A Somewhat Existential Glossary for New Yorkers

fifteen years in, a guide to the banal, beautiful, and existential life of this new yorker

Squanting- Verb used to describe the runwalksquat with hand apologetically raised that people do when rushing to cross street against the light. Squanting is also a popular form of forward movement when rushing to an approaching train. It is important to note that squanting makes one move more slowly than when simply walking. ‘The lady squanted across 4th avenue, sheepishly hurrying to outpace the rapidly approaching bus’

Tipsy Jaunt- Post cocktail, the walk to wherever you’re going next. It’s a happy jaunt, as you joyfully tipsily traipse somewhere while listening to a a favorite song with your jacket on and you’re cute and the wind is brisk and the city is alive and you’re alive and you can pay your rent and you have money for drinks and maybe you’ll grab a slice or text that cute guy or maybe you’ll go home and sit on your fire escape and just take in all of the goodness this city has to offer.

Steps Fatigue- Sometimes halfway up the subway stairs, your body siezes, begging you to stop. You cannot keep going up but you must keep going up. You will keep going up. Must you? (you must). You’ll be stronger for it.

Suddenly you flash forward to being 78 years old. Oh dear god, are you going to be dragging your body up these stairs for All Days? Will you ever reside somewhere without stairs? Where could that possibly ever be? What will countless stairs feel like at 78? Your imagination reels forward — will you be ambling down Avenue of the America’s in a housedress? Will people slowly amble behind you, sighing? Will the stairs ever be nothing to you? Are you here forever? Is that a blessing or a curse? Keep going up them. You must.

Near-Dinner-Darkening- The sudden realization you don’t have plans but don’t feel like being stuck inside or alone for dinner. So you begin reaching out to friends and one by one they all have plans and you realize with eyes darting around, that the only way to see someone somehow is to tap on the door of that third tier friend who never stops talking. Sidenote: You did nothing today. NOTHING. You didn’t move forward. You didn’t come further to accomplishing your goals and now you will either sit and listen through a long dinner or you will have to face this day entirely alone. The darkening begins.

Surprise transit heckle- When you speak out on the subway or on a bus or in a crowd against some form of injustice. (careful to never yell ‘this is ridiculous!’) Perhaps it’s to someone hogging space on the subway or a person checking their phone when walking down the subway steps or being rude to someone working hard at a store.

You publicly dress-down behavior, shocked by the sound of your own voice bellowing from your usually silent form. ‘Please don’t hug the pole’ and instead of not hugging the pole anymore and politely stepping back, they insult you so you insult them and then we have a public heckling going on in full view of the public. You walk off the train or out of the store and you think ‘Was that me? Did I just become that person who publicly has an altercation about etiquette?’ Yes you did, because we all do. Some we are proud of, some we will never speak of again.

The Fuckits- Often a Sunday activity, strongly hitting those single or living alone. If you work Sundays, then the fuckits can fall on whatever day of the week you have off when you find yourself at home alone during the afternoon — tired from working and also short on creative plans out in the city. Should you go to a movie?

No. The subway steps. You need a break. You open and close the windows thoughtlessly. You pause, your hand absent-mindedly resting on the back of your neck as you ponder life’s choices. Maybe you’ll go the the store and buy what you need for soup that’s always nice, right. Maybe you’ll organize your books or begin writing that thing stuck in your brain or will begin to ponder which items you should donate. You stare out at the concrete below while a few trash bags lazily float by. A siren drones in the distance. You hear the screech of the city trucks down the block. A dog barks, his yelps bouncing off the concrete beyond. You close the windows again. Acknowledge the fuckits. Contact a true friend. Break bread together. That is often how they go away.

Wonder Woman-ing- You go to your job, or have a day off and wear your sweatpants to the movies, like the midwesterner you once were. You had no plans, other than returning home at the end of your nothing day, so you didn’t even apply mascara (Word to the wise if you wear mascara — always just apply it). Out of the blue, someone offers you a night out to the opera or to a big show or a person you wanna look nice for is like ‘hey girl dinner somewhere nice?’ You respond ‘hell yes I’ll do those things’. Yet! You don’t look right and you can’t go home because there’s simply no time to make it back to Brooklyn.

