Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections

Mirror Image

“I look in the mirror. Wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face.” – Bruce Springsteen

I wore makeup, for a short time, when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I did it grudgingly and just barely. I asked my sister to help me pick out a basic colour Lipstick, Eyeshadow, and blush. Each time I would apply it, remembering what my sister had told me, I looked for someone sighted to show myself off to before I would dare step out in public, fearing I had made an obvious blunder.

Growing up I never liked to wear brightly coloured makeup on my face on Halloween and I never got my face painted at a carnival. I didn’t like the smell and the feeling of the thick paint on my cheeks. I was a sensitive child, if not overly so. Was it just me being silly or was it something more?

Even when I was older I did not long to wear makeup like the other girls. I would stand by my friend’s locker in the ninth grade, each and every morning while she applied all that makeup before class. I had no interest in following suit. I supposed if the boys didn’t like me for that I would have to make due, or that is what I told myself at the time, but was it about the boys at all or is it only us women who care? The question baffled me as a teenager and still does to this day.

I wore makeup when I would attend a wedding and my sister would apply it for me. I knew better, but I couldn’t help picturing myself as a clown with dark colour covering everywhere and I felt uncomfortable and awkward. My eyes would itch and tear. I just didn’t get it (clowns having always scared me).

I know why women wear it and I too have the urge, sometimes, to be one of them and to do what they do. I know it is permeated in our feminine culture to want to look our best and I want the same. I stopped doing it, in the end, because I couldn’t be bothered. I told myself it was vanity anyway and I didn’t need that, but I understand it still.

I sometimes think it sad that we are so desperate to cover up every blotch, blemish, and freckle. I wish my fellow women did not have to feel like they were less than perfect, but it is the reality we live in in today’s society.

I’ve heard that guys don’t like girls to wear too much makeup, but I do believe all things in moderation can’t possibly be bad. I sometimes wonder how many hours, a woman spends over her lifetime, putting on her makeup. I know there could be other things to do with that time, but peace of mind is a small price to pay I suppose.

It’s hard to not have a clear idea of what you look like. Every day, morning and night, I look into a mirror I see less and less of myself. I begin to forget what my own face looks like, staring back at me still. I know I am in there somewhere, but I feel a disconnect. This makes it easier and harder, all at once, to do the things that most women do to look their best. I can’t ever get a good idea what I might look like and this often causes feelings of doubt in my physical worth as a woman. I am left to my imagination to picture what I look like. Sometimes what we imagine is worse than the truth (the clown in my mind’s eye). I have only my memories and vivid imagination for my daily reassurance.

I love colour and miss it. I love fashion especially and wish I had the money for a huge wardrobe to choose from. I feel my best when I am wearing something I love. This helps me to understand why makeup matters so much to women. I can’t possibly use the word “vanity” without putting that title back onto myself. I care just as much. Self image and body image are so very intertwined. I know there is nothing wrong with the confidence which comes from the things we do to attain it.

Sometimes I work so hard to recall what a bright blue or a striking red look like. I listen to a fashion show and the descriptions of the outfits and I strain to remember what, visually, that would appear as.

Other times my memories of the colours I love are as sharp in recollection as they were when I saw their beauty with my own eyes.

All of this adds up to my stance on fashion and beauty. Do I think we care too much and let it rule our lives in all the wrong ways? Yes. Do I wish we valued a little more of the substantial and a little less of the irrelevant? Yes because I know we all grow old in the end.

Do I want to be just like every other woman and to look my best for myself and for others? Of course I do. I long for all of this.

The image of a blind girl who has no interest in looking presentable is one of Helen Keller as a child, before she was taught decorum. In the film adaptation of her life she is seen with tangled dirty hair and dishevelled clothes. This is an extreme example of course, but I don’t know what most people think of when they think of blind people and all these things.

We care about our hair, nails, skin, and clothes just like everyone else. I could write a whole other post about my hair and I will, but this weekend I wanted to focus on fashion and makeup specifically.

Coming up tomorrow I feature a woman who is doing her part to dispel myths and to help blind women feel better about their appearances and themselves as beautiful women. I will be partnering the interview I did with her about the work she is doing with my view on the subject today. I hope you will check it out.


31 thoughts on “Mirror Image

  1. Reblogged this on Bold Blind Beauty and commented:
    One of my favorite people, Kerry Kijewski, who I featured a few weeks ago wrote this thought-provoking piece on makeup, fashion and beauty. What I like most about this post is her honest assessment of how we grapple with our outward appearance and how this is translated to others.

