I was flipping through Instagram Stories when I came across a poll to the effect of: ladies, do you use concealer most for acne, or under-eye circles? I was honestly surprised to see under eye circles listed. After all, who wants to hide their under eye circles? Is it not a badge of honor to be tired and sad and drained and to still exist?
Yes, I am this extra with my feelings. When I am at my most broken, heartbroken or otherwise, the just sort of general brokenness we carry with us (but especially that specific aching gay brokenness), I want everyone to be able to see it on my face. A big part of this is that my sadness, otherwise, isn’t visible. I am at my most productive when I am at my most depressed. At my most depressed, I accomplish new goals and check off from my to-do list things I couldn’t manage when I was happy because I was too busy being happy. At my most depressed, I laugh a lot and go out a lot and buy rounds of drinks and shake my ass on my friends and flip my hair and take really really good selfies that make people from my past DM me and tell me I’m pretty. I come up with very funny tweets that do not sound at all like me, and strangers like them and I feel recognized as something that is not me but is someone, someone who is existing and doing these productive things and thriving while I sit inside of myself in a very small and very tight ball of skin and organs and blood and try to breathe through it.
Maybe I live in my under eye circles when I’m depressed. The darker they get the less sleep I’m getting, or: the less sleep I’m getting, the darker they get. They form their mini-moons beneath my eyes, which get red when I cry but not as red as the white people I know, so white people can’t always tell when I’m hurting.
Apparently concealer became a marketed, sold thing in 1930s with white women as the face. The goal was to hide blemishes ranging from veins to birthmarks, as its creator, Lydia O Leary (also a white woman) had a birthmark on her face. Concealer is racialized, and so are under eye circles, with some races and ethnicities more likely to have prominent dark circles under their eyes than others (for example, a Teen Vogue article from 2014 says the main concern of South Asian and Indian girls is under eye circles). A writer for SELF explored their genetic roots. It’s hard for me to think about any beauty trend without thinking of the impact of race: when we talk about contouring, we have to also talk about contouring for dark skin, when we talk about bringing back thin eyebrows, we also have to talk about the fact that some people are hairier than others. Some people sleep on special pillows or smear Preparation H on the skin under their eyes to fight eye bags. Apparently a lot of people, especially women, Google how to get rid of their under eye bags. I’ve never done it until now.
I tend to overthink a lot of these things. Maybe it’s simple, and the under eye circles versus concealer debate is my version of the gay eyebrows versus straight eyebrows debate: the messier and more unkempt, the gayer I feel.
I try to imagine myself doing the whole triangle-of-concealer thing. I hear the beauty gurus and influencers and editors saying I should draw a triangle of concealer one shade lighter than the rest of my face and my body and then I should fill it in, kind of like a cat eye, but different. In my head, I look like a clown. I’m not always good at knowing what I look like, so I’m not always good at knowing what will and won’t look right. I imagine the triangle just sitting there, waiting, because blending has never been my strong suit.
My gay icons all have dark under eye circles. It feels like a signal, like, look how tired I am from sleeping with hot girls all the time, or, look at how all of my gay trauma has me staying up at night watching Adventure Time and trying to learn the lessons I could have learned as a kid but didn’t because I was too busy thinking about being gay, or not, or good enough, or not. But Kristen Stewart always has dark under eye circles, even when she’s maybe-happy with her model girlfriend on a boat. Hayley Kiyoko often looks like she, too, could use a nap. Janelle Monaé hides hers with a thick line of teal or purple eyeliner, rather than the safe flesh-toned concealer. Tessa Thompson lets hers hang out.
In therapy, I wear expensive shirts from Madewell and tuck them into jeans and swap my filthy Vans for cheap Target mules that make me feel like an adult. When my therapist asks how I’m doing, I say, great. She says, do you think you’re good at dealing with your emotions, and I say, for sure, and she says, do you? She says I don’t look like I’m taking care of myself; I look tired. Maybe if I covered up my under eye circles she wouldn’t be able to tell as readily, but maybe I need her to. Need someone to.