I walked into the small cosmetics shop squinting at the fluorescent lighting and hoping for the best. I had the most fabulous fatshionista I could find and was clinging to her arm for dear life. Anything would be better than my current boi look swept up into my roots as shade from the blind femme dying to get a hold of some red lip liner.
Strolling the aisles of that fluorescent dreamscape I touched every stick, tube and pot I could. I wanted to taste the lip gloss, smell the shadows and smudge every bit of color on my cheeks in one giant swoop. Damn the masses that were surely staring down at the kindly woman and her blind friend. Damn the jokes in my own head, “wear what you want, they’ll excuse you as the girl who couldn’t look in a mirror.” Clutching my small arsenal of newly minted femme supplies I headed for the door and out into my brave new world. I would try this femme thing on for size and see if my inner desire for mascara and color was worth it or setting me up for clownesque failure.
Months went by and the only femmes getting any use out of my little bag of color were the dust bunnies. I feared the mirror I could only squint at, feared the throngs of humans that would surely stare and laugh and feared thick, clumping lashes and that “not fresh” look. I feared styling and drawing attention to my crippled self. Remaining butch was safe, plain, inattentive and understood. I excused myself, blamed partners wanting an androgynous look, “lost” the wands and smudges. I hid from myself.
A year and a half later I walked into a small boutique selling cosmetics and cleansers. I agreed to let them scrub my face and sales pitch a moisturizer I already used but cringed when they said “want to try some color?” Why would I, don’t I look butch to you? Instead my lips parted and out came “yes please, please help me!” Out came the tools of the trade; a mascara wand to scare the calmest of Queens and a coral lip gloss. I was wearing mushroom eye liner and coral lip gloss. How I ever let myself get talked into coral I’ll never know…..but I learned how to put it on. I learned how to feel the mascara wand and buy smudge-tips for eyeliner, how to apply shadow so it’ll stay and smudge with my fingers. I learned that I had a choice in foundations and that glitter was not my enemy. My inner femme practically jumped out with joy. Here I was, this androgynous terrified grrrl holding mascara like ze knew what ze was doing and actually enjoying it.
It would seem so easy to be femme in a feminine world, wouldn’t it? The tools and the skills are at your disposal to invert as you see fit. Except I didn’t see fit, I didn’t see what I would look like if I replaced pale face with color. I didn’t believe that I could be viewed as a femme and blind and that I could keep up with the sassiness of femmeland in my altered reality. I choose to cling to butchness because I interpreted that to mean I could hide behind black and a shaved head. I wouldn’t have to learn an accessible way to style my self and wear colors and sassy clothing. Hiding was nice, comfortable and glitter-free.
I still fear walking out of my house in clown-style make-up, too much eyeliner and the wrong combination of shadow. But I stopped letting that fear dress me up every morning, I stopped letting my interpretation of how I was viewed and how I could be viewed dress me up every morning. Who knew a blind femme could wield mascara this fine?
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