So you find the nearest TJ Max or H&M and you buy a new outfit for 19.99 and you throw your old outfit away because fuck that outfit, anyhow. It wasn’t the best of you! You run to Sephora and are the customer who’s like ‘No thanks I’m just looking’ and you do your face and you use their dry shampoo and you show up at 7pm like amillion goddamned dollarsbecause you live in a city where you can leave your house in a crappy pair of jeans at 8am and show up to the opera in a dress with some cat-eye liner at 7pm and no one needs to know how you hustled that                                                                                                      look. Twirl,girl — twirl.

‘Corner Nostalgia’- “See that corner there?”, you say to the person you’re walking with — you had an an emotional experience there. A part of you molted there. You kissed a perfect gent or cried into the phone with someone back home. Hell, there should be a plaque on that there corner. My grandest nostalgic corner is on the corner of 2nd and 2nd, just after my roommate told me she was leaving New York for awhile. We were best friends and were beautifully co-dependent. She told me she was leaving the city at an Italian restaurant on 4th and 2nd, which is (to this day) a new restaurant every 6 months. Before we got to the subway I burst into tears and sat on this little dirty slab of concrete that juts out and I wept like a little baby while we talked about life, our friendship and why we came to New York in the first place. Every time I walk by that corner, I see a faded hologram of us, perched there with eyeliner running down our faces, pledging lifelong friendship to each other. That corner is a coffee shop now.

Slutty City Day- It’s the perfectly warm New York day. No humidity. The temperature is just right. Everyone is out. It’s a holiday weekend so the assholes are gone. The locals are out. The city parks are packed. The dudes who ride their bikes with boomboxes on their handlebars are riding around, yelling happily. People are day drinking but not Santa-con levels. You’ve got five-separate offers for plans, but no one cares if you come or go or stay too long, so you just show up whenever wherever. Everyone is tipsy but not sloppy. Well, maybe they are but not in a sad way. You’ve just had nachos and you don’t know what time it is. If you make it home, you take a cab home late, with the windows rolled down and if you ride the subway everyone is glassy-eyed and happy. What a gloriously slutty city day that day was.

Lazy Cab- When you should walk but you take a cab. You should be walking! It’s not that far. It could take longer by cab. Why are you taking a cab? Why not save that money? IT’S ONLY A TWENTY MINUTE WALK. But some of that walk is uphill. You look so cute. Isn’t it humid? Have I paid my electrical bill yet this month? You get into cab and mutter desperately like a criminal in confession that you know you should be walking it but you’re lazy. Your cab driver does not care. See ‘steps fatigue’.

Sidepony/Sidepony-ing- When a friend gets you out of bed to go do something late at night, like gossiping, people watching or snacking. This is a platonic friend. This is not a booty call. The origins of side-ponying date back to 2008 when living in the east village and a specific friend would stop by after 1am to have a tipsysnack and would drag me out to sit on the steps of Eleanor D Roosevelt Park. We would people-watch between the hours of 1–3am (after 3am the all of NYC turns into a sad pumpkin). This author would put her hair in a high side ponytail, and ‘sidepony-ing’ was born. You can sidepony anywhere. You can even sidepony in your own house, as long as you’ve been in bed and your friend brings you a snack and a good story. But is best when done outside on a stoop.

Cleared Board- Try to imagine New York as though it’s a giant video game. When do you realize when you’ve cleared a level? Is there a fireworks display or a loud ding? How do you realize that one specific phase is over. When that old apartment, or neighborhood, or job, or relationship, or skill, or emotional state has been done to the point of being ‘mastered’ . Imagine Super Mario Brothers. Imagine the first level you mastered. You have been through it a hundred times.

