1.8 Editor's Pick
October 9, 2021

The Absurdity of Beauty Branding & the Lies we tell Ourselves while Striving for that Smoky Eye.

I’ve recently seen a funny meme showing two eyes that was titled, “Putting eyeliner on.”

Panel after panel chronicled a person’s attempts to achieve the exotic cat-eye.

The first panel assesses one eye that does not quite match the other. Therefore, the corrective measures by the fictional pair of eyes are implemented. A simple solution of just adding more eyeliner to the one sparse eye, unfortunately, results in more mistakes, attempts to erase, which only cause smudging, and a desperate reapply of eyeliner to both eyes.

The owner of these cosmetically enhanced peepers insists, “I’ll just fill them in again,” ever the optimist. However, this reapply creates two thick black eyes, so, two black splotches, essentially, instead of the desired cat-eye.

Our reasons for applying makeup this way maybe, perhaps, be two-fold.

First, we may want to craft and reinvent ourselves and our image in a definitive way. We could be insecure about anything from our personal appearances, our status, or that of our achievements, which can have us attempting some form of reinvention, mask, or identity overhaul. We may desire to be more alluring and exotic.

And we must have “the look” to go with that exotic persona, now don’t we? Hence, the application of exciting, sexy black eyeliner.

But let’s not forget, everyone. The makeup is immaterial. It has more to do with the mask than with a smoky eye.

Many of us have a vision that is not 20/20—far from it.

We can literally press our entire faces right up to a mirror, applying black eyeliner, simply trying to see what we’re doing. We do this literally and, of course, in a bigger picture way.

We struggle to see ourselves reflected accurately. You and I may want to define our features, but without a clear vision, the end result of that application, inevitably, can become thick, caked, black eye makeup. Hence, the smudged panda.

Our vision issues can distort our lives.

We may be too worried about beauty and image.

Let’s face it. Many of us have tried and have failed, pursuing it. We usually poke ourselves in the eye in the process, continuing to get further and further away from the smoky feline and Sophia Loren. We keep trying, though.

Not what we wanted at all.

We see an image; we want an image. We want to be that image.

With social media and avatars, there has been greater emphasis on image. The word “branding” becomes more common in the daily lexicon. It is naïve to think that we, “normal people,” are not impacted by branding. We probably don’t see ourselves as international moguls. But each of us is an influencer—social media or otherwise.

Regardless, the pressure placed on achieving a certain aesthetic is punishing. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is just one part of it.

How many of us have the negative inner critic, demanding we lose 10 pounds, inject that filler, or buy that overpriced item?

If we don’t, somehow we believe, on a primitive level, that the worst-case scenario will befall us. What will that be? Death to our social standing? Death to accomplishing the perfect relationship, career, child, or opinion?

Each of us needs to get real with the image’s importance to us:

Is it more important than truth?

More important than love?

More important than decency?

Is how something appears the most important thing in the world to us? And if so, why is that?

We may be too worried about accomplishments or money.

We stare in the mirror, looking at our ho-hum faces. We want something successful. Powerful. We want tangible proof of results—an external “proof of life”—as we hold ourselves, hostage, demanding a ransom.

We want the smoky eye because that eye represents that we have made it somehow.

We are alluring, commanding. We are in charge. At least, that’s what we first believe as we take that eyeliner to our peepers. We are trying to draw reality on our faces.

Somehow, many of us believe “more is more,” rather than “less is more.”

There’s nothing natural-looking about our eyes here. We want dramatic, drumroll, ta-dah. Hello, world, look at who I am. Look at what I’ve done. Be hypnotized by my smoky eyes. Be convinced I am not a fraud.

Because we spent so much time obsessing, getting myopic about this insecure desire of ours, our “more is more” mentality has led straight to the panda look. No allure. Just two black holes of eyeliner abyss, that neither conveys powerful results nor undeniable allure.

Just panda peepers.

Are we “the who” or “the do?”

What is it about accomplishments, results—and, yes, money—that makes us feel that we are better, more valuable, more valid with them in our grasp?

Why does external trump our internal?

Why do we need to add and promote extra things to cover for a deficit when it comes to ourselves?

