The First Time I Put On Makeup
I remember the day I got in trouble for putting on my own makeup for the first time. I don’t know how old I was, but it was somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. In my mind, I was very small. It’s funny how memories distort like that - how could I have known how big I was at the time? I was inside my own body, wasn’t I? Anyways, in my mind I’m this little girl with curly hair and big round innocent eyes. What a way to feel sorry for myself, right? I was wrong though. I did a bad thing, and I knew it. Maybe that’s why I felt so bad after that. I knew that I was guilty but I still felt sad for getting in trouble.
I remember watching my mom put on blush in the morning. I really liked how it looked on her. I liked how pink her cheeks got and she reminded me of Snow White. I remember when I had dance recitals, my mom would let us wear makeup and I would feel pretty. I watched her one day when she was getting ready for work to see where she hid her blush. Then, in the afternoon, when I was back from school, I snuck into the master bathroom and took out her blush. I put it on. I felt like a princess. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. I remember knowing that.
The next thing I can remember is my mom coming home and instantly noticing. She asked me if I was wearing her makeup, and I told her that I used her powder pouf, but not her blush. I don’t know why I lied, but I did. I remember knowing I did something wrong, and I remember being ashamed.
She grabbed my wrists and dragged me to her bathroom, demanding me to show her exactly which powder pouf I was talking about. I pointed to a pouf on her counter - it was for foundation, and there was no sign of red on it. Of course I was lying. It was so obvious. I didn’t want to tell the truth, because I thought it was too late.
Then, I remember she screamed at me and told me that if I didn’t tell the truth, she would take out the ruler. I didn’t tell the truth, because I was a dumb kid. So she made me kneel down, and I was crying like I do, and she got the yardstick out like she always did. I was hysterical then. I remember crying and crying and yelling, and it was only one of many times I was disciplined as a kid, but for some reason I remember this one time.
It felt like we were there for hours. And she kept asking me if I wanted to tell the truth, but even after getting hit, I wouldn’t do it. I remember thinking that if it would just end, I would never do it again. I remember thinking, I’ve learned my lesson. But I still didn’t want to tell the truth.
Then, I started laughing. Now I realize I must have been trying to trick my mind into escaping the reality of the situation. But at the time, I thought I was being so clever. Start laughing until she stops hitting me. Make her so confused that maybe she will just give up and go away.
Of course, she stopped right away. I remember the black and gold bathroom tile, and I remember the little red stool. I looked into those angry brown eyes and watched as her nostrils flared like some militant police chief - I hated those nostrils so much. They always went in and out like a limp parachute and it still haunts me sometimes.
“What is so funny?” she asked me in Chinese.
“I was just thinking of something I wrote in my diary today,” I said, like a dumb little idiot I was.
“What was it?”
“I don’t want to tell you.”
She stormed out of the room and left me alone. But even alone on the floor there, I didn’t think I could get up. I don’t know why I never thought to run away when I was younger. I was a terrible kid, but I guess I just accepted authority as a reality. I never once tried to run away from a beating, but I would scream my head off while getting one.
She came back minutes later with my diary. It was open. How on Earth did she get the key, I don’t know. I mean, I know now that it wasn’t hard to find, but at the time, I felt like she had crossed a line. There she was, with my diary flailing open in front of my face, her nostrils flying all over the place, and I still didn’t want to tell the truth. Maybe it was negotiating power, I don’t know. I remember feeling so humiliated, ashamed, and indignant at where I was. Did this happen to other kids all the time? Why was she so mad? It was just a little bit of blush. I just wanted to feel pretty.
“Where, where in your diary is it? Point it out.”
I shook my head and kept laughing.
“You won’t get it. You don’t speak English. It’s an English thing.”
As soon as I said that, I saw the book come flying at my face, right at my own nose. That is when I gave up, and I don’t remember anything else.
August 8, 2014