Somewhere out there is a stranger I think fondly of on a regular basis. Almost five years ago, this kind lady approached Andrew at a funeral visitation and asked who the “lovely teenager” was that was helping him out that day. He kindly told her it was his wife, and that I had just celebrated my 31st birthday. Jackpot!
Perhaps her glasses needed cleaning or perhaps I was acting particularly immature that day. But a little part of me attributes her comment to the new face powder I had used for the first time that very morning. The powder is filled with the promise of perfect skin via technology and, magically, it lived up to this promise on its very first outing.
Right now on Facebook, there’s a meme occurring, of women posting selfies au natural – that is, without make-up on. Its origins are a bit vague. One story is that it’s a sign of solidarity with actress Kim Novak, whose surgically altered face at the Oscars was mocked by many, a victim of Hollywood’s vicious vanity machine. The other story pinpoints the movement as a kind of convoluted support for cancer research, at least in Great Britain.
Whatever its origins, the meme’s point is to reiterate that, in a world filled with Photoshopped perfection, women are beautiful just as they are, without the need for war paint or perfect lighting. It’s an important message, and a very popular one at this moment, and the concept also plays well with the self-congratulatory stock-and-trade of Facebook.
I haven’t been targeted yet, but I’m not scared to let the world see me unadorned if my time comes. For better or worse, my Facebook profile is already rife with barefaced shots: to me, the act of allowing all those less-than-perfect photos to be out for all to see is more therapeutic to the apparently fragile female self-esteem than a one-off trend.
Even though I don’t always wear it, I love make-up, and I think most women do too. A touch of lipstick can brighten your day and your face; a few swipes of mascara bring focus to your eyes, and strategically placed concealer can hide what you feel it needs to. It’s fun to try new colours and techniques that, much like a new outfit or pair of glasses, slightly alter how you see yourself.
It’s when make-up becomes a security blanket that it becomes a concern and, honestly, most women are too busy these days to spend hours in front of a mirror constructing a temporary work of art every morning.
I can’t bear a debate on the politics of women and make-up; these days, make-up isn’t a method for the patriarchy to oppress us. Women come too far to believe in that kind of archaic thought. For most of us, it’s not about trying to achieve some Hollywood ideal, but trying to look like a better version of ourselves. The fact that we have the choice of how we present ourselves — and be accepted regardless — is the true sign of our progress (not to mention the ability to vote, own property and have careers of our own).
I’ve finally “hit pan” — make-up terminology for using up an entire compact — on that face powder. Its replacement is at the ready, for when I choose to dip my brush into artifice, and enjoy the results.
Pineapples seem to be at the forefront of produce sections lately. While coring and chopping them can be a chore, the taste of fresh pineapple over canned is unbeatable. Here’s a great dish that highlights pineapple’s perfect sweetness.
Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers with Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. grated ginger root
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/4 tsp. plus a pinch salt
1 1/2 tbsp. peanut oil
1/8 tsp. crushed red chili flakes
1 lb. cleaned large shrimp
2 cups pineapple chunks
Cilantro leaves and torn basil leaves, for garnish
In a food processor, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, 3 tablespoons hot water, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, hot sauce and a pinch of salt. Purée until smooth and scrape into a bowl.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together peanut oil, remaining salt and chili flakes. Thread shrimp on skewers; brush all over with half the peanut oil mixture. Thread pineapple on separate skewers; brush with remaining oil mixture. Arrange shrimp and pineapple skewers on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Roast skewers, turning them halfway through, until shrimp is opaque (about five minutes) and pineapple is lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle skewers with herbs and serve hot, with peanut sauce for dipping. Serves four.