[Image: A woman on TikTok with a sharp-cut bob: Something I wanna see in the makeup world in 2023 is the decriminalization of cracked and chapped lips. On that note, I would love if a brand came out with something that looked like blood for our lips. Less viscous than a lip gloss but not as watery and drying as a lip stain might be. In the meantime, here’s how I would imagine a dark female protagonist would do her chapped lip look, in three easy steps. I’m gonna tint my lips with Benetint for some color, then I’m gonna go in with this darker brown lip souffle towards the center of my lips. Wipe off some of the Benetint ‘cause we are going for that kind of uneven drier chapped look, and that’s it.]
[Image: An old clip of Avril Lavigne in concert is circulating online. You held my hand and walked me home / I know. Avril brushes the straightened front strands of her hair out of her face; her nails are painted black. Her checkerboard guitar strap slung over her shoulder. The microphone casts a stark shadow up the center of her chest, her neck, almost completely blocking out her chin, her lips as she sings. A woman on TikTok stitches the video. That eye makeup: immediately yes. It’s really easy as well. She swipes a black cream eyeshadow crayon over her eye, followed by a warm brown powder tapped on with a brush. Eyeliner. Mascara. Messily, she repeats with each new application. She pulls out a tube of thick clear gloss. And I’m taking loooads of it. And just smear it on, she says as she does so. Her brush mixes the gel into the cream and powder against her skin, a new texture like the grease that gets all over your hands from touching a bike chain. I think her eyes are just sweaty. Aaand creasing. But I’m going to use this gloss to replicate that because it looks so good. And then just wait for it—she gestures with her finger towards her eye, following the arc of her brows, plucked thin in a manner both stark and delicate against her skin, her cheeks soft and pale and slightly flushed like the women of renaissance paintings—to get that really defined crease. Her nails are electric blue. She doesn’t make us wait; the camera cuts to a new clip to show us the results. The way the pigment has shifted to the places where her skin folds. The front pieces of her hair, which had been previously held back in a ponytail, have been released to frame her face. The shifts in the density of gloss across her lids reflect the light with different strengths in different pockets. It glistens. She tilts her face and slowly blinks her eyes to show us every angle. So good.]
I’ve been forgetting my skincare routine. For a few years, I had the practice down: the products I would use in the morning, the products I would use in the shower, the products I would use at night. The occasional-but-somewhat-regular masks or tools. I would often put gold gel patches under my eyes just before I left the house; I’d wear them on the subway and remove them before walking into work. When Phil and I first started dating, I carried travel sizes of my go-to products in a wide neoprene SKIMS toiletry bag which had been a gift-with-purchase. He told me I should just leave it at his apartment; it lived above his dresser. Now, my most-used products live in front of the small mirror over my own dresser, and also in a couple drawers within that dresser, and also in the bathroom, in a plastic basket on the shelf. But in the last year, I’ve fallen off of my routine, so I’m trying to get back into it. Standing in front of my mirror before bed, I squeeze a pump of retinol serum onto my finger tip. I dot it around my face, and then smooth it into my cheeks, my chin, my forehead. Especially my forehead where, somewhat hidden beneath my side-swept bangs, a few lines are beginning to emerge. On my non-driver ID card, I’m still 18 years old; I never learned to drive, so when my learners permit finally expired, I went to the DMV to get a new one. When I approached the window, the DMV employee told me that If I got a non-driver ID, I could keep the photo from my permit. My hair was shorter in the back, but my bangs look the same as they do now. It cost $25. I apply a few drops of Kiehl’s oil and press it into my face. I don’t fear getting older. I don’t worry about how I’ve changed, or how I’m changing. I still feel deeply like the same person I was when I was 12, the image of myself sitting on the steps of the porch outside the cabin at my summer camp before most people were awake. The morning fog, the damp grass below the stairs squeaking beneath my sneakers. My headphones in, iPod in my hand, listening to Anything But Ordinary by Avril Lavigne. I rediscovered the song a couple months ago when I saw it in a karaoke catalog in K Town, celebrating the birthday of Phil’s friend. I sang Autobiography by Ashlee Simpson, and Just Like a Pill by Pink, songs that I remembered singing in the shower, that I felt I could successfully perform again using a kind of vocal muscle memory, not too self-conscious of an audience. Anything But Ordinary was my next song choice waiting behind others’ in the queue, but Phil and I decided to head home before it came around. I tend to think of myself as a socially anxious person, but maybe less so now than I once was. I just worry that I always start to feel uncomfortable at parties, and that others can see that discomfort; I watch the ease with which it seems that other people float through crowds, making conversation. Phil often tells me that I’m much better in social situations than I give myself credit for. He’s probably a little bit right. I’m glad of all the ways I’ve changed since I was younger, and of the fact that I still feel at my core like I have always been this way, carrying a specific feeling that has never left me. After alternating between the same two long-sleeved HEATTECH shirts all week, craving something else, I put the gray one back on and pulled a vintage t-shirt over top. Looking in the mirror at the layered sleeves and wondering how long it’s been, I felt, in a small way, back in my skin again. I hope I always recognize myself. I worry about the inevitability of someday looking in the mirror and seeing a new face. Looking always feels like longing to me, so I just end up writing about love, I said to Max over Zoom the other day. I had hit record on my phone part-way through the conversation and never checked its progress, realizing only once the call had ended that, after forty-two seconds, the recording stopped. I squeeze a tube of Skin Food moisturizer into my hand, dotting it around my face in a pattern similar to before. With both hands, I rub it in. My lips are very chapped, and as I gently push my hands in upward motions on my cheeks, I tug at my bottom lip. It cracks sharply in the center. I wince.
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