The Cost of Permanent Vanity

I’m vain. 

I tend to be an emotional and emotive person. I cry. Lots. A mentor once told me that 1.) she had never met anyone who cried as much as I did, and 2.) that my free-flowing tears for my own pain and that of others gave people permission to cry as well.

Which is why I got my tattoos – permanent eyeliner.

Yes, it hurt. A lot. But repetitive needle pokes on my eyelids were nothing compared to childbirth with no pain meds and then nearly bleeding to death. It’s all relative.

But I must say that spending a few hundred dollars to permanently “apply” eyeliner made me wrestle a bit with my own vanity, my values, my theology of makeup if you will. There are enough images in the media to argue away most everything I do in the morning to get ready for the day. Did I really want to permanently attach myself to a standard of beauty?

Buying a trendy piece of clothing is one thing. Buying a bottle of nail polish seems like a much lower level of commitment. Even hair color fades, and now the gray hairs are insisting on equal time as the drugstore box red #660. But a tattoo?

There have been plenty of beauty/vanity missteps. Um. 1988-1995 had several bad perms, cuts, close encounters with hairspray and gel, heavy handed makeup and MIA tweezers. (Seriously, why didn’t anyone tell me?!)

I tend to over-agonize about a lot of things. I have this tiny problem. I want to do the right thing the right way, and my moral compass tries to weigh many things simultaneously. Somehow I was able to make the decision and do it.

I don’t remember how long the tattoos took. The guy was meticulous, making sure the lines were even, the color just right. But immediately after the procedure, which sounded a little like being at the dentist’s office, I would have to describe it by paraphrasing a line out of “Good Hair”: I didn’t feel as beautiful as I thought I would. My eyes were puffy and then scabby. I looked as if I had been crying for days and then covered my eyes in antibacterial ointment.

Fortunately for me, after molting for a week my vanity had paid off.

A friend of mine confessed (and I use that word because that’s what it feels like sometimes when we share our deepest, most vain moments) she was curious about dyeing eyelashes. I’ve known other women who have lighter colored hair mention their addiction to mascara. We all have that one beauty product we’ve sold our souls to. Without it we feel washed out, unkempt, unfinished.

I don’t regret the permanent eyeliner, but it’s definitely a decision that makes me stop and think every day about how God sees me. God meets me everyday in the mirror when I skip the eyeliner and go straight for the lipgloss. Where in your vanity does God  me you?


  1. maureenj November 25, 2009

    Good for you! I have often thought about permanent eye liner but never had the courage to do it.
    Best wishes

  2. SueAtGraceCorner November 27, 2009

    In young adulthood, I had a couple of high-impact experiences regarding make-up within a short period of time. The first was the release of a book by a celebrity make-up artist that contained before-and-after photos of many famous women. Most of those women looked surprisingly ordinary in their own skin but were flawlessly beautiful in their makeup. My friends were very impressed, but I was troubled to see makeup functioning as a mask. It wasn’t just enhancement or adornment; those women looked like completely different people.

    In that same season I was busy at work one day when someone approached and started talking to me. I was up on a stepladder, and glancing down at the woman, I didn’t recognize her so I assumed she was a customer. When I descended and was standing level with her, I realized that she was a co-worker who had been called in on short notice to cover for someone who was ill. She hadn’t had time to put on her make-up. It took me several minutes to get used to her familiar voice coming from a face that was barely recognizable.

    Those experiences made me question my own use of makeup … and I had to admit that I wore it because I only felt good about my appearance if I could make myself look like someone else. I realized I had basically been saying to God, “I don’t like who you made me to be.” And suddenly I didn’t want that anymore. I didn’t have a problem with other women wearing makeup, but I knew that I needed to stop. I needed to be more content and confident in who I am.

    I never looked back. I still only wear a little lipstick for special occasions. My three daughters are now entering young adulthood. One is highly skilled with makeup and always looks like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine. One wears only foundation and mascara for everyday but pulls out all the stops for a special night out. One never wears makeup. I think they all have fairly healthy self-esteem, and I enjoy the way it plays out so differently for each of them.

  3. Hannah December 7, 2009

    hehe, I had my eyeliner & eyebrows tattooed as well, it’s so convenient! I did the kind that fades in 5-7 years, light greyish-brown…I think I’ll probably touch up later when I have the cash!


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