Lately there’s been a whole lot of talk (on this site and others) about kids wearing makeup. There was that creepy French Vogue spread that recalled JonBenet and the news that Walmart would be launching an anti-aging kids’ cosmetics line. While these stories represent an extreme of the beauty industry, I think it’s time for some real talk: I was a tweenage makeup addict.
I really was, and I still am, though I’m now well into my 20s. And while there are all sorts of arguments against society’s feminine ideal (yes, I took gender studies in college!), I just thought it was really fun to paint my nails and wear lipgloss. Sure, it’s probably Barbie‘s fault (and Vogue‘s, too), but I don’t really care. I love makeup, and I have since I was a kid.
My obsession most likely started after a few years of watching my mom’s carefully ritualized beauty routine. She was (and still is) a brand loyalist who knew what products worked best for her. I’d watch her put on — in succession — concealer, powder, blush, mascara and lipstick. Her nails were always beautifully painted. She’s worn the same perfume since she was 20, and it still smells amazing. (I also idolized my dad growing up, which is why I took to reading his Sports Illustrated issues every week until I moved across the country for college.)
My mom never made me wear makeup. She never even suggested it. But I wanted to, so she let me. And then I got addicted. Like most little girls, I had play makeup sets lying around for years and got the occasional very special manicure with my grandma. It wasn’t until I was 11 that I began wearing cosmetics on the daily. I remember asking my mom to take me to the mall a few weeks before middle school was set to start, and we wound up at the Clinique counter. I didn’t get anything crazy, I didn’t look like a toddler (or tween) in a tiara — I just got the basics: my first real beauty products.
Over the next couple of years, I discovered Stila and Laura Mercier and Trish McAvoy. My best friend Nikki and I would spend Saturday afternoons getting our makeup done for free at Plaza Frontenac in anticipation of the bar and bat mitzvah parties we’d attend later that day. The salespeople knew us by name, and always clued us into makeup artist appearances and new product launches. Bobbi Brown became a personal hero of mine because she was a smart, successful woman who made a career out of liking makeup. Her Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty book became my bible, as did Paula Begoun‘s beauty product encyclopedia Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. I thought about becoming a makeup artist myself. I was a tween possessed.
Throughout high school and college, my makeup madness died down a bit, but now it’s back at a fever pitch. I blame this job, Birchbox and the availability of 99 cent lipstick at Duane Reade. And while I don’t think parents should be forcing their kids to get their eyebrows waxed, I definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting girls experiment with makeup. Who knows, maybe they’ll even make a career out of it.