Each morning I hid the girl I saw in the mirror — the girl that no one else saw but me. She was me in the natural state, with ratted hair, smelling breath, and a bare face. I covered her up with makeup to make her beautiful. I layered on a facial primer, foundation, and eyeshadow. I contoured my face to accent my cheeks and make my nose look smaller. I strived to give the illusion of natural beauty — by being as unnatural as possible.

Prom 2012: Junior Year

Phase 1: The Hair

The first problem to be solved was hair. I sat in the hair stylist’s chair for 2 hours watching my hair transform into a head I didn’t recognize, hair that was so concrete someone could have hit me in the head with a brick, and the brick would have broken.

52 bobby pins, too. I counted. I think I have more bobby pins on my head than I do hair. I probably gained 10 pounds alone from them and the spray. I was sporting a sort of sculpture. People would call my name, I would turn my head, and I swear my reaction time was slower. My curls were like sails catching the wind when I moved. Plus, I was carrying a heavy load of cargo up there.


Phase 2: The Face

I drove to another location to have my face, basically, covered up. I’ve never been buried alive, but I imagine that putting on makeup for prom is similar to that, like cruel and unusual punishment — that you enjoy.

I peeked intently at the mirror as my face became the makeup artist’s masterpiece. My eyes became a golden brown treasure that you could just stare at all day. She penciled in my eyebrows and applied my mascara. She began coating my face in a cream that matched my summer-tanned skin — Beige #057 to be exact. Yes, there is a science to beauty.

I stared in the mirror, pleased with the face I saw staring back at me. Now it had begun. I had strict rules to abide by:

I, Paige Shay, swear on my BaByliss Pro Blowdryer that I will…

  1. …NOT sweat, cry, permit my eyes to water, or leak any other form of dangerous liquid out of my face that could potentially cause harm to the makeup applied.
  2. …at all costs, protect my face from the sun, rain, mist, wind, bugs, and any other makeup-threatening environmental hazard that may exhibit a destruction to the face.
  3. …NOT ever, not ever, never, ever, touch, rub, scratch, or itch the face and the makeup applied, so as to avoid the smearing, smudging, or wiping off of the makeup.

Don’t judge the Makeup Code of Conduct until you’ve spent an hour and a half in a chair not moving a single muscle in your face and have paid $150 for the experience.


Phase 3: The Dress

I left Victoria that day a new creation. When I arrived home, the only thing my body lacked was a magnificent dress that longed for me in my bedroom — the dress that took me hours to unite with in the store and put a sizable decrease of green in my parents’ wallet. When I saw the royal purple folds of fabric layered in a Cinderella-ball-gown way and a fitted top sequined with jewels, I knew it was The One. It touched my body in a soft, gentle way. It hugged me, and I never wanted it to let go. So, on the day of prom, My Lover waited in my room for us to reunite again for our night out together — so I could claim to the world that we were one… for this night, at least. It was only a one-night stand.

I went up to my room, and there laid my luxurious dress, waiting for my arrival. I slipped into the dress and felt the warm layers of fabric envelop my body from my breasts down. After Mom spent several minutes tightening the corset top, my dress had become a fabric python trying to strangle the life out of me. Perfect.

Once Mom left the room, I noticed something: my eyelashes. They were covered with black mascara and looked fine. But they needed to be fuller. More flared. More dramatic. More beautiful.

I knew the perfect solution: an eyelash curler — the best invention right next to hairspray and the lightbulb.

My right eye would get the special treatment first.

I grabbed the curler, placing the right lashes between its little crimping jaws.

I pressed down. Hard.

Everything went so slow at first, but then it all happened so fast.

There was a yank and a jerk and a pull. I don’t know what came over me. I don’t know what possessed my delicate hands — hands that had done this so many times before.

I stared down at the eyelash curler in my right hand and nearly passed out from what I saw. Each delicate little eyelash was crimped in the curler… and not on my eyelid! My eyelid, where my lashes had just been plucked, began to sting and burn.

I gasped. What had I done? I had destroyed my identity. My need for beauty had killed me, and my fear of imperfection had manifested.

My eyeballs began to weep for the death and detachment of their lash sisters. But I couldn’t cry. I repeat: I could NOT cry! If I cried, my tears would wash over my face — a clear violation of Rule #1. Then I would have to wipe — an unheard of crime against Rule #3. Get back in those eye sockets, tears!

I couldn’t use fake lashes because I didn’t own any. My date was going to be at my house in 20 minutes. I didn’t have time to do anything except crawl in a hole and die. With every blink, my right eye burned. I set down the curler with horror and shock at my own actions. I was an innocent person with a weapon who had accidentally caused a fatality.

I heard a creak of the door and saw Mom walk back into my room. She immediately saw my face and gave a confused look.

“What’s wrong?”

Unable to speak, and frozen as solid as the hairspray on my head, I pointed to the lash curler so she could see the perfect little row of lashes clamped between the death-like jaws of that damn curler.

Mom looked at the curler, and then at me, and then the curler, and then back at me.

“Are those your—your—”

“—eyelashes,” I squeaked, fighting back tears and anger. “The damn thing ripped them out! What am I going to do? I can’t go to prom like this.”

I looked in the mirror, the reflection showing all that I had, but I only saw what I was lacking: about 127 eyelashes.

I took a few steps back from the mirror and took my whole image in. I had so many distractions going on that it was possible that the kidnapped eyelashes would go unnoticed to foreigners. I didn’t want everything else to be a waste. People would ask me in the days to come why I didn’t go to prom. Then I would have to admit the tragedy. Then everyone in the school would know. I might as well tattoo my forehead and let the world know.


Phase 4: The Showing

After much needed convincing from Mom and Dad, I built up the bravery to meet my date at the door. When we arrived at prom, only one person noticed my eyelashes — at first. My best friend — one of the most beautiful girls in school — noticed immediately, saying, “Oh my God! What did you do to your eyelashes?”

Yup. Just tattoo my forehead and shout it over the speaker, why don’t cha?!

Others turned and began to inspect me like I was a foreign alien in a test lab.

I had two choices: cry or laugh.

“Yeah, it was that freaking eyelash curler. It just ripped them right out,” I laughed. I hoped my attitude came across more natural than my looks.

After a while, I began to truly laugh along with others at myself, and no one really brought them up after that. I danced. I laughed. I enjoyed myself.

I don’t remember what other girls wore, what their hair looked like, what shade their eyeshadow was, what color their nails were. I only remember my eyelashes and the humor they brought.


Phase 5: The Beauty

At the end of the night, I took off my dress and put on my PJs that didn’t match. I pulled out every bobby pin and threw my hair in a ponytail. I washed my face with hot water and soap. I stared at myself in the mirror.

And I smiled.


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