Today I marched in Berlin’s Alternative Gay Pride. Well, walk, not march. No military precision involved. I was thinking about make-up. I saw lots of smeared, daubed blobs and moustache swirls in eyeliner. Glittery skin surfaces transferring onto unglittered skin. Full-face tranny make-up – not a square millimetre of skin without a trowel full of make-up – hard lines at the edges of the colour swathes on eyelids.
Make-up seems important to me. If I can be certain of nothing – nothing essential about myself, no theoretical life-line author to cling to – lost in the PhD sea, swimming out in high tide without a life vest – all of which is true – I have to ask myself, frequently, who am I? What do I desire? What do I want? What do I want you to think about me? I cannot answer any of these questions. But I do know, that I love two things, intensely: make-up and dancing. By which I mean – make-up has been for me, the means of self-creation, -invention, -construction since I first started wearing it when I was I guess around 11 or 12. It seems more important than ever. I do, of course wonder if people think of me as a pantomime dame and/or a joke with my intricately blended turquoise and teal shading and red lips. But that’s how I need to fix myself up. That’s what I need to do to feel like I am me. Not everyday. This is not an addiction and I am no case for body dysmorphia. But if I have time to do my full-face, then I will. And of course, dancing. I am not saying I love dancing because I am any good, but rather, that sense of bodily freedom, pleasure, elation – happiness in my own skin. I don’t know. I’m trying to tell you, I’m trying to say – make-up and dancing – they are tools for thinking – they are daily practices that take me further on my journey…. my journey to say something about what we need feminism for, what we need it to be enable us – to be how we want to be in the world, to think how we want to think, speak, laugh, love, desire, be.
And so I ‘marched’ with my face on. My real face. The smeared abject make-up around me, make-up that can move, shift around, slimy, glittery and transfers across cheeks is social, bodily, temporary. Played for laughs. It’s fun because the wearers don’t wear it regularly, it moves around because there is no commitment to it, it’s a quotation. But my face is for real. I put it on around noon and it stayed exactly put, no movement, no red-lipstick kisses on cheeks from my mouth. It’s not so over-the-top its camp. My red lips and turquoise eyes are me. I bought the good stuff (MAC and Illamasqua) and put it on with good brushes, sealed it in place. This is work, and I care about it. It’s not a joke. It’s my face. This is who I am, the essential me. That I washed off at 2am.