Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Doing without Making Up

There are all sorts of making up.  There is the making up that comes after breaking up, making up requiring a leap of faith on both sides that things are maybe going to be better plus a venturing forward again when you're not sure.  The costs are mainly emotional. The sort of making up I'm talking about however generally costs a fortune (I seem to carry hundreds of pounds worth in my handbag), requires a mirror of some sort, preferably good lighting and skill in what you're doing.

I seem to have been doing make up for as long as I can remember, clandestinely in Mom's room when her back was turned and latterly for the last seven years or so, as a woman.  Borrowing Mom's makeup was a mixture of exciting and worrying.  Exciting to get the chance to 'be' the girl I wanted to be and worrying lest I got found out.  I'm pretty sure that Mom must have known, no way was I that good taking it all off again.  She never said anything but in a way I always wanted her to find out so that I could confide in someone.

When I came out and began my transition, makeup was an absolute essential.  My decision to be who I wanted to be, full time, without electrolysis or hormones forced me into a situation where makeup had to cover so much.  Dermablend was the foundation of choice, difficult to remove but brilliant for covering up the grayness left by shaving.  Too often I tended to go OTT on the mascara and eyeshadow with lip color choices far too bold to be natural for work. I hated those awful moments when one of my real friends in the know would pull me to one side and tell my that I'd used too much: blusher/concealer/eyeshadow/eyeliner/mascara - delete the one that doesn't apply.  It took a while for me to learn that trying to cover up what might give me away actually gave me away by looking so wrong. I was going through a second adolescence with no Mom there to help guide me through it :(

Time went past.  I got to the stage where the combined effects of skin softening hormones, anti-aging moisturizers, electrolysis, brow shaping and my clever hair stylist convinced me to go for a more understated natural look: lighter foundation, touché éclat, brown eyeshadow palette, natural lip colors and glosses etc.  It took time to get it right and to practice.  I'm so grateful to the best friends who took time to help me and support me.  Where would I have been without them? It made being a full time working woman possible.

Students often make good teachers.  All this learning came at the right time.  It was a period when my youngest daughter was becoming a teenager herself.  It was lovely to be able to help her get her make up right too and to show her how.  It helped me feel more like the Mom I had aspired to be for so long.

I have to say however that makeup, however subtle, has become a ritual.  Having got it right, it has become a charm without which I have become unwilling to leave the house, something that I felt guaranteed my acceptance as a woman and my passing without comment. I realized that come this month, I had been using makeup continually on a daily basis for seven whole years without stop. Makeup had become essential and my greatest nightmare was a finding myself in a situation where I was without it.  Famously on one occasion, having driven 30 miles to a friend's house to spend the night, I made the panicky 60 mile round trip (at 11pm) to call back home and collect the makeup bag I had forgotten to pack.

Last Sunday then was a first.  The first time I had the courage to just cleanse, moisturize, brush out & straighten my hair and then stop.  For once I tried leaving off my makeup.  It felt initially like going out without my clothes on.  I felt naked and it felt wrong. However, it was another milestone as momentous in it's own way as me venturing out as a woman for the first time or using the ladies restroom at work. It helped to have my daughter say how nice I looked.  We went out to do some grocery shopping and it felt okay, in fact in felt no different to normal.  I am so glad I did it.

Will it change my daily routine? Probably not. The last thing I want to do at my age is to go out, skin blemishes, dark circles and all, looking like I've just got up.  The dress code at work expects us to be well presented in work casual mode, that includes making an effort with my makeup.  If I didn't I would be the odd one out.  It will however see me buying tinted moisturizer and clear mascara.  I will still be covering up those weary looking dark circles but at weekends I won't be wearing much makeup except when I'm going out. The point is that I will know that I can leave off my makeup sometimes and still feel like me, I finally have a choice about whether to put it on or not :)

Robyn-Jane xx




Monday, January 16, 2012

January Blues and Saving Grace

I tend to hate these dark cold mornings in January.  Living on the damp fringes of Europe here in Wales, it can be particularly miserable. Getting up for work can seem like a never ending rounding of prising yourself out of a warm bed, getting up, applying makeup, straightening hair and gulping down coffee before rushing to get to work on time.  Once there you find yourself dashing to the loos to sort out wind blown hair and tidy yourself up.  Outside, it is gloomy still.  I find myself desperately clinging on to memories of summers in France or Belgium, sitting at a cafe table opposite someone really nice, warm sunshine and kinder days.  I have the January Blues big time.

