” *gasp* What’s wrong with your face?”
“Did you just go for a run? Your face is really red.”
“What’s that on your face?”
“What happened!? Your face…it’s so red!”
I have a mark on my face. It’s red and kind of blotchy and it’s been there for as long as I can remember. It might be a birth mark. It might not. I don’t know. I haven’t studied pictures of me as a baby that carefully. But I know it’s there. And that’s partly because when I don’t wear makeup to cover it, people don’t let me forget it.
It’s not the biggest deal in the world. It’s certainly not a disfigurement, à la that character from Mike Leigh’s film Secrets and Lies. But it is something that really affects me and that, for some reason unknown to me, elicits repeated comments from a wide variety of people. I don’t think it’s that weird – it looks sort of like the x you see in maths – the one that’s curved. You know, the one you always need to find. Handy hint: it’s on my face.
One kind soul (who had just uttered the words “what’s that on your face?” and was desperately trying to back-pedal) told me it’s like the Chanel symbol (pictured above). Well if I’m going to be branded, at least it’s by an iconic power house female of fashion, right? If you’re going to do it, do it in style.
Coco and her style aside, I would say one in every three times I don’t wear makeup someone comments negatively on my face.
For the record, this is my makeup-free face, at the end of today, June 12th 2014:
The first two were about 5 minutes after the girl at the checkout decided it was her place to comment on the face of a complete stranger.
In that last one where I appear to be holding myself for moral support (and to stop the camera wiggling) I’ve done a fade filter thing for emphasis. I actually don’t think it made any difference to the red, it just made the rest of my face paler.
I regularly and totally unthinkingly don’t wear makeup and I don’t think it’s a big deal. I have good skin and only ever feel the need to cover it because of the way people thoughtlessly react to the mark on my face. A couple of close friends have suggested it is the wearing of makeup that makes the mark more noticeable when I am face-paint-free. But given that on 1/3 of the days I choose not to cover the mark, people from my grandma, to friends, to the girls at the checkouts in any number of shops or tills at cafés (so, total strangers) apparently think it’s ok to stare at and question my visage, I think it doesn’t make that much difference either way. All I know is that when I wear makeup, no one says anything about my face. It has also been suggested that I look into laser treatments if it bothers me that much (I’ve tried all the moisturisers under the sun and they make precisely zero difference) but that’s pretty expensive and I don’t think the NHS covers that sort of thing. It’s cosmetic and truth be told, I don’t really believe in it. To be honest, I’m kind of angry that I even wear makeup to cover it in the first place. I wish it didn’t upset me when people say things. I wish I had grown tougher and more immune to it. I wish I was braver and didn’t care as much. I wish I didn’t mind the questions. But I do mind, I do care and it hurts. It makes me smaller every time.
I don’t know when it became OK to say to someone “what happened to your face?” but I really do get it a lot.
Please stop it. Please think before you open your mouth. Because I don’t stare at you and ask about your big nose, or wonky teeth, or bad BO problems, or birth marks, or dandruff, or weird gait, or terrible fashion sense (that’s something you can help by the way, you should look into changing that. If I can manage Chanel embedded into my actual skin, you can do better than those horrendous trousers. Seriously.) I don’t pick on your big glaring insecurity and shine a spotlight onto it.
I shouldn’t have to tell you – stranger, friend, relative – that a comment about my face is extremely personal. I shouldn’t have to launch into a short and much-repeated lecture about how I could have been smacked really hard by someone abusive and, you don’t know, and it’s none of your business and wouldn’t you feel bad if that’s what I told you it was, and what would you do then? I shouldn’t be silently mortified by the 13 year old dickhead on the tube shouting about my red face or reduced to tears by the girl behind the counter because I was buying salad and she assumed I was sunburnt. I’m not sunburnt. Nothing has happened. I haven’t been hit. I haven’t been running, I’m not too cold or hot. It’s my face, as it has been for as long as I can remember and it’s the only one I have.
So please, just shut up and leave it alone.