Sam Wilson

Make-up: The personality test

2004-07-05 10:05

My partner Andreas and I were driving back from a dinner party the other night, doing what all couples do alone in a car after a night of making eye contact across a table heaped with good food and great wine. We were rehashing the evening.

"What was that woman like on your side of the table?" Andreas asked innocently. "You know, the pretty, organised-looking one?"

I paused for a minute.

"Funny you should ask," I replied. "Because, now that I think about it, I find I dislike her tremendously."

"Really?" Andreas was a bit taken aback by this reaction. "She looked completely harmless to me. Did she say something racist? Stupid? Was she gobsmackingly dull?"

"No, no... none of those things. She was perfectly pleasant, actually," I mused. "Tell you what? I am going to have to get back to you on this one."

It was only much later in bed that I realised what had driven me to make such a wholly unfair, rash assessment of this Perfectly Pleasant Person. Her make-up was immaculate. All evening.

I realise that I automatically don't trust women with perfect make-up. I am sure this stems, in part, from my own fairly unhappy relationship with face paste. I never quite manage to get it on properly. I try and all - especially lately, now that I have a real 'go-out-to-work' type job - but it just doesn't seem to sit very well with me.

Stayfast lipstick lasts ten minutes, tops. Concealer actually highlights the bags under my eyes. Mascara goes from eyelash to under eye in the time it takes to say 'racoon' and any face paint solution which passes muster in the misted-up bathroom mirror at 6 am tends to look jarringly childlike as soon as I reach the harsh light of boardroom neon.

So, ja... there's definitely a petty jealousy angle. But there is also a deeper personality test here. All women know how much time is involved in making up and maintaining a perfectly painted face. And most of us simply aren't prepared to make that kind of time commitment to something that is, well... quite so patently unimportant, larger lifewise.

Now that I think about it, I realise I do subconsciously judge other women on make-up application. I look across a boardroom table, see a squidgy kohl line and am strangely cheered. On the other hand, when a male colleague might simply see a pretty, together-looking person, I may find myself thinking, "Good God. This woman blends five different types of eyeshadow! What, she spends twenty minutes in front of a magnifying mirror each morning?"

I am sure, to women out there who have actually taken the time to learn how to apply make-up properly, this seems stupendously unfair. And it probably is. It is just that, when I find myself sitting at a dinner table across from someone who has clearly used her last bathroom visit to carefully reapply her lip liner, and another adorned only with red wine grin, I know whom I choose to talk to first.

  • Sam Wilson is a columnist for a variety of print magazines and a strategist for a contract publishing company.

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