This year too, I have also the enormous task of clearing and sorting out my late father's house.  He had been ill for a long while. Things had got chaotically untidy.  Over two months after his death his painfully cold house keeps reproaching me from two counties away that it needs sorting out before the spring arrives, the garden turns to an uncared for wilderness and the dust looks even worse in the sunshine through the dirty windows.  Out there on the Isle of Angelsey, it has been left to fend for itself until I can summon up the courage to go there again, preferably with a friend.

A fire awareness sign which I pass every day at work keeps encouraging me to plan out my escape! It always makes me smile. I desperately need an escape route at this time of year though it's not the one envisaged by the sign (a green stick person looking thoughtfully at another one escaping though an open door). Romantic novels and exquisitely elaborate fantasies used to do it for me, especially when I was younger. These days I'm a bit more doubtful about whether I'll ever meet that George Clooney or Mark Harmon.  No, I've not given up hope but let's say 'I know guys too well by now'. I'm not too optimistic after coming to realize what sort of men do seem to be attracted to me. In any case, I hated the come down when I reached the last chapter of a novel or lovely fantasy.  It was such a downer to come back to 'real' life. 

These days writing music ends up being my Saving Grace.  Now I get thoroughly lost in writing lyrics, musical arrangements and recording what I've composed.  Ironically I find myself writing about what made me unhappy in the first place and then finding that I feel better.  The lyric writing helps me cope with shattered dreams, unkind words and nice men who turn out to be the wrong sort of guys :) Okay, so it was really hard getting used to hearing my low pitched vocals on the recordings and not fulfilling the urge to give up completely as a result. I still struggle with that.  Writing the music is intensely absorbing, mainly because it's so hard and never came easy.  Why do I do it then? I suppose because it does let me escape and at the end of it, I get to keep the song and sing it again whenever I want. It has been nice too to have unexpected comments from people who listen to songs that I never set out meaning to share.

My music's not for everyone, I'm well aware of that. 

If I haven't already talked you out of listening, check out my songs on Reverbnation: http://bit.ly/nKZeaW My latest song is 'noT your GirL'.  A couple more tracks need their vocals recording (I dread doing that bit).  How much more music gets posted up there pretty well depends on how rough the days ahead are!

Robyn-Jane xx


Friday, January 6, 2012

Pantomimes, Princesses and Do Over Wishes

It's January; pantomime season here in Llandudno, a seaside resort with entertainment permanently on it's mind.  The holiday festivities are at an end and work once again beckons. Well, it more than beckons.  The first week of January has felt like a month! A friend FB'd this pic of me at one of the Christmas parties this year.  I did a double take because it all looked so princessy. It triggered off nice memories, the beginning of a great evening, lots of lovely friends, bucks fizz and champagne, lots of dancing, everybody looking so glamorous.  Now we are all back in sensible suits and straight skirts for work, groan.

The Holidays are such a lovely fairy tale time of year, or can be.  If all goes right, maybe you can turn your back on work and reality, be yourself, enjoy yourself.  Fairy tales used to give me hope as a kid, they were the sort of books I never really got given as presents but always wished for. As a kindergarten teacher I always found myself sharing them with the children in the book corner.  I'm probably not alone as a t-girl in having obsessed about the Cinderella story.  The idea that someone could come along,  wave a magic wand and turn you from someone who everybody despised into a pretty princess was rather appealing.  When I was younger and I used to sneakily play dress up it almost seemed like a possible dream.  As a child I could easily make myself look like a girl. 

By the time you reach adolescence however, beautiful fairytale becomes scary pantomime. You feel that not even the most talented Fairy Godmother could ever make a difference.  Becoming any sort of a girl seemed to be as likely as a Halloween pumpkin turning into a beautiful coach.  You fetch up abruptly against the realization that no matter how you feel inside, being female would be seen by others as a ridiculous caricature.  I didn't just grow out of enjoying watching pantomimes as a child, I grew to hate them.  Pantomime dames scared me and made me feel uncomfortable, 'principal boys' who were actually girls bewildered me.  Why would any girl want to pretend to be a boy? I wanted to be the Princess!  My favourite 'do over wish' was to rewind it all and be born as a girl. I would have given anything to look like I do in the picture above.

Thankfully I can smile at some of all that now and even share it with you.  I'm no Princess and I doubt that I would ever have enjoyed being a real one.  I do seem to have got my 'do over wish' though in a round about way. I am a woman, even if I had to wait years to get here and I do occasionally get to indulge in fantastic evenings out and wear gorgeous dresses (I draw the line at glass slippers). I haven't been to see a pantomime for some years though now and I don't have any plans to :). I'll settle for the pampering evening we're planning when we all get paid and a girl's evening out at the end of the month.