You know where all of the coins are, and know which block to bump your head up into to get the prize. You even know which turtle to bounce on and slide in any direction. If you have all of that information, it’s probably time to not play that board anymore. An unknown board can be terrifying, but so is hearing the same theme music, symbolically, day in-day out. Know when you’re done with a phase. Need a ceremony? Buy a cheap firecracker and set it off on your stoop. There’s your ceremony! Now, begin the next board.

Sigh-blocking: You’re waiting for the subway to arrive, or are on the subway and it’s not moving. It’s been awhile, everyone waiting will now definitely, tragically be late to wherever everyone is going. The person next to you is outwardly angry and my-oh-my, are they sighing.

They want to express to you/everyone how stressed they are about how late they are going to be. Acknowledging this will only make your stress worse — so you remain stone faced. You are screaming and dying inside but isn’t your book still so interesting <you turn the page with a stoic look on your face> You hear the sighs and the tongue-clacks with annoyance. They are now doing it directly at you, aggressively. They are sigh-ing at you. They say at you “can you believe this shit?” Youcannot break. Once eye-contact is made and you acknowledge their stress, it will become your stress, which will compound all stresses. You don’t need that. No one needs that. We all are in this together, but silently. You must block the sighs. They do not help.

Class-slap: When you realize you’re living well below a specific poverty line. When you realize others are living well below your poverty line. When you realize others are living way above everyone else’s poverty line. Unless you’re homeless or have a butler, you should be gaining perspective on both sides. I work often in private homes as a makeup artist. I’ve seen butlers and maids appear from the shadows with beverages on silver trays. My first year here, I cut the crust off of grown men’s sandwiches and scraped the mustard off a sandwich as though it contained arsenic while a grown man sat with his arms crossed, watching me. I have tweezed a woman’s eyebrows while she bathed. Yet, I’ve never slept on the street or have been unable to eat. The idea of not being able to pay rent or never having to pay rent are both narratives that make my eyes pop out of my head. I’ve had actors and struggling artists pay me in rolls of quarters. We see people daily living on the streets. Sometimes we block out their stories and sometimes we choose to look and their stories hit us hard in the face. Sometimes we all need a class-slap.

Ratso Rizzo-ing- Once I joked with a very tall fashionable friend of mine while out that I was her Ratso. To dramatically prove my point, I jogged pitifully next to her. I was also sick but pretending like I wasn’t, which I always do. The cough/scamper made quite an impact next to her long confident stride. I am always ‘not sick’ until I literally can’t leave my house. To ‘Ratso’ is to pull yourself through the city when you’re at your sickest. You show up at that job. You don’t call out. You scamper alongside friends with long legs when yours are tired. Smacking the hood of a car if it’s inching it’s too near you or nearly hits you also falls under the umbrella of ‘Ratso-ing’. Yell as you do it. The first time I did so, I bellowed from the center of my gut ‘I’m walking, yo!’ It felt to be a pure New York moment. *Yes Ratso dies on a bus in Miami next to Jon Voight. So please go to the doctor eventually

Quiet Small Success Party- The first magazine I ever had my name in was called Heart & Soul, about 13 years ago. I’d assisted a friend who let me do two model’s faces. While walking down the street, I saw the newest edition on a newstand. I bought it, ordered some fries from that fancy fry place by St. Marks, and slowly flipped through the magazine until I found two images, with my name written real small in the corner. I had to crease the page far back to read it. It was the smallest of victories, and I silently smiled and celebrated what was my first ‘success’ after a few early years of constant obstacles. First years here are hard — if you don’t agree I don’t believe you. We all have that small moment. Hearing our names announced on small stage in a shitty bar. Being listed in an off-off-broadway playbill. Seeing an article published. Being placed on a call sheet. Getting your New York hair or law license. Names in and on documents that make part of your hustle seem legit.