  2. Hi Kerry. I suspect most women have mixed feelings about this while many men are mildly perplexed by the whole issue. When I think about the words themselves make up can be viewed in the same way as make up a story, or in this case a false image. Alternately we might see it as an attempt to make up for perceived deficiencies. Most telling to me are the French word maquillage which connotes application of a mask. If I am to have a deep conversation with a woman I much prefer that she not be wearing a mask.

  3. Lovely thoughts. I can think of a few people who will not step foot out of the house without makeup on, and even have to check their face in the mirror before getting out of the car. Who are they really trying to impress? I think self-esteem plays a major role. I wish every women could wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say, “I look awesome!” without having to spend tons of time on makeup, their hair, and changing their outfit five times.

  4. I have evolved when it comes to this. In my younger years, I wouldn’t go to the curb for the newspaper without make-up. Now I only wear some when I feel the situation calls for it…which is dinner out or something like that. I don’t particularly care about what men prefer, just how I feel with or without make-up:)

  5. lenie5860 says:

    Hi Kerry – I am one of those who don’t wear a lot of makeup. When I was a teenager, it was a bit of mascara and lipstick and that was it but I know women who spend an hour in the bathroom every morning getting ready for the day at home. Not for me thanks but to each his own. You don’t have to worry, even if you can’t see your mirror image we can see your picture which shows a lovely face.

  6. I am a guy and for me it’s true, too much make-up is definitely that…too much. I view a little make-up as enhancing the beauty that is already present. A beauty that doesn’t require it but the application of it does not hurt either. When make-up begins to change the appearance; that’s too much.

  7. Hi Kerry; such an honest and almost raw post you shared with us this week. I only hope I can be as honest with the posts on my new blog. I can say that it is easier for men. although some of the recent fashion trends haven’t helped. when men wore traditional suits it was easy to look good. you let a sighted person help you choose a suit that looked good on you and then you labeled it so you would make sure to wear it together. Used to my biggest problem was shining my shoes without making a mess of the house, and I only had two maybe three pairs to worry about. when i think about women literally having hundreds of styles and colors to choose from, it makes my head hurt. and that’s just the beginning. and of course we are spared the whole make up issue. I do know that I comb my hair straight back and have for years because it is simple. I don’t have to worry about getting it wrong. I think about the only place where I can truly understand your pain is with my website. No matter how many people tell me the midway’s site is great i still wonder. i wonder are they telling me its good because it is or because its good for a blind person to have made it. I want it to draw people in. but most of the time the best I can hope for is that it is functional. thanks again for sharing with us. take care, Max

  8. Meredith says:

    Kerry, this is such an interesting article, and I love to hear your perspective. I’m a sighted person, who often looks in the mirror and wish I didn’t have to. (Not taking it for granted, just saying sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.) You’ve really given me something to think about. I have a hard enough time dressing and fixing up myself in the morning, even with the benefit of sight, that this is a concept I think about often. I like that you’ve expressed understanding for both sides of the debate over beauty and makeup. It’s not a simple question, and you’ve done a great job getting to the heart of it. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Body image is something that the rest of the world is starting to understand and very delicate and not to be poked and prodded. I get looks for stepping outside without brushing my hair and wearing a hoodie with basketball shorts and flip-flops. To me, that says “lazy sunday” but to the locals here, it says “lazy and dirty.” Hopefully, this movement to care less about body and image will continue growing around the globe. Going to take time, though.

  10. Lorraine Marie Reguly says:

    I agree with Lenie. You have a pretty face. But you are more beautiful because of your deep thoughts.

    When I interviewed Max, I learned a lot about blind people but still I have not spoken to any in my hometown. I’ve talked to Max, though. And it’s true; it’s a person’s personality traits that shine through.

    I know I don’t know you yet, but I hope that will change.

    I’m a blogger who doesn’t regularly wear make-up. And I found you from our mutual group of Bloggers Helping Bloggers in LinkedIn.

  11. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I have always worn make-up. Not that much but some. But for me I think of it sort of like painting. I can use light and shadow to enhance my look. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to not be able to apply it myself or get a clear idea of what it looked like. I think it would feel clown like to me too. I can see why you feel the way you do and thank you for sharing.

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