Janetta Mackay: Slap it on girls

By Janetta Mackay

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A cleaned up Courtney Love - if she'd done that in the early 1990s, no one would ever have heard of her now. Picture / Supplied
A cleaned up Courtney Love - if she'd done that in the early 1990s, no one would ever have heard of her now. Picture / Supplied

Over lunch the other day, a couple of other mothers were musing with me about possible column topics. One of the ideas raised was the hardy annual: Why do teenagers wear so much makeup?

Undoubtedly, our mothers and grandmothers asked the same thing.

Holidays seemed a good time to check out the appearance of young women freed of school uniform and attendant grooming regulations. Down at the mall, most of them had stepped straