“Orange, pink, blue, purple. Is that enough colors?” I asked my friend.
“Yes, more than enough. We can share them,” my friend replied.
We walked over to the checkout line at NYX with eyes full of expectation. The days of wearing black and brown eyeliner were over. Those $9.99 colored eyeliner pencils were about to be a great investment, symbolizing the dawn of a new era.
“I don’t know … don’t I look ridiculous?” I insecurely demanded.
“No! Come on, it’s the start of something new!” my friend encouraged me.
Hesitantly, I filled in my waterline with the orange-colored pencil, tears of discomfort rolling down my cheeks as I aggressively applied the eyeliner. I remember the moment perfectly. I was wearing a dark green dress and black Converse complemented by a simple assortment of jewelry and very light makeup. But that eyeliner — it added the final touch, that push I never knew I yearned for.
I didn’t know why or how, but I knew that night would be a success. Maybe I would kiss a boy or dance the night away. Whatever it was that awaited me at the house party my friends and I were already late for, I was ready to conquer it head on. That night, I would leave having accomplished something, having challenged myself to step outside of my comfort zone.
What I didn’t know? That orange-colored eyeliner was the gateway to what would eventually become a never-ending cycle of goal setting and drawing out agendas full of expectations every time I went out with my friends. For what would seem like the longest time, I wouldn’t be able to go out and be OK with an uneventful night. I would always feel like I was wasting time, outfits and opportunities I would never be able to get back.
“I think I want to wear pink eyeliner today …” I expectantly told my friends.
“Yes! Finally! Switching it up, I’m here for it!” one of them replied.
“Don’t you think it would look weird with the blue dress I’m wearing?” I asked.
“Not at all,” my friend explained. “The pink eyeliner is so light, it’ll let the dress have its moment.”
I had been holding on tight to the orange eyeliner for almost two months. It was my first exposure to the creative side of makeup, I wasn’t ready to abandon it just yet. But that night, I wanted to wear a blue dress, and orange didn’t pair right with its turquoise shade. So, I apprehensively colored my eyes pink, making sure my waterline was fully coated but not too vibrant that the eyeliner overtook my entire visage.
I remember feeling really pretty that night, before my friends and I left my house at least. The feeling was fleeting, though. I was so nervous about wearing the dress because it was a bit experimental for my taste. I’d never worn a dress that hugged my body so tightly, that highlighted my bodily features in a way that desperately demanded attention. But, after much consideration, I welcomed the pink eyeliner as a protective blanket that shielded me from the risks I believed I was taking.
Looking back on that night, it infuriates me that I felt obligated to carefully calculate the contrast between my eyeliner and my dress — to convince myself that I wasn’t asking for it. I wasn’t able to just have a fun night out with my friends and enjoy feeling pretty because I was too overwhelmed by the feeling that something bad was going to happen. It absolutely enrages me that, instead of letting myself go and enjoying the moment, I spent the better half of my night cautiously looking to my left and my right, checking to make sure I wasn’t involuntarily inviting anyone in.
“Are you finally trying the blue eyeliner?” my friend pressed when she walked into the bathroom as I was finishing up my makeup.
“Maybe …” I playfully replied.
“Ah! I’m so excited! That one looks the prettiest on you, it really brings out your eyes,” my friend told me.
I put the cap on the blue eyeliner once I was done painting my waterline and looked at myself in the mirror. I’d never really appreciated my eye color before, even though my friends were constantly pointing it out. A blend of brown and green, my eyes are a curious shade of hazel. As I combed through my straightened hair and adjusted my white shirt one last time before we left, I looked at myself through my hazel eyes and confidently talked myself up. Tonight was the night.
Even if only for a night, my friends’ reassuring compliments convinced me that my eyes carried a superpower. As if I was a main character in a romcom, I profoundly believed that I would experience my oh-so-coveted meet-cute that night. I naively thought that a local bar in Puerto Rico was the place to be on a Friday if you wanted to spontaneously meet the love of your life. These romantic dreams were instantly shattered as I stepped out of my dad’s car and walked into the bar. My anticipatory thoughts were instantly drowned out by the ridiculously loud music blasting in every corner and the superficial conversations happening all around me.
Just like that, I knew the night would be just like every other one. Had I not blinded myself with unattainable expectations, I might have been able to enjoy myself and have a good time. But my chronic overthinking led me to believe that just because my eyes sparkled when I wore a bit of blue eyeliner, I would instantly stand out in a crowd. I had driven myself straight into disappointment once again. In the blink of an eye, the thrilling prospect of wearing eye-popping blue eyeliner was ruined.
“Switching it up again I see?” my friend teased as we finished up our makeup side by side.
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know, I’m getting kind of tired of these colored eyeliners. I think it’s time for a change,” I annoyedly explained as I colored in my waterline with purple eyeliner.
“We can look for new colors if you want,” my friend said supportively.
“Eh,” I disinterestedly answered.
The purple eyeliner I had gotten with my friend was sparkly, but it wasn’t as noticeable as the other three colors I’d been interchangeably wearing. After months of wearing intensely bright colors on my eyes in an attempt to draw attention to myself in social scenarios with the purpose of doing something that would spice my life up, I was finally starting to feel resigned. The superstitious belief that different colored shades of eyeliner would give me the confidence needed to help me fulfill my oftentimes unrealistic expectations was coming to an end. The dusk of an era, one could say.
I left my house for that night’s outing feeling as if my eyes were outlined with a simple shade of black eyeliner, entirely forgetting that I had added a purple sparkle to my makeup. Maybe the fact that I wasn’t entirely conscious of the color I was wearing would lead to unexpected events in the night that expectantly awaited us. Perhaps something thrilling would finally happen to me. Even if I believed that I was embarking on an expectation-free night, I still subconsciously longed for a life-altering series of events to take place.
On my way back home that night, I felt as unfulfilled as I always feel after a night out. Because even if I had unconsciously walked into the night free of plaguing expectations, nothing interesting had happened regardless, and I felt incomplete. When would this vicious cycle end?
Orange, pink, blue, purple
There weren’t enough colors. No amount of eyeliner shades will ever be able to fulfill the unfulfillable. No matter how daring it feels to finally go out of your comfort zone and carefully line your eyes in the color orange, or how pretty wearing the color pink on your eyes makes you feel, or how the color blue makes your eyes pop or how the color purple is nothing but a sparkly imitation of classic black eyeliner, you will never be able to fulfill virtually unfulfillable expectations if they remain what they are.
In my experience, leaving a night out with unmet expectations often leads to resentment. Resentment of a specific place, of specific people, of a specific outfit you wore once and swore you wasted, of a specific eyeliner color that didn’t do for you what you thought it would. Orange, pink, blue and purple were never going to meet my expectations in the first place. I was always going to leave feeling misled and disappointed.
When I wear colored eyeliner now, I look at myself in the mirror and try my hardest not to pay attention to whether I feel daring or pretty or whether the color makes my eyes pop. The expectative thoughts sometimes escape the back of my mind and make their way toward the front. But, even then, I try to push them away, because the colors will never be enough.
Statement Columnist Graciela Batlle Cestero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org