Hail Mary Pass- When you order in breakfast in at 2pm. Sad? Fine. Does the delivery person know this is your first action of the day? Maybe. But also, maybe that someone can bring you a bagel to your doorstep is perhaps brilliant? Also true. I will always take your possible pejorative and spin it into a positive, especially when it comes to the ‘things that make life here a tad easier’ (see ‘steps fatigue/fuckits.) There is great beauty in a bagel at 2pm when leaving home is not possible.

Terrortory- You fall deeply in love then it ends, terribly. Thus is the stuff of life. It was never supposed to end this way, and yet there you are; ruined briefly, in a place that can be hard on the broken-hearted. The streets and avenues you ambled down together with fingers locked — the bars you kissed at and the restaurants you canoodled in for awhile are now ‘terrortory’.Some return to those haunts quickly, adopting the rules of aversion therapy as their guide. ‘Screw that’ a friend once said to me. ‘This is my city and I won’t let a person take even a block away from me.’ I respect that. I see ghosts everywhere in New York, and know this can be detrimental in initial stages. For a spell, I will avoid that one subway stop. I will walk down a different block. I may never eat at that Chinese restaurant again. I am respectful of my cityghosts. Eventually the hauntings stop, and the full length of the city is yours again, the terrortory flipping its script and becoming its warmer tangent, corner nostalgia. Life goes on. The board is cleared. The city is yours again.

AuthorSarah Graalman

Adele’s cover this past winter on Time is pure delicious make-up candy to me — original, bold, vulnerable and sexy as hell. She’s staring towards camera draped in a red sweater, done up perfectly in heavy-handed contour. The first moment I saw the cover, I was instantly inspired to try harder at embracing my femininity in full-female-drag (the heightened, un-lazy version of myself has always been a bit trashy and vampy). Conversely, many Kardashian-like images make me shudder. Which is an issue I’ve been pondering. Why does Adele’s makeup look so good, and the the latter tribe of K’s make me squirm?

It’s not that they aren’t beautiful. It just seems that some of their natural beauty is stripped away by the manner in which the make-up is applied. Adele’s artist and the Kardashian’s both bow deeply to the ‘full-faced-make-up’ goddess, who I bow to as often as I can. Both fake-lashed, contoured, lined and powdered within an inch of their lives. Yet Adele looks exquisitely alive and the Kardashian version of make-up looks a bit like a mortician went at them post mortem. The Kardashian’s are trend-setters of the highest degree, so when I say ‘them’ I’m now talking about wayyy more than those sisters five.

Imagine, if you will — A nineteen-year-old sits down in your make-up chair and immediately asks about her need for botox while confessing she hasn’t left home without fake lashes in a year. A seventeen-year-old shows you her ‘contour’ technique, which she refuses to leave the house without. You keep seeing young women with bruises on their cheeks which turn out to actually be poorly placed contour. These scenarios have repeated themselves in great succession this past year. These scenarios never happened in the twelve years before I was working as a make-up artist. I have realized there is a problem. Or a trend. A bad trend.

The Kardashian style of shaping the face is in. Yet it doesn’t feel like a ‘look’ as much as it feels like a mask, once just reserved (and very necessary) for actors on proscenium stages, aging public figures, or drag queens. Now full facial contouring has hit the strip malls, 7-eleven parking lots, and high-schools of America. It’s a fad, you say? Fine. But there is also some neurosis saddling itself to those younger kids being carried away on the trend.

Young women and men are shading and highlighting their faces as though life has already cast them aside. It doesn’t look fun, or care free. It looks as though there’s something wrong to begin with. As though the point of make-up is to ‘correct’ as opposed to ‘have a good time with your youth, girl’.

I always wore a lot of make-up as a teen. I likely wore too much make-up on a thousand different occasions between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. I’m certainly not a make-up artist by accident. I discovered make-up and began ram-shackling my way through my mother and grandmother’s make-up drawers when I was barely 6, asking if I could traipse up and down the block like a toddler-clown parade of 1. No one forced me into full face. I was itching for it, wanting to slather it on my face like how most kids wanted to shovel cake into their faces.

