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This time of quarantine has been marked by such limited face-to-face human interaction. I recently realized that when I finally see most of my friends, family, and colleagues in person again, we probably won't match our memories of each other. Digital representations are never quite true-to-life. My days are filled with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and FaceTime calls—sometimes for work, sometimes for pleasure. I take screenshots as I go along. I don't want to forget how I looked at the beginning of the pandemic and how my appearance changed. Three and a half months into it and I am already a different New Yorker than I was before COVID-19 hit. Death, illness, and isolation have changed me. Something that hasn’t changed? My love of makeup.
At New York’s pandemic height, I stayed in my apartment for a week and a half at a time. I’d crawl onto the fire escape or venture onto my building’s rooftop if I felt adventurous. Suffice it to say that one of my client organizations suffered twenty COVID-19 deaths in two weeks alone. But on days when I barely left bed, I still, more often than not, swiped on some lipstick. For special Zoom events—theatrical productions, poetry readings, art shares—I went all out. Eyeshadow, mascara, even blush or bronzer. Concealer for any “trouble.”
I write this all in the past tense, but the reality is that quarantine continues. The difference between now and March is that I see a little more sunlight in July. I know fewer people who are actively sick or dying. Almost everyday, I scurry through the streets of Flatbush with my mask. Once or twice a week, I go to my art studio space at the aforementioned essential service organization, a spot where everyone submitted proof of negative COVID-19 test results. I finally have access to it again after three months. We have our temperature taken at sign-in; we maintain our distance from one another. Hand sanitizer abounds. The custodian sanitizes the rooms every morning and afternoon. The sounds of Zoom echo through the hallways. When I get home, I hand-wash my mask. It’s full of lipstick stains.
I wear makeup during quarantine out of joy as much as habit—which itself can bring a certain joy. I’ve adorned myself with makeup for years. It’s part of how I’ve built and maintained my confidence and expressed myself creatively. Heck, politically! It’s how I’ve branded myself socially and professionally. It’s part of my presentation and my magic. Sure, I still sparkle without it; I know what I’ve got. But makeup is my cherry on top.
It feels normal to wear makeup, and I still long for so many aspects of normalcy. Systematic racism as a norm? No. I do not long for that. But do I long for the ability to languish in a coffeeshop or do a film shoot? Yes. Those are the norms I miss. That’s the pre-pandemic life I want back…though I know it’s impossible to separate one from the other. Injustice reached every corner of pre-pandemic life. Even makeup, broadly speaking, has its social flaws. Let the thought spiral begin.
When anxiety grips me, I turn to my dresser. I can’t have my “normal” Brooklyn artist life right now, but I brighten my smile with glitter and gloss.
There are too many uncertainties right now.
At least my makeup is a given.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.