EXPOSURE THERAPY WITH PRETTY THINGS: Coral Blush For Spring And My Hideous Human Face

The word “pretty” makes me cringe, especially when it’s referring, to, uh, me.
Publish date:
April 9, 2013
makeup, beauty, gwen stefani, trauma, spring, pretty people

The word “pretty” makes me cringe, especially when it’s referring, to, uh, me.

Stop your big, dumb eye roll right there.

It’s not like I REALLY think I’m hideous! (Or do I?) I do acknowledge that I have a big nose, small eyes, and thin lips, though. And not-new-or-groundbreaking-research-at-all has shown that universal beauty standards favor a “baby face” (which is kind of pervy, really) -- that’s someone with big eyes and lips, and a tiny, toddler princess nose.

I also spent a majority of my life never being called pretty. I didn't even realize this until reading that one depressing Marilyn Monroe quote.

Seriously: My grandma once said I looked, “exotic” with my hair pulled up. My mom said it was strange that my boobs were so big, with everyone in my bloodline being flat and all. And then there was this other time, at 13, when I went to a pool party with my dad, and overheard his friend say that he thought I was my dad’s girlfriend, and how I look good in a bikini or something gross that still makes me feel woozy. (Some of those words are still engrained in my memory, actually: “I thought DAMN, [my dad’s name]!” ACK ACK ACK.)

These are the phrases I remember most fondly from adults telling me that I possessed any physical qualities one would consider attractive, whatsoever.

And like shit if the kids I went to school with ever said anything about me, other than that I was the new girl, quiet, and weird. (I mean, it's cool -- I got a lot of reading done.)

Ah, memories.

Since I'm older and know that parents are just human beings trying to do what they can, and that kids can be assholes, I’m just over it.

Even though an itty-bitty voice in my head sometimes screams, “Botox!” “Lip injections!” or “Nose job!” I realize there’s also a voice that says I’m the devil, or perhaps I should jump in front of the L train today? So I’ve learned that we mustn’t take all my brain's sick ideas seriously.

Still, I have an unfortunate, adverse BLEH-feeling to anyone saying I’m pretty, kind of like the first time I pet a cow’s face in the Hamptons a couple years ago. (I thought it was going to be nice ‘cause he was cute from afar, but upon petting him I discovered he was covered in flies, and his mouth was rimmed with slobber and poo or something.) Like, I wish felt warm and nice about it. But I don't.

Perhaps as a way to prevent this discomfort, or to protect myself, I never go for “pretty” when picking out my clothes or makeup. I go for dark, sexy, downtown, and maybe even a little harsh.

As most people split their laundry into lights and darks, I have “everything that is black” and “a few things that aren’t black, including two towels.”

I like contouring, lots of liquid black eyeliner, and just-been-fucked-by-an-aspiring-poet-slash-barista-let’s-go-get-screened-for-chlamydia-now hair. My favorite fur jacket was bought off a brick wall in the street in Brooklyn. (I anticipated bed bugs or a jacket haunting, but a year later, it just sheds everywhere.) I like pretty-smelling perfume -- but shhh, no one has to know that.

Just like the words "lovely," "calm," and "totally sane and put together," "pretty" is a thing I am just NOT. But luckily, there's makeup for that last part.

Since I’m trying to get healthier, and acclimated to things that I’m not used to, like taking a compliment, or not wanting to bawl whenever I take a selfie (and, um, publish them on here), and being comfortable along my “journey to discover who I am" (I love my therapist), rather than sitting in one little spot on my floor, rocking back and forth, and chewing all my nail polish off ‘cause I feel like such a hideous human being sometimes, I'm going to try out some exposure therapy -- with pretty stuff. Here's one:

CORALista powder by Benefit, $28

Temperatures are high enough that we don’t have to wear tights (FINALLY), which means spring has truly started, and warm-weather hues can come out of hiding. (You expected me to say hibernation there, didn't you?) (I was going to.)

One of the nice ladies at Benefit pressured me to buy this blush that I thought was too sweet and nice-looking for me, so I've lugged it around enough where the label has practically worn off, yet most of the product remains untouched.

I accepted the idea of using coral powder for myself after obsessing over an image of Gwen Stefani from October 2012's issue of Marie Claire -- it's pinned on my (real-life) spring mood board. (Mood board-making is healthy, guys.)

Not only was I an ENORMOUS fan of No Doubt, so duh, I'm a bit enamored with Gwenny-Gwen-Gwen, but I think about her whenever I'm feeling down about my looks. I remember reading this profile about her when I was in middle school around her Return of Saturn days -- I think it was in CosmoGirl! (do you REMEMBER?) -- and she was crying, none of the clothes the magazine rack had pulled were fitting, and she was just HATING herself.

Now I see her, and she's so beautiful and glowing and seems so fulfilled and confident. UGH, and she's just so cool. And she's 43! I have plenty of time to get normal and comfortable with myself, right?

So I basically just tried to be her: First, I top-knotted the hell out of my hair, prepped my face per usual, used Maybelline's ExpertWear Quad in Chai Latte for my shadow and liner, contoured with bronze -- even though I don't think you're supposed to do that -- and applied mascara. Then came the coral.

I loaded up my blush brush with color, smashed it into the lid to REALLY smoosh that color into the bristles, and went back for more. Then, I swirled some on the apples of my cheeks.

Even though every single item I wore was black, this bright blush made me feel bright, spring-y, and dare I say, oh-so-pretty, all day. It still feels unnatural for me. But it's subtle.

One step at a time, folks.

What do you think? Were you called pretty as a wee one? Do you hide behind your hurt, inner child by contouring the hell out of your face and wearing all black everything? Do you think it even matters?

Follow me on Twitter: @caitlinthornton.