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Gloss of Innocence

I’m not a spiritual person. But now and again I go down on my knees to thank the Almighty Creator of Y Chromosomes for not giving me a daughter.

I do this when Miley Cyrus performs a concert 100 miles away for $70 per ticket. And when I drive past the perpetual line of impatient preteens at Pinkberry yogurt after school. And when I see a 12-year-old peeking out from beneath makeup so thick it would make Katy Perry blush. Even if you couldn’t tell.

With teen idols like Demi Lovato and Avril Lavigne rockin’ blackout raccoon eyes, how can a tween resist the call to paint her peepers and lacquer her lips? And how do moms decide when it’s okay to wear makeup?

“My daughter thinks we’re cruel for not letting her wear eyeliner,” says one mother of a 12-year-old. “She says, ‘Mom, all the 8th graders wear it!’ It’s hard. You don’t want them to feel left out, but you still want to stand your ground. I’m not walking around with some mod-looking makeup-caked girl.”

It seems there’s an unspoken but widely accepted cosmetics continuum.

“You start slow — clear lip gloss in early junior high — then maybe some neutral eyeshadow by eighth grade,” says a mother of two grown girls. “The idea is to make them THINK they are wearing makeup when really, you can’t tell.”

As an adult who wears makeup to conceal or distract from the atrocities that age is attempting to perpetrate on my face, it’s hard to fathom why girls would want to obscure their flawless skin, taut eyelids and rosy round lips. Ah, to have it all back again.

“I don’t wear makeup because I need it,” explains an eighth grader who’s fond of foundation, eye shadow, mascara, and eyeliner. “I wear it because I think it makes me look better and because my friends wear it.”

Not all girls, though, are antsy to get their mitts on a blush brush.

“I’m too lazy,” one 12-year-old told me. “If you mess up, you have to get out the makeup remover. It takes a long time to get it perfect.”

I hear that, sister. Still trying to master the “smoky eye” myself.

But some gals are just born to blow kisses at a compact mirror. “My kids are only four and six, and already they’re obsessed with makeup,” says a friend of mine. “They beg me to give them my cast-offs. They notice when I’m wearing a new lipstick, for crying out loud.

“I want them to believe they’re perfect and beautiful without it — because, of course, they are. But I will never forbid makeup.”

Her own mom invoked a no-makeup-till-high-school rule. “I toted my entire cosmetics trunk to junior high every day and put on my clown face in the school bathroom. Everyone did,” she says. “It was a bitch to remember to rush to the bathroom and scrub it off before pickup, but somehow we managed.”

Some rules are more enforceable than others: No makeup till she can buy it herself. No makeup till she can practice good skin care. No new products till she can demonstrate tasteful application of the previous product (i.e., no orange foundation lines — shiver — along the jawbone).

One mom lets her daughter wear mascara to parties, but not to class. “I want her to know that education is important,” she says, “and worrying about make up at school isn’t.”

Indeed, when spackling their kissers, girls should always keep the setting — and the company — in mind.

“I’ll never forget wearing powder on my nose during a visit to see my dad,” recalls a friend of mine. “He looked at me, took his big bear-like thumb and just wiped it off in one swoop. He was probably right.”


Published inColumnsParenting
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