During our vacation in Mexico, my boyfriend James and I were looking forward to a fancy dinner out on the town. While he was getting ready in the bathroom, I sneaked out onto the porch to put on my makeup. I pretended I was calling my mom.
The thought of him witnessing how many products it takes me to turn into the girl he swiped right on absolutely mortified me. I see young women rocking bare faces, but I can’t. I have sun spots, acne scars, and very prominent forehead wrinkles—I need makeup to make myself feel good. At the very least, I need to have concealer and bronzer on before I leave the house. By the time I was done with my face, we were 20 minutes late, had lost our reservation, and had had our first real argument as a couple. Clearly, he hadn’t noticed or appreciated the transformation that took place under the mosquito lights.
Six months later, nothing had changed. I still refused to let him see me put on makeup, and he still had no idea what it took to get my face looking flawless. For both of our sakes, I decided to do a little experiment: I was going to let him do my makeup for me. James said he knows I’m beautiful. But I wanted him to understand all of the effort it took to put on a full face. More than anything, I wanted to be comfortable with the idea of him knowing that I don’t roll out of bed looking like a supermodel. James is a former star athlete turned financier (i.e., a guy’s guy who knows nothing about women’s beauty routines), so the experience promised to be a real adventure for both of us.
When we walked into Sephora, the first words out of his mouth were “What is all this stuff?” He asked me to explain the purpose of a highlighter three different times, and he was genuinely horrified that not only is there a product called Brazilian Bum Bum Cream but women are willing to pay $45 for it.
When the makeup artist started contouring my face, James was fascinated. “What does that do?” he asked as she drew lines on my face with Make Up For Ever’s stick foundation. She explained she was trying to “draw out the natural bone structure in my face,” to which he responded, “she looks like she belongs in Lion King, the musical.” (Thanks, babe.)
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When we got home, I stripped off my Sephora-made masterpiece so James could try to re-create the look. I felt super vulnerable letting him look so intently at my bare face in front of his bathroom mirror. It was a bizarre sort of intimacy that neither one of us had ever experienced before, and we both felt awkward and nervous.
After he’d finished (leaving my eyeballs, thankfully, intact), we were both fairly impressed by the final product. He had clearly been listening to the makeup artist’s directions. I started to wonder whether he’d help me with contouring from now on—I’ll admit he’s a lot better at it than I am.
James couldn’t stop telling me how beautiful I looked. He told me he finally had a new appreciation for how much time and effort goes into completing a look. I don’t see any point in hiding the fact that yes, I put on makeup. But I also don’t need to lock him out of the bathroom every time I want to put on a little bronzer. The best news? He finally understands why I’m always 15 minutes late for dinner.