My experimenting wasn’t because I hated my face or wanted to alter something I was uncomfortable with. I looked (hopefully) hot and mildly rebellious. Who really remembers aside from myself and the 4 photos I still have of that time? I was young and wanted to look supercute and I liked bands whose members wore lots of eyeliner, so I would put on lots of eyeliner. I looked like a slutty raccoon (which can be partially blamed on the 90’s trend of sporting wayyy too light of shades of concealer). I never wondered about my nose shape needing ‘fixing’ or my cheekbones needing definition or my jawline needing a better square shape. I also never thought about having my photo taken 246 times a day. With no one but like-minded friends to advertise ourselves to, we could relish freely in too much or too little. Maybe I was a hot mess, but there’s very little photography proving whether I was or wasn’t. Only handful of people would register it: my parents and those at school who chose to look closely at my face. I never thought I needed a mask.

But, lo! The contour! The need for it when young is so unnecessary I wish to make it obsolete. The technique is complicated and difficult to master so the results often look somewhat violent. The reason one contours for images is because dimension is taken away by the act of taking a 3-D person and making them 2-D.

Contouring is used for stage due to distance and lighting issues. Remember when women were getting made fun of in the 90’s for lining their lips with darker liners, larger than their lips were? As Jerry Seinfeld said, “Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God’s final word on where your lips end.” This is being done to the whole face. The entire face. being outlined.

I often preach that the wearing of make-up should be to reveal, not conceal. People also happen to love advice that rhymes. My favorite un-rhymed advice: I do my own makeup until I kinda want to make out with myself. I do my make-up until I feel a snap in my brain and step back and think ‘hell yes’. That moment changes daily — sometimes it’s heavy, bright and loud. Sometimes it’s just a dab of concealer with some lip balm. What are your intentions with your product? If you’re hiding behind it, people will see that. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a time or place for corrective techniques. I use corrective products. The Dream Barbie version of myself sure as hell doesn’t have circles under her eyes. But once I conceal, I then choose what I want to highlight. I fell in love with make-up because I could express my personality using it, magnifying with bold colors and dramatic technique who I hoped to grow into as a woman.

What is the invisible line between an Adele-style beat-down and a Kardashian contour bonanza? It’s lies somewhere between statement “I getto wear this” versus “I need to wear this”. Adele was giving us face for a year-end issue. The Kardashians sometimes are just going to the grocery store. Why do any of us need it? Hopefully because it’s fun and makes us feel more like ourselves. It’s as if there’s an existential sadness revealed when slathering on make-up because you feel you ‘have to’. Yes, we are all strangely under the scrutiny of the public eye now, with an endless social media cycle. Maybe we should just take a deep breath, say ‘screw it’ to what we think we need to be seen as, and remember what it was like to have fun with our faces.

Young youths of now, your faces are great. They’re naturally contoured by your taut skin and healthy bones. You aren’t gonna look older now for years to come. So go put on some purple eyeshadow, tacky gloss and glitter and take some creative chances. There is a time and place for us all to go full Adele. Even the occasional full Kardashian. But it’s not a world we need to judge ourselves in every day.

AuthorSarah Graalman

By Sarah Graalman, originally published on Medium

I love being a make-up artist. I feel powerful at my job. I am in control at my job. I’m good at it. I’m successful in bringing what has perhaps been stripped away from many women and occasional men. Dormant-lying confidence as they struggle with being seen as objects, being seen as powerful, or being old past 30. Women cut themselves down and apologize in the make-up chair for things I can’t see because I’ve come to realize what we see is often what society has projected on us. Sometimes we need to polish the lens to see ourselves clearly. Sometimes a little gloss does the trick. When they leave with their face on, they simply apologize less.


