it comes to makeup. So I figured I was overdo for a walk on the wild side.
Every day, for one solid week, I wanted to take my eye makeup from demure to daring. It was the only bold beauty trend I felt captured the nostalgia I had for my adventurous era and still managed to push me out of my comfort zone. I was also curious to see what reaction, if any, there would be from my spouse, our son, my students, or even strangers. Sure, eyes are the window to the soul, so is thick eyeliner just a dramatic valance?
Day 1: Baby Steps
Something my mother told me when I was just a preteen has stuck with me nearly two decades later: emphasize either your eyes or your lips, not both. So I figured since I was going for the thick eyeliner look, I would keep the rest of my makeup on the more subdued side. It also helped me not feel overwhelmed with having to do my entire face differently. I could just focus on the eyes and branch out from there.
To my disappointment and the deflation of my ego, no one really seemed to notice my new look on the first day. Were my baby steps too little? I was somewhat bummed by the lack of comments but happy with my cosmetic achievement, no matter how tiny it might seem to others.
Day 2: Taking It To The Liquid Level
For some people, using a liquid eyeliner is easier or more preferable than the traditional kohl-style pencil. Most of the people I know save liquid liner for special occasions and just use pencil eyeliner for weekdays. But I wanted to step things up a bit since day one didn't exactly start off with a bang.
It took a couple tries, which I expected, but I eventually managed to get two, fairly matching eyes done. And because this experiment's not just about eyeliner in general, I made sure to channel my inner Twiggy and use thick lines. But, spoiler alert: no one noticed on day two, either. Would three be my lucky number, or do people just not care about eye makeup that much?
Day 3: Is It A Color Thing?
Maybe I was keeping it too simple by only using black liner, whether liquid or pencil. Was I limiting myself but not exploring the rainbow? Luckily my, "I'll wear it one day" colored eyeliners finally got to see the light of day. Though there were no neon hues or anything too extreme, the purple did feel much more noticeable to me.
I hoped that this "statement color" would finally get some kind of reaction, but that actually made me stop and think about perspective. Why was my focus suddenly pointed with laser intensity on what others thought of me? Nearly to the halfway mark and I hadn't taken much stock of how I felt about my eye makeup. I didn't have an answer for myself just yet, but was cheered up by my husband (finally) noticing my thick eyeliner when he came home from work.
Day 4: Wasting Time?
Since I asked myself on day three why my focus was so centered on the external and how other people reacted, I really wanted to try and forget about that aspect of the experiment. The first thing I actually noticed was how annoyed I was by the amount of time this thick eyeliner application was taking me. Perhaps it's because I'm not an expert makeup artist, but as many women with know, the minutes in the morning are more precious than diamonds and rubies.
So I still did a bold eye, but didn't take quite as long as I normally would and I also didn't really put any effort into making it look perfect or even. To be honest, and as you can probably see, the lack of time I put into lining my eyes was fairly apparent. But I didn't care. It was also my day off from both my jobs, so the only person to even see my makeup (besides my partner and son) was the mailman. And, no, he didn't say anything.
Day 5: Back To Basics
Trying to find a good balance between not giving AF and spending too much time on things, I stayed in my comfort zone of pencil-land. Not wanting to play it too safe in a decidedly risk-taking experiment, I opted for a muted plum color. I felt it was a pretty nice combination of fun and functional. I wasn't wasting time on my makeup, but I wasn't sacrificing my cosmetic creativity either.
I was in line at Starbucks waiting to ask the barista why they won't just sell me an IV filled with coffee when a woman, maybe five or 10 years my senior, told me that she loved my eyes! She also made some comment about my hair color being "fun," but I kind of wasn't paying attention because I was just so excited that a stranger took note of my thick eyeliner!
Days 6 & 7: Experimenting
Since the experiment didn't start with a bang, I was determined to go out with one. So for the final two days I threw caution to the wind and tried my hand at some more funky styles. On day six I was working from home, so only my son and husband saw my eye makeup, and my son was arguably more fascinated with the liner than my husband was.
Day seven, however, I definitely garnered more attention than I had anticipated or even wanted. My insecurities told me that the people whose gaze lasted a little longer than usual were probably thinking I looked weird. Though no one made any outright remarks one way or the other on how I looked, the lack of comments only furthered my suspicion that they were saving their opinions until they were out of ear range. Obviously I know that I have some self-esteem issues and I was and still am far from confident in my makeup skills, but this thick eyeliner challenge really brought that to the surface.
The Verdict: Thick Or Thin?
Though I don't see myself rocking the thick eyeliner look every single day, setting aside some "me time" did make me feel more in touch with my feminine side. I'm not speaking for all women by any means, but I felt that, by becoming a parent, I closed the door to a certain part of my identity. No matter how unintentional that change may have been, this experiment really made me realize just how disconnected I felt from the person in the mirror.
Most days, I'm still on the "good" side of my 20s in my head. But when I catch my reflection and see a frumpy silhouette with a frizzy bun instead of a fashionable college student, I feel old and unattractive. Of course an individual's confidence shouldn't be tied to their appearance, but there's just a gut reaction that can happen no matter how feminist a person may be. So, in the end, I discovered that a little eyeliner can go a long way when it comes to expressing how you feel on the inside — and I think I'll continue expressing myself, thank you very much.