Hot rollers, frosted lip­stick and Love’s Baby Soft: We ask writ­ers and in­dus­try ex­perts to share their ear­li­est me­mories of makeup.

The shared girl­hood ob­ses­sions and in­tense friend­ships that form while you’re dis­cov­er­ing makeup are un­like any other.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - By Leah Ru­mack

Do you think you should wear a per­fume that smells like flow­ers or one that makes you smell like some­thing good to eat?” I’m 11. My friend Karen and I are hav­ing one of our many sleep­overs where, deep into the night, we pon­der life’s mys­ter­ies, like what per­fume to wear, which boys and girls are “go­ing around” and who in our class is go­ing to get their pe­riod first. “Hmm…” I think deeply. “Like flow­ers!” I mean, why would you want to smell like dough­nuts? Duh.

The cos­metic trap­pings of im­pend­ing wom­an­hood were a ma­jor source of dis­cus­sion among my gag­gle of circa 1980s BFFs. Karen and I would spend hours on our bel­lies in my bed­room draw­ing pic­tures of girls (teenagers, ob­vi­ously, who were SO COOL) wear­ing elab­o­rate makeup and hair­dos. We hoarded our babysit­ting money so we could go to our tiny lo­cal mall, in Markham, Ont., and buy May­belline Kiss­ing Po­tion Roll-on Lip­gloss (Cherry Smash for me, Mighty Mint for her). We spritzed Sun In in our hair and did Glamour Shots-in­spired photo ses­sions, pos­ing in our terry cloth shorts with what we dreamt were sul­try looks on our freck­led faces while we tossed our feath­ered hair just so.

The ante was upped in Grade 7, when the shack­les were off and sud­denly all the girls were al­lowed to wear makeup. I’m not sure who sent the memo, but like a swarm of tit­ter­ing flies in train­ing bras, ev­ery­one con­verged, seem­ingly spon­ta­neously, on the Faces kiosk at that same mall and emerged tri­umphant, one of two iconic lip­sticks—#59 or #65—slathered on our lips. Fifty-nine was a pale frosted pink—a day­time look, re­ally. Sixty-five—a darker frosted pink—was for when you were feel­ing bold.

I still re­mem­ber those num­bers, and I still re­mem­ber their ex­act shades, but what I also re­mem­ber is how those lip­sticks were the be­gin­ning of a life­long shared lan­guage be­tween all the girls in my life and me about makeup and clothes (and—let’s be real—boys). We talked about want­ing to look pretty (but feel­ing ugly) and so much more. In my pre­teens and teens, boyfriends came and went, in­spir­ing many a tor­tured mix tape and stacks of ter­ri­ble po­etry, but my girl­friends were truly the loves of my life. “What are you talk­ing to her about for three hours?” my mother yells from down­stairs. “You just saw her all day at school!” Six­teen-year-old me shuts the door on the study and set­tles in with Tracy to de­brief on the minu­tiae of the day. We do this pretty much ev­ery night. She sings me songs over the tele­phone line (we’re mu­si­cal-the­atre nerds—I know, I know), I read her my lat­est short story, we dis­cuss los­ing our vir­gin­ity (I’m pro, she’s against) and we dis­sect ev­ery pass­ing glance from the boys we’re cur­rently ob­sess­ing over. But when we’re to­gether, we mainly do three things: go to choir prac­tice, shop for vin­tage clothes and try on makeup. Tracy shows me the way of un­der­eye con­cealer and, as my “gate­way-drug dealer,” leads me from the drug­store aisle to the Big Girl Land of Clin­ique and M.A.C.

If you were a teenage girl in the late ’80s, shop­ping for pres­tige makeup in Canada wasn’t the Sephora-crazed cake­walk it is to­day. To up your game, you had to en­ter a ter­ri­fy­ing place: The Bay. Some­one’s par­ent would drop Tracy and me off at Markville Mall, and we’d make a bee­line for the stern lab-coated women (be­cause they were makeup sci­en­tists) at the Clin­ique counter. They stared sus­pi­ciously as our gig­gles broke the car­peted si­lence of the De­part­ment Store Shop­ping Ex­pe­ri­ence (“No, re­ally, we’re buy­ing! I have a part-time job at Pan­torama, and, lady, I’m here to spend.”), and Tracy ad­vised me on shades with the grav­i­tas of a 15-year-old Parisian trend fore­caster. Rasp­berry Glacé (a deep sparkly pink), Earth Red (a deep brown­ish red) and a brown whose name is lost to me be­came my ro­tat­ing lip­stick wardrobe, all se­lected for me by The Eye of Tracy. Tracy was pretty, pop­u­lar, ob­sessed over by boys, the star of the school play and the pres­i­dent of the school coun­cil—pretty much the worst pos­si­ble per­son to be besties with when you’re none of the above. But she re­ally be­lieved that I was beautiful and cool and smart, and as she did my makeup in her bed­room be­fore I went to, you know, drop in on the boy I liked at his af­ter­school job, for a mo­ment I did, too.

It was also Tracy who in­tro­duced me to M.A.C. Back then, M.A.C (which started in Toronto) was still in its early cult-brand years—beloved by makeup artists and all the cool down­town peo­ple whom I so longed to be—and hadn’t yet be­gun to ex­plode into main­stream con­scious­ness. By 16, I had en­tered my req­ui­site “weird artsy girl” phase, and in ad­di­tion to Tracy’s and my shop­ping trips to the now-long-gone sec­ond-hand cloth­ing stores on Queen Street West, where I would pick out crino­lines, boleros, Doc Martens and weird hats, we al­ways made a pil­grim­age to the M.A.C store, where I bought what­ever seemed to best project a true sense of my in­ner tor­ment. And Miko* loved in­ner tor­ment.

Miko was the last of my girl­hood loves. She was beautiful, spoke Ja­panese, had a BRI­TISH AC­CENT and smoked cig­a­rettes through pouty pur­ple-tinted lips—M.A.C, bien sûr! Even though we were still in high school, she had al­ready moved out and lived with room­mates. She wore a mo­tor­cy­cle jacket. She had drink­ing prob­lems. In short, she was per­fect. We fell into an in­tense, ob­ses­sive friend­ship, and she pretty much lived with my fam­ily for a year. We were mostly in­sep­a­ra­ble un­til, a cou­ple of years in, when, like a scene from a ter­ri­ble rom­com, I stum­bled upon her and those pur­ple lips mak­ing out with her New Other Best Girl Friend (whom I was al­ready vi­ciously jeal­ous of). I didn’t have a queer bone in my body, yet my first tear­ful ques­tion was “Does this mean you love her more than you love me?” I think she said no. I don’t re­mem­ber how or when we lost touch, but we did.

These days, I’m a mar­ried mom and still have close fe­male friends, one of whom has spent at least 30 years telling me that I wear too much mas­cara. (Does that count as a shared lan­guage about makeup?) But hav­ing good friends in your 40s just isn’t the same as the ob­ses­sive daily en­mesh­ing that can be the friend­ships be­tween girls. And some­times I think I miss it. I still see Karen on so­cial me­dia, and I see Tracy in per­son a cou­ple of times a year. I look for Miko, and I find sliv­ers of her here and there, but, well, she’s a nun now. (No, re­ally.) But I think of Karen ev­ery time I buy a fra­grance (“Like flow­ers or some­thing good to eat?”), of Tracy when­ever I try on a lip­stick at a beauty counter and of Miko when I see some­one in a dark berry lip.

(*Name has been changed.)

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