I am a free-agent makeup artist, meaning I do a little bit of everything: magazine, theater, television, commercials, red carpet, personal/private client, weddings, bachelorette parties, actor head-shots, corporate headshots. Each scenario brings me into a new world in which I discover from my ‘fun makeup artist bubble’ a little something about society and how we each relate to the idea of beauty. It’s a pretty sublime bubble to exist in, from my perspective as a feminist. The industry is filled with strong, creative intelligent women and men who are passionate about their work. The beauty field is largely a ‘feminine’ field. It’s considered this because women and gay men are the largest users of beauty products. We grew up needing it, wanting it, while exploring ourselves and our personalities with it. Now we’re grown, working professionally in the industry, and we get to give back — teaching others how to love it, use it, and own it.

Occasionally, someone will say that working in makeup must be “so fun,” which is certainly is — I have a lot of fun. Sometimes the person saying it will make a little shimmy-smile when they say it. “Soooooo fun!” And I widen my eyes and I reiterate and say, “Yeah, it’s so fun!” But it my head I think, “It’s not a pajama puppy party.” It’s a legit world and huge industry and its value is immeasurable (for proof of that, apply makeup on a survivor of abuse, on someone who has suffered burns, or someone fighting through cancer). It is not girly to need, want, or explore makeup. “Girly” is a word I loathe as a grown woman. “Girly” immediately dictates that the colors/products as frivolous or purely youthful. For example, I love pink… hell, put a hot-pink lip on me and I can deal with any bullshit that comes my way, whether that is someone bumping me on the subway or some dude mansplaining life to me. Is having a hot-pink bullet in my purse to help me get through my day girly? I dunno. My brother still likes the color blue and last time I checked there was nothing “boyishy” about any color he likes. And how often do we even hear the word “boyishy”? IT’S NOT EVEN A WORD. When I think of the word “girly” I think of a bunch of kids going, “Wheeeee!” And that almost makes me want to roll my eyes like a teenager. Which I won’t do. Because I’m a lady.

Let’s cut to the world of the corporate headshot. This scenario has taken place 20 separate times, and every time it plays out nearly the same way. The women are excited. (Also, maybe 1–2 men, which always brings me joy.) As the day wears on, the straight men in the office pop their heads in and playfully chide the women getting glammed up. “Hey do I NEED more lashes?” <Chuckle chuckle.>” “What are you gonna do to me?” <Tee hee.>And—then the lines that get me every time — directed at one of the women in the chair, “Hey, you look FINE! You don’t need that stuff.” Or “Woah, hey that’s a lot of make-up!” Or “Woah, _______________ (some flippant and dismissive phrase).” It happens so regularly, I could make my own tape of it, walk in, press play, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between my canned bro-voice comments and the live ones.

It’s as though they’re saying “Aw, you cute women-girls in that silly chair.”

Having make-up put on for a picture — let alone a professional photo, certainly isn’t out of the norm. Furthermore, a woman in make-up certainly isn’t out of the norm. But having it done out in the wilds of the office? Seems it becomes a bigger deal than it should be.

I can’t tell you how many times the woman (often powerful, often older) waits for the men to end their doorway tap-dances and exit, so they can turn to me and say, “I can’t tell you how happy I am you’re here, and how hard it is dealing with sexism at this level of power.” I’m not making that sentence up. I ask, “Would you ever write anything?” And they respond, “I wish, but I can’t. It’d be too bad for business. But you’re here and thank god. I just want to look good.” Yes, a woman who has crawled and fought her way up a corporate ladder, being giggled at like a school girl because she dared to have a make-up artist show up for a professional photo. She struts out of the makeup chair, has her photo snapped, and she feels extra powerful on top of already being powerful.