More. We want proof that our lives are deserving.

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Most of us have come from backgrounds, families, and experiences in which we were repeatedly told we weren’t enough. Symbolic, naked faces are not acceptable to the public. Therefore, we needed to cover that up. We needed to cover over our unworthy nakedness.

And what better way to do that than add extra, more, or a “better” face?

The promise of eyeliner assures us results and accomplishments—money included. It is that way we put that best face forward. The makeup is not merely the makeup. The eyeliner represents an “add-on.” And it’s different and unique for each of us.

Accomplishment, results, and money are common. But they are uniquely expressed in us, worn differently, just as eye makeup is. But like that eyeliner, these external bits of evidence are designed to create a certain look.

And, depending on how desperate and unaware we may be, the panda eyes may be the only thing coming through.

We may be trying to wear impenetrable armor.

Yes, we wear warpaint. We slap on a look of sultry, exotic, powerful, confident, and commanding.

Many of us believe “the eyes have it.” Let’s rim those suckers. Let’s define our strength, accentuate it with some liquid or black kohl liner.

It’s even more of a sure thing, we reason, if that cosmetic is named something like “Racy Nightfall” or “Eternal Onyx.” Hey, that sounds like exactly the kind of thing that will protect us from our insecurities.

All we need to do is just perfectly apply it to our punims and, there you are.

Still, there is the imperfect struggle, which much to our dismay, ends with the panda eye. We want to capture the beauty, the sex appeal, the “adult,” when you and I are just a scared, powerless child wearing a panda mask.

But that widespread mask is exactly the level of protection we want. We just want it to be prettier. We are not thrilled with looking like the Lone Ranger.

We want to be hidden figures when it comes to our vulnerability. We want to be the rebel or the bandit who gets away with the empowerment efforts we associate with a particular face.

We are putting on a lie.

Give me that liner. Let’s get the smoky eye or die trying.

Dagnabbit, I wanna be beautiful already. I want to be the one with the glamorous life—free from tediousness, pain, and laundry. I will line and smudge and define and highlight and create my eyes until everyone in the world sees just how together I am.

And I don’t care if there are Fruity Pebbles stuck to my hedgehog pajama pants. People worldwide will believe my lie is the truth. Just look at my eyes. Just gaze at my perfect lie of a life.

But it’s nowhere to be found because the harder we try to draw it on our faces and lives, the more sinkhole black panda splotches we create for ourselves.

When you and I don’t like the truth, it seems as if we double down on striving for the lie all the harder, doesn’t it?

Our psyches (through the vehicles of our faces and after a disastrous makeup application) still yearn for that do-over.

We try, try again. We try to make the lie the truth.

Magical thinking. The inner child is begging and having temper tantrums for things to be okay. The promise of happiness when it only seems to be a mirage. The oversold campaign assurance of easy instead of difficult. The guarantee of being pain-free. The good life.

We focus so much on the add-ons. We see extra, more, and layers as equivalent to better. But there’s a reason that the expression “less is more” has lasted as long as it has. Less distraction, less complication, and less artifice are more.

Maybe we should concentrate on, or at least consider, taking things off.

Strip it down. But fear often paralyzes us at that thought. For, if we’re stripped of the image, the mask, the armor, the layer, the protection, then, what’s left? What do we see?

Perhaps, we take off aesthetic obsession, unhealthy priorities, unrealistic expectations, deception, ulterior motives, and the fixation of control.

Again, what do we see? What does that look like?

What if we didn’t feel the need to apply extra, be it eyeliner or any other external form of enhancement?

For those of us who wear makeup, many of us have experienced the relief, of the “day off” feeling of going without any cosmetics. It’s a reset. It’s one less thing to do on our to-do list.

Granted, we may not feel we look our best, but we see ourselves as we really are, don’t we?

Without the emphasis on manipulation, by letting things be, perhaps there’s enough quiet, enough stillness, enough unobscured vision to see ourselves. There’s nothing lined, defined, manufactured, deceptive.

There is us if we can dare to see it as such. Can we?


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Sheryle Cruse  |  Contribution: 22,230

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