Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vanity (and Survival) In a World of Pain

I have a friend who has really been dealt a bad hand when it comes to being healthy. She's got all kinds of health issues. She and I get along really well, and Skype each other often. Sadly, she lives in Canada, so we can't get together very often. That whole couple thousand miles apart bit gets in the way.

But anyway, fall of last year, she got an episode/pain flare that was a record breaker in terms of length. At the same time, I was getting horrible pain spikes that would last for weeks on end as well. Most of our Skype conversations from that period were either gripe sessions or else grand pauses of silence while we writhed privately in our own pain, all the while claiming that the other had it worse.

Then, one day when I called her, she looked healthier than she had in a couple of months. I commented on it, and congratulated her for the break of her episode. To my surprise, she laughed weakly and told me that the pain was actually worse than it had been the last time we talked. But she looked healthy/er! When I looked thoroughly confused, she explained that she was wearing makeup.

This just confused me even more, until she explained: the foundation made her look less waxy, the eye shadow, which she'd learned how to apply correctly several books in the library, and a colored lip gloss gave her color that she otherwise wouldn't have.

This intrigued me to no end, because she really did look quasi-normal, but from her voice I could tell that the pain was bad. In addition, I'd noticed that I'd started giving away when I was in a lot of pain, myself, by my coloring. I'm naturally pale, being Scandinavian, and then also never going out in the sun. So pale wasn't unusual for me, but I too was getting the kinda glazed-over/dead look from the migraines. So my friend took pity on me, and gave me her secret.

There was a website she sent me to where some of the beauty supplies (I had none except some mascara) were just $1, and the really high quality were $3/each. So I spent maybe $15, and got some high quality brushes, and, because of a sale that the site was fortuitously having, a huge eye shadow pallet for next to nothing.

After I got the package, my friend walked me through how to apply the make up, from how to use the right brush for foundation, how to brush it on, and how to blend it, to everything eye. I also got a tube of vivid almost-red lip gloss at her recommendation. I grasped the basics quickly, and began to try to improve my technique on my own time, when we weren't Skypeing.

Soon, I noticed that I could, indeed, look healthier than I felt. I really liked this because I've always hated showing how much pain I'm in. I don't want people to know, but I was losing the "mask" I'd been able to wear, and the makeup gave me a mask back. But that wasn't it:

When I was wearing makeup, I actually started to embody the phrase my 2nd grade teacher had drilled into us regarding preforming: "Fake it til you make it." The makeup actually made me feel a little better.

It didn't lower my pain levels, no, although that would have been awesome. But it did improve what I guess you could call my quality of life. I would be minding my own business, and glance up and see me in a mirror or something, and I'd see somebody who looked "healthy", and, at some level, I managed to fake my brain into believing it. My functionality improved slightly, and on days that I was wearing makeup, I'd be able to sit up longer for dinner, go out to a doctor's appointment and talk coherently about what was wrong, make a quick trip to the library, etc., all because of some eyeliner and lip gloss, which sure is easier on my body than adding more medications.

So, what started out as an almost vanity trip, trying to fake the world into believing that we weren't dead with pain, has turned into something so much more for the two of us. People on the street treat us differently, more like equals and less like inferiors made out of glass, when we spend the spoons to put on makeup in the morning. Thus it's not, as some inferred in the beginning, vanity that motivates us, but rather a need to survive and a desire to not be perceived as "broken", or a personification of a disease, but rather just a fellow human.

So I have this to say about the cost of my "vanity":

brushes = ~$20
make up pallet = ~$15
lip gloss = $5                        
being treated as an equal = Priceless

Quantum in me fuit,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts.