How To Make Yourself Look Like Your Mom

Welcome to Make Your Face, a makeup tutorial series with a simple mission: makeup by you (me) for your (my) own entertainment, Establishment-style.

Don’t worry! It’s not Mother’s Day yet! (I don’t think.) But it is my own mother’s day on April 11, when she turns 60!!

It’s hard, if you’re me, to think about beauty without thinking about my mom. She was the first person to ever teach me anything about makeup, and she is also just straight-up, frankly, a shockingly beautiful person. Like a lot of moms, she was instrumental in shaping my whole conception of beauty, and she’s still my major role model and primary source of information on health, aging, and happiness. This tutorial-come-excuse-to-write-a-bizarrely-formatted-essay-about-my-own-mom might not be much help in making you look more like your mom, but you’ve got that covered already, right? We are all turning into our moms.

Behold! My inspiration, surrounded by the fruit of her loins and subsequent labor:


The first step to bodily becoming my mother is contact lenses. My mom has annoyingly perfect vision — or rather, she used to. Now she wears reading glasses to focus on print up close. She has AT LEAST 1,000 pairs of them, I swear — they’re all over her house, car, and everywhere she visits — but then she never has to worry about finding another if she loses one or accidentally drops it down the garbage disposal or it becomes a cat toy! I have learned from this practice and now own several backup pairs of my precious prescription glasses just in case.


My mom doesn’t spend a lot of effort on her brows, just a little pencil for dolled-up occasions. My brows are shaped differently from Mom’s and came out way too dark when I used eyebrow pencil; I had better luck at imitating hers with some light brown eyeshadow and a little brow sealant.


I squinch my eyes up when I smile just like my Mom does, and therefore I pay attention to the way she wears her makeup — my face is probably going to look a lot like hers when I’m 60! She tends to prefer pretty simple eye makeup, usually with a light-colored shimmery shadow all over her eyelids.


And brown liner on the lower lashline:


My mom’s eyes are very green. She also has a sprinkling of iris freckles and, until she had cataract surgery a few years ago; a persistent pupillary membrane that made her left pupil look like a pie with a single slice taken out of it. My eyes are technically blue, but I can make ’em appear more or less greenish with the right makeup/clothing/lighting. Blue eyeliner and shadow tends to make my eyes look most green, but since I don’t think my mom has worn blue eyeshadow since the ’80s, I used a thin streak of green liner on my upper lid to achieve the effect instead.


Mom wears her mascara pretty clumpy, purposefully: the woman aims for VOLUME in most things in life.


Mom’s skin is a little darker than mine to start with, and sometimes she visits the tanning bed. (Yeah, I know, whatever; she’s a grown woman and she knows the risks, she sees her dermatologist regularly, she’s almost 60!!! She can do what she wants.) I put some bronzer on my cheekbones, then covered my pallor with a BB cream just a shade too yellowy/dark for my skin all over my face and neck.


Then, a dusting of bright blush on the apples of my cheeks.


Oh, and I almost forgot! She always wears some pale shimmery shadow on her browbones.


Once when I was about 13, Mom dropped me off at a dress-uppy party. “WAIT!!!” she yelled at about 140 decibels as I made to exit the car. “YOU CAN’T GO IN THERE WITHOUT SOME COLOR ON YOUR MOUTH!” She procured some vivid red-pink lipstick from her purse before I had to suffer the indignity of confronting my peers with naked lips, and the evening was saved.

If she’d realized sooner, I’m sure she would have advised me to apply lip liner first.


My mom’s very favorite shade of lipstick is NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama, also the name of the state in which she resided when she conceived and brought lil’ ol’ me into the world.

In spite of my mom’s long-time devotion to bright, usually red lipstick, she has never mastered (cared to master?) the nuance of applying lipstick in a fashion which delineates the actual outline of her upper lip. Instead, she steamrolls right over her cupid’s bow with FORCE! Her application technique never fails to smush the tips of her lipsticks FLAT, no matter what sort of shape they started out in.

It felt really weird to fill in that little space between the peaks of my upper lip with color, but damn if it didn’t end up looking kind of awesome!


This wig isn’t a perfect match for my mom’s blonde-ish brown hair color, but it does perfectly embody her ideal hair aesthetic: SHINY! FLOOFY! HUGE!!!


My mom makes me look forward to aging, and I don’t say that just because of the way she looks. See, for most of my life, my mom has suffered from horrible chronic pain, the kind of stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And while beautiful people complaining about being beautiful is a really ugly look, I’ve seen my mother’s beauty — at times — become another sort of burden to bear, when other people have discounted and outright disbelieved the illness and hurt she lives with.

At other, worse times, when she has been beaten down really low, I have seen my beautiful mother believe that her physical loveliness is the only thing that gives her worth in this world. These memories make me shake, rageful at the society which would perpetrate such a horrible falsehood on the incredible woman who introduced me to this planet, and fearful that I, too, will fall victim to such bleak, such false but oh-so-convincing thoughts. (I already have, at times.)

But I have seen my mom become happier and happier with each passing year of her life. Better treatments and an increased focus on empathy in medical training have worked to improve, if not resolve, her medical problems, and that has certainly had a positive impact on her emotional outlook. She has a rock-solid incredible relationship with a (relatively) new best friend (when did you become BFFs with ‘Vette, Mom? Around age 55, right?) that has vividly, thrillingly assured me that silliness and intense emotional bonds with other women don’t have to end at some randomly determined point of adult life.

She’s got a million cats (almost) and is more active and engaged socially and politically than she was at 40. She’s got my dad, and he’s got her; together they have showed me what a long marriage actually looks like — they’ve changed, a lot, both of them! And continue to do so constantly, while continuing to build a life together. It’s an active process. And of course, she’s always got her favorite music and her sense of humor, which are even more informative of her personality than her gorgeous face.

So my mom makes me look forward to getting older. Though now that I think on it, I’ve always looked forward to getting older — it’s just that I whine, struggle, and try to skip out on the transformative parts of doing so entirely. My mom hates unresolved problems; she wants anything that’s troubling her to be fixed, NOW. I am the same, and apply the same attitude to aging: why can’t I just BE THERE, and have the wisdom and secure sense of self I want RIGHT NOW??? I’m ready!, I think, I want it! Many of the decisions I’ve made throughout my young life have been in service of that exact goal, I think, trying to “skip a grade” or whatever the maturity equivalent is and feel settled, feel “done,” feel like I’m THERE. Free from worry, somehow: I want to feel like I’ve MADE it! And I’ve done a lot of dumb stuff that I thought would give me that feeling.

In her wisdom and love of me my mom has allowed me to rocket out to the very edges of my boundaries in attempt to determine exactly where they lie, and has caught, cradled, and supported me when I have (unsurprisingly) fallen back from the extreme edges of my own known space. She is always here for me at the exact place I am now, right where I keep on ending up.

I am so happy that you’re here for 60, Mom.


I hope you’re in my life for a hundred more years.

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