How My Fake Eyelashes and Makeup Saved Me From My Abuser
Wearing makeup always made me feel good about myself. I loved going to the MAC store and being pampered for an hour as I tried every new shade offered. Oh the joy of going to Nordstroms to buy my favorite Chanel mascara. As my friends and I shared beauty tips, I felt a sisterhood with them. A secret world where we used our lipstick tubes and our fake eyelashes as weapons to fight off the evil armies trying to invade our world with self loathing and to ward off all evil spirits. Yes, a powerful world!
But more and more I used my makeup as an escape; a place to hide. When my makeup was on just right, it told the world I was "ok".
But just as hard as it was for me to sometimes find the right makeup to accentuate my cheekbones or highlight my eyes, it was becoming increasingly harder to find the right makeup to cover the bruises from his fist. The bruising became so bad, regular makeup was not enough. I began using Dermablend which is a thick formula to cover tattoos or serious skin conditions. When I went to the counter to purchase this specialty makeup the lady behind the counter said "many other strippers use this to cover their tattoos."
I laughed because this is not the experience I imagined having when I decided to buy this makeup. I imagined asking her to help me find the right shade for me and her seeing through the lie I was going to tell her about needing this to cover bruising from playing sports. Then, we would begin a deep conversation about the need to hide our real lives behind the facade of beauty. I thought she would sense my pain and ask me some deep questions that made me cry so hard that she reached over the counter to hug me. I imagined other women in the store seeing this and running over to join in and also cry because they were hiding the same secret. But that didn't happen. Instead, she accused me of being a stripper with her judgmental tone.
When I saw the posting in Los Angeles about this "Day of Sharing Your Story Photo Shoot" I didn't think to tell the story of my abuse. I instantly thought of sharing my experience of being an abused woman in a society that questions women about why they stayed or didn't leave sooner, instead of asking the abuser why they abuse.
I'm an attorney that faced many challenges growing up in a housing project on the East Coast and graduating at the top of my law class to now own a home in an exclusive area of Beverly Hills, California. But the biggest challenge of my life was dealing with the whispers and stares from women who knew I was being abused. The neighbors heard the fights and the more makeup I caked on, it was obvious I was covering up something. I was hurting and desperately needed someone to understand me and not judge my decision to stay.
I kept quiet and did not seek help because there is a lot of pressure put on survivors of domestic violence once everyone knows your shame. We don't discuss how to be a friend and a support to those that are abused. We are not taught how to approach a conversation with someone we think is being abused. We don't know how to say "I will be your friend through this and will not judge you." Instead, we shame, judge, alienate and spread gossip about these women. I was subjected to all of this.
I eventually left my abuser when I was ready. When I had mentally hit rock bottom. When I looked in the mirror and did not respect the person I saw. When wearing makeup was no longer a fun beauty ritual.
I thought there would be a parade in my honor celebrating my courage. I wanted to be hoisted above the crowd as they cheered me on and proclaimed this day in honor of my strength. Champagne would flow from water faucets and designers would be jumping at the chance to have me wear their designs during my red carpet awards show where I was given "THE SURVIVY AWARD" for outstanding survivor skills.
Nope, it didn't happen. I was nominated that year, but didn't get it. Instead, when people found out I was free I heard, "I would have never put up with that" and "what took you so long?"
Give a girl a break why don't you! You really want to know what took me so long? YOU is what took me so long. No, I'm not blaming anyone. I got into the situation on my own and I made the decision to stay. But maybe, just maybe, it would have been easier for me if I didn't fear being subjected to shame when I opened up. Maybe, it would have been easier for me to share if I knew I had a mental support group made up of friends and family. Maybe, I would have asked for help if I knew the help did not come with judgements.
I don't know ladies....just maybe.
What's the D-I-S-H?
DEFINE your DILEMMA
This was my situation and I know that no one made me date him, love him or stay with him. It was all my own doing. There were times when I wanted to stand on the roof of my house and yell "HELP ME". But I would not dare reveal my shame. I also knew that someone would yell back and say "your the dummy that got into the situation, now get yourself out of it". No matter how cruel that may sound to some, it was very true. For 5 years I endured horrible physical abuse although I knew I had the means and opportunity to leave. But I stayed.
IDENTIFY your INSPIRATION
It was truly not liking who I saw in the mirror. Intentionally growing out my bangs so that I could hide the scars, cuts and scratches on my forehead or around my hairline. Wearing makeup that was two shades darker than my natural tone to help cover the bruises. No longer enjoying my trips to the mall to buy makeup. The fact that wearing makeup became a full time job instead of a fun thing that made me feel pretty because I had to cake it on more and more. Regardless of the fact that there were sometimes women with bruises that came into my law office asking for help to escape an abusive marriage, I stayed. But I wanted to feel pretty again and wear makeup because I wanted to and not because it was a neccessity.
SHARE your STORY
I think my story is the same as many other women. I was the ugly duckling growing up. I was one of the poorest kids in the classroom. I had the worst clothes of anyone I knew. Etc. So to leave a Brooklyn housing project and become a Beverly Hills attorney was a dream I never expected to come true. Then he walked into my life. An attractive successful attorney belonging to an elite social group who had a contact list filled with celebrity clients and friends. We traveled often and dined at the finest restaurants. When I was with him, I felt like I was somebody. I felt like he made me get noticed. I fit in with the wives and girlfriends of his friends. He told me I was beautiful. For the first time I felt like I belonged. But not with the snotty kids that thought they were better because they lived in Brooklyn Heights and not Flatbush. But with the kids who actually had a reason to be uppity because of their Manhattan addresses. I had arrived baby! Lol! But who knew that I would also arrive at the hospital several times during our relationship with bruises from his fist and lying to hospital staff and saying that I had a car accident, got hurt in kick boxing class, fell down the stairs and other excuses I pulled out of my bag. Yeah I had arrived alright. Arrived to Stupid Town on a first class flight. But I could not tell anyone that this glamorous life I was living was fake. People back home would say "um hum, I knew Ms. Thang was hiding something. She ain't all that." My group of Beverly Hills elite friends would shun me just as they had done to a lady before me when she cried during lunch oneday and shared her abuse with them. My family would have been supportive eventually but only after all the shaming questions. I was not ready for that. Besides, I enjoyed the fake friends, fake romantic dinners, the fake life. I figured I could handle just one more punch to the face as long as I could stay in his world.
HEAL your HEART
My makeup and fake eyelases really did save my life. To those of you who may not understand you may think that this sounds obnoxious or stupid even, I don't know. But I use to enjoy going into my makeup bag in the morning to prepare for the day. Going to the MAC store made me feel good. A new shade of lipstick made my entire week. I missed that feeling and wanted to get it back. I feel good again. I feel safe. I'm not hiding behind my makeup anymore either. I'm feeling good about myself and my face now tells a happier story. It has been a few years now and sometimes I still run into him at work events. I say hello, but mostly I try to look into the eyes of his current girlfriend to see if she wants to tell me something. Mostly she avoids eyecontact, but I recognize her shade of DERMABLEND.
Thank you for allowing me to share MY DISH for the first time ever! I'm not a big cook but I do have a recipe for a Coconut Pie that I made ONLY once. I only made it once because when my ex found out I had made a pie using coconut which he hates, he smashed the pie in my face. True story. But now I Iaugh EVERYTIME someone offers me a piece of pie. I hope you have a smashingly good time cooking and eating this pie!
Click pie title above for recipe.