When asked if I deal with sexism at my job, my response is, “Occasionally, of course, but at work — very rarely.” Yes, I deal always with institutional, societal sexism. But no one ever cuts me down in a board meeting. My co-workers and I delight in new shades and contouring techniques and no one makes me feel lesser for it. Occasionally on a job I will encounter fear and discomfort from a man needing powder. I try explaining why what I’m doing as a makeup artist isn’t always “feminine.” I’m not trying to make them “look like a girl.” Sometimes the product is for shine, due to lighting or the camera-type being used. Occasionally I deal with run-of-the-mill sexism — being snapped at by some powerful man’s assistant who wants me to fetch a water for his boss sitting in the bright light. Since I am the only woman in the room so I may as WELL be the one to fetch the water (which doesn’t so much bother me because I feel sorry for them, plus I have on my hot-pink lipstick so who really cares anyways). Aside from that I work happily, surrounded by other feminine types who want the subjects to look good.

This is why make-up isn’t frivolous, or shallow, or derogatorily girly. The beauty industry brings in billions of dollars annually — many women work and lead in this industry. It can be difficult navigating the world, being seen as weaker, or not being taken seriously for not being pretty enough or even for being too pretty. In other words, it is difficult being a woman. It’s 2016, and we still have sexism. We all know this. I simply no longer want to deal with the word “girly” for myself, as a 37 year-old woman who has countless lipsticks. Yeah, that’s a lot of make-up. It’s just the right amount, as a matter of fact, for what I do. I use it to make women feel better about themselves. I use it myself to to feel stronger. I don’t wish to defend the task of allowing a woman to be seen as “girly.” Make-up is a tool used to bring out both the stronger and softer edges of who we are. Those who wear make-up do it in order to articulate our personalities out to the world. Yes, it’s often fun. But it’s equally important. It is the lucky modern warpaint of millions who go out into the world everyday, hoping to be seen as exactly what we are — equals.

AuthorSarah Graalman

I first felt that I could be my own person when I realized I could put something bright on my lips. I was allowed in elementary school to wear lipstick when performing in plays or dance recitals, or I could 'play' if I asked properly, and then would ask if I could wear the color up an down the block before removing it. I was a born bright-lip exhibitionist. I would sneak into my mom's, or my grandmother's make-up drawers and would slather colors on my face and lips until I felt satisfied. It took a lot of applying until I felt that click of satisfaction. But when it was right, I was brain-buzzingly perfect.

Upon my entering 7th grade, I was told "You can pick ONE make-up product, and put it on here at home, and then that is it." and so I decided on an Estee Lauder orang-ey pink and I put it on and on and on and on and until until it was probably a centimeter thick. When my ride to school picked me up for school, my friend's mom said "Well, you sure have something on your lips.' and I proudly tossed my hair and responded 'YEAH I do."

When you're young enough you don't give a whit. You like the strange things you're drawn to, regardless of how silly others may think you look. You are what you are, unfiltered. At least I was. My most confident years were those before 13 or 14, which is when many girls who start apologizing for themselves (but that is another story for a different kind of day).

I reckon I looked ridiculous, but I was happily ridiculous. I was 'me'--or rather, trying to find myself. I felt fabulous, even if no one thought I was fabulous.  I rocked over-the-top lipsticks straight through my school-days. Orange to pinky-tan to a matte deep plum called 'Perfect Mystery' I STILL fantasize about. I went from a teenyboppy girl who liked bright things to a girl in flannels who liked dark matte lips pretty quickly. It was 1993-4 when that transition occurred... when Perfect Mystery brought it all together for me. That and a mix tape given to me by a boy I met at an Art-camp I 'summered' at a few years. The mix tape contained a decent mix of The Stone Roses and Primus and Ani DiFranco. I can still see an emotional snap-shot of listening to that mix-tape, putting on a dark matte lip, and thinking "This is being grown-up now, isn't it?" This is before we knew what a smize was, or had a million photos of ourselves plastered on the internet. I had my review-mirror and my best friend telling me I looked cute.

There were the hours of searching in grocery stores and beauty supply stores and weird small town department stores. Standing alone in the aisles of the Consumer's IGA, with my mom or dad or brother anxiously begging me to hurry up. Staring, thinking about who I wanted to be that next week.  At grocery stores trying on wasn't allowed. You had to imagine what the color would become on your skin. You had to take a leap of faith. You had to know you were about to spend 3 dollars or 4 dollars on something that MAY be a disaster (it was never a disaster, because all new colors at that point were fun.)

