A guy wearing makeup is hardly groundbreaking these days, but when set to the context of personal relationships, it becomes a sentimental study of self-discovery and self-assurance that makes that painted pout much more profound.
I could never be invisible. Not that I necessarily wanted to, but physically speaking, blending in with the crowd was and still is near-impossible because of my height. This was only exacerbated when I realized that I wanted to wear makeup…in public. As a boy in this conservative, predominantly Catholic country, I knew that I’d be drawing even more attention to myself. Wearing makeup in school was easy. It was the commutes that were tough, because as you may already know, people stare a lot. Others whispered here and there. Some even laughed in my face.
The turning point was the moment I first wore the iconic and still statement-making MAC Ruby Woo. Walking in Intramuros and minding my own business, a lady approached me and gushed, “I love that lipstick on you!” From that moment on, I was never bothered by any negative reaction. Also, that lady is the reason why I find it easy to compliment strangers. I pay it forward as much as I can.
Looking back, it felt as if I wore makeup to make a statement. Instead, I wanted to prove to everyone that it’s okay for a guy to wear makeup. However, with this earnest self-assigned pressure, makeup felt like a burden, a responsibility. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, it took away the fun. Eventually, when I slowly started to accept the fact that I can’t please everyone, that’s when I started wearing makeup truly for myself.
Dealing with the past
I was 17 years old when I started wearing makeup. At 26 now, it has been almost a decade already. However, I still couldn’t help but wonder why it had to be so difficult to get from there to here. Is it because I’m a guy? Is it because I’m a towering 6’2”? Is it because I’m half Filipino, half Syrian? Is it because I live in the Philippines? Or is it all of the above?
My first-ever makeup product was a Nichido Foundation Stick that I used to blend with a powder brush. (Yes, a powder brush.) It was my version of beauty is pain. From there, I started saving my weekly allowance to buy makeup. In fact, I remember clearly being so elated when I finally bought a Revlon Balm Stain.
When I started working, a big portion of my first paycheck (and almost every succeeding one to be honest) was spent on makeup. I would dedicate my lunch hours to visiting makeup counters and trying on products. Today, looking at my makeup collection, I am happy with what I have. I know that I’ll continuously add more, and that’s okay. It’s one of the reasons why I work hard.
Over the years, my relationship with makeup has always been steady. Unfortunately, because of makeup, I couldn’t say the same about my relationships with the people around me and with myself, really.
Living in the present
Now, you’d think after self-acceptance, it would be easy. However, after falling in love with the person I’ve become, I began worrying about whether someone would fall in love with me. Such is the nature of any relationship past the glowing honeymoon stage after all. You see, dating was a huge struggle. A friend of mine once told me that no guy would take me seriously if I wear makeup. Another told me that I’ll never find love here in the Philippines. But me being me, I didn’t care about what they said—I refused to give in. I love makeup so much that it’s already second nature to me. A piece of home I consider, it was something couldn’t live without.
I continued dating even if what came of it was rejection after rejection. Guys would tell me that I was wasting my Middle Eastern looks. Some pretended to be okay with it at first, then admitted that they were just experimenting the idea of being with a guy who wears makeup. I experiment with makeup, yes, but I never imagined myself as the experiment.
With makeup, if you mess up, you can always wipe it off and do it all over again. Applying the same practice in dating, I soldiered on. I soldiered on for many years and boy, it was worth it. I finally found a guy who is the perfect MLBB shade. I found a guy who makes me live my life, but better.
Worrying about the future
Although my life is definitely better now, it doesn’t escape me for one moment that there is an elephant in my makeup room—my mom. My mom’s going to kill me for referring to her as an elephant, and she’s going to kill me if she finds out that I wear makeup. Both figuratively, I hope.
My mom doesn’t know that I wear makeup. If she knows, then she makes sure that I know that she doesn’t approve of it. The former is mainly my fault, really. Whenever she asks me if I wear makeup, I deny it. Why? Because of the latter. My mom randomly drops bomb of statements such as, “Guys don’t wear makeup,” or “You better not wear any makeup, Firas.”
I know, I know. It’s sad that I’m 26 and I still can’t be open about this to my mom, whom I consider my best friend. I’ve been avoiding the conversation because I’m afraid of how she’ll react. Also, she works abroad, so I have an excuse—sort of. However, she’ll be flying back soon and will be staying here for good. Should I still hide my relationship with makeup from her? I think the answer is obvious.
It’s somehow funny that I’m still scared, especially after going through the same thing with my brother. You see, being the older one, I was worried that I wouldn’t be the big brother he expected to have. I was so sure that he preferred a brother who would swipe a punch instead of a lipstick. Surprisingly and thankfully, it wasn’t the case.
My brother once told me that he finds it cool that he has an unconventional big brother. What he said made me realize that while I can’t be the typical big brother, I can be a big brother in so many other ways. He turns to me for grooming tips. He asks for my advice whenever he’d buy gifts for his girlfriend. As an industrial design student, he appreciates it when I show him innovative and creative makeup packaging. I’m so lucky to have him. One thing, though, I hate it when he reminds me that I have too many lipsticks.
If my brother and I can have a relationship like the one we have, then why can’t it be the same with my mom, right?
Earlier, I said that my relationship with makeup has always been steady. Just like any other relationship, however, I know it cannot be the case all the time. There will be times when I have to fight for it. I know my mom will try to break us up soon but as always, I will soldier on. I will soldier on until my mom stops me and says, “I love that lipstick on you.”