For this piece, I responded to a series of prompts I’ve always enjoyed: the names of lipsticks and nail polish. I have always wanted this job. A few of the names I have found are below. What I wrote follows.
“You’ve got glitter on your cheek,” a friend told me recently.
“I know,” I said. “Don’t try and get it off; I’ve tried. It’s impossible.” What I don’t say is that glitter is part of my under-eye concealer. Those are tiny reflective squares that make the light bounce back. What you call “glitter” is actually a sophisticated microlight enhancing system. It’s what makes people look flawless in photographs.
Another friend recently asked if she was wearing too much makeup, to which I honestly replied, “No. You don’t even look like you’re wearing makeup.” She smiled.
“I’m just wearing a little powder and some mascara.” She looked great.
“What about me?” I asked. “Am I wearing too much makeup?” She studied me in a cool way.
“I can’t even tell that you’re wearing makeup,” she said thoughtfully. “Are you really, or are you kidding me?
“Just some concealer on under my eyes,” I said. “And a little sheer foundation on my cheeks.” We both laughed.
“Well,” she said, “you really know how to apply it.”
As if it isn’t enough to come out as gay and a Madonna die-hard, now I find I’m coming out about wearing makeup. I’m a man who wears makeup. Why? Because I look better in photographs, that’s why. And as I age, I have found it becomes harder and harder to take a good photograph. Flash photographs are especially bad, but with makeup on, those magic little reflective squares marry with the bright light and POW! My face has a flawless moment.
This all began when a friend became a makeup artist and—according to him—I was the perfect pallet. Once he finger-waved my hair and made me look like a beautiful Russian model: big eyes and pink lips. Another time, he took me to a Kylie Minogue concert; my lips were lavender and my false eyelashes silver. I looked like my mother might have looked if she had been born in 1980 in Australia and been a lifetime Kylie groupie.
When we saw Moulin Rouge at the Castro Theater, he wrapped me in a red feather boa, gelled my hair off my forehead, and gave me rosy red lips and smoky eyes. He made me love the artifice in a way that was playful and theatrical, but he also helped me to see how a little can go a long way.
A few weeks ago, I got an impromptu dinner invitation from a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I had just scrubbed my face with a washcloth and gentle cream cleanser. “I just put the salmon in the oven,” he said. “Can you pop over now?”
When I arrived, my face naked and pale, the tiny veins on my cheeks and the shadows under my eyes clearly showing, he greeted me with a hug and took a good long look at me. “You look great,” he said. “Are you wearing makeup?” I shook my head. “You look great,” he said again.
Love is blind, I guess. And much less critical than I am when it’s just me and the bathroom mirror.