When at the department store, I bothered the sales-girls. I talked to them like they were gurus who held the keys to the universe. As though they'd tell me some secret about some color and a new world would unfold for me. They knew how old I was, what my financial ramifications were as a pre-teen, yet they entertained my enthusiasm. I'd tinker and try-on and beg for money to get those long-stared at and coveted cream-bullets. I remember the shade-names. The Black Honey's and the Perfect Mystery's and the Ginger Berry's and I can feel the flush of excitement when I'd open the new tube.

Because they were perfectly loud. Because I began to assert myself as a person then. Because these products were going to play a very important role in my life, I just didn't know it yet.

AuthorSarah Graalman

AuthorSarah Graalman
CategoriesOn Set

Question y'all may ask


People like asking questions of make-up artists. It is exciting to come across a person who may easily be equipped to solve your much-riddled make-up worries. WHY does my mascara run.* (answer at bottom) WHY don't I look good in sparkly shadow?*(ditto) HOW can I be hotter?*(ditto) Much like hearing a new mutual friend is a therapist and all of the sudden, casually you say "so, sometimes I have nightmares with recurring theme where there are snakes and...'

In a make-up artists case, the eyes FLASH and the new friend (or old friend. Or old teacher. Or aunt. Or your own mother) will lean forward and go "Soooooo, What is my color?" (I have a lot to say about that question. WE ALL HAVE MANY COLORS THAT ARE "US"!) . Also very popular:  "What should everyone wear always if they wanna look done?"  Short answer: Moisturizer, a little concealer or foundations, mascara, and something on the lip, whether or not it has color. You'll look awake. The rest is fun icing on the cake you shouldn't avoid just because it's not a staple. I happen to think purple eyeliner and a black eyeliner have made for some of the best nights of my life. So, you know... experiment.

Many people ask how they should behave IN the make-up chair. I say it depends on why you're in it. Is it your wedding? Are you getting made-up for a party, or a personal event? You should have some ideas! Ask lots of questions, and even bring some images, or 'inspiration' ideas. You're collaborating, and artists-- at least good artists-- love to have a client with a few ideas. I always say I think make-up artists should be open to listening to who people are. I can't stand hearing stories about artists who are like "Hush! I know all!". No, when it comes to knowing who you're working on, you don't. You need to listen. 

If you're in the chair cause you're in a play, or movie, or show, or in a magazine, you should be nice, feel free to talk about what you love, and hopefully trust that the artist knows what he/she is doing. The artist is getting notes from an artistic director/photographer/editor/director. And they are translating those wishes. And they are professionals so they are hopefully translating then well. HOPEFULLY. And if they don't (meaning, if they aren't great at their job) hopefully someone behind the camera can instruct them to BE BETTER at their job. But, no artist on a set wants tips from someone in the chair.

*because your eye area is oily and through-out the day it is simply going to deposit, unless you use a water-proof mascara, which is bad for your lashes. Only use waterproof mascara on your wedding day. Aside from that, scratch it. Just check out your eye-area every few hours and smooth under with a dab of concealer or smooth with powder. It only takes a second.

*Because you haven't learned how to work the shadow yet, since using a shimmery or glittery shadow takes a little bit more finesse than using a NON shimmery shadow. It is wise, always, to blend it with a matte shadow. Don't over-kill. Build the shimmer over a base. A pop of shimmer OVER matte is often pure perfection, if done right. Practice. Don't wear shimmery shadows all of the time, anyways. It will stop seeming as exciting if you use them too much.

*Well, how do you want to look? Is there something you're afraid of, when it comes to experimenting? Yes you can be hotter, if you want to be. We all can be. It just takes time and practice. There is always a tasteful way to do make-up. There is also a trashy way to do it, and that is fun, too. It is fun to look hot, isn't it?

AuthorSarah Graalman