One time when I was fifteen, my dad took me on a rare outing. We slid the yellow canoe he’d inexplicably purchased into the nearby slough. As we paddled around, I took a deep breath and asked him the question that had been on my mind for a long time.
“When I turn 16, can I wear make-up?”
“No,” he said.
“Paint belongs on a barn.”
And that was the end of that.
I have been cursed with dark circles under my eyes and no eye lashes to speak of. The other girls had been wearing make-up since sixth grade. Compared to everyone else I was dowdy and ugly, if you asked me. (My school pictures will confirm this assessment.)
I respected his rules, though. One time, I performed with two other girls in a public place and my friends put make-up on me. I was performing, after all.
When I returned home, my dad appeared in my bedroom doorway. My stepmother had reported to him that I was wearing mascara and she immediately reported this infraction to him. So I was scolded.
I remember the burning injustice I felt. I was a straight A student. I babysat in my spare time to earn extra cash. I paid for all my own clothes, even my own shampoo. I never caused a bit of trouble. I did not drink, I didn’t take drugs and I didn’t date. For fun, I went to the library and read. I entertained myself by practicing the piano. I did my own laundry. I went to church three times a week.
And I was in trouble because I dared to wear make-up for a special occasion.
I never wore it again until the day I arrived at college. In Missouri. Far, far, far away from the eyes of my father.
For the record, we never again went canoeing, either.
And frankly, I think if a barn needs painting, you ought to slap some paint on it.