I had trouble falling asleep the first summer I went to sleepaway camp. After all my bravado driving away from the familiarity of home and my waving parents, it turns out that shacking up in the woods with a couple dozen strangers is… nerve wracking! I worried about warm water pranks and getting my period, missing whispered gossip and calling out for my crush in my sleep. But one thing that helped was this: after the lights were turned off, I’d take my fingernail and gently trace the outlines of my facial features, starting at my forehead, moving around my eyes to the bridge of my nose, down my nose to my lips, around my lips to my chin, across my jawline, back to my forehead. It was the same motion my grandma would make as she told me fairytales made up on the spot.
That memory came back to me a couple weeks ago while I was sitting on the floor of my friend Annabelle’s apartment. She had invited me and two other friends over for an “art day”; when I arrived, it was clear that her definition of art was loose. Spread out at her feet were magazines and scissors, watercolor paper, nail polishes, and eyeshadows. Pick whatever you want! Do something creative! We lit a candle. A manicure happened to my right and a collage came together on my left. A friend asked to do my makeup, so I pulled back my hair and angled myself away from a mirror—I wanted to be surprised.
Having my makeup done satisfied a want for care and touch I didn’t realize I’d been left with post-pandemic. I didn’t feel my now-normal proximity anxiety when her fingers tapped cream blush high onto my cheeks. I loved the way the brushes felt against my eye sockets. I got a tingly, ASMR-type feeling even in the moments where she carefully considered her next move—why does “I think this shadow will be perfect for your eye color” sometimes sound like “you are loved”? Mind you, it’s also fun to be the makeover giver. Doing makeup for going nowhere is a lot like spending recess doodling in sidewalk chalk, or braiding your seat partner’s hair on the bus even though neither of you have a hair elastic to keep it secure: just fun, just to see what you can do.
I know it might seem silly, or too girly, but I’ve truly appreciated reconnecting with friends (leaning) over our makeup bags! That’s all I wanted to tell you, really. Keep it in mind the next time you’re sitting next to someone you’ve barely seen in a year and a half and feel the urge to turn on Netflix.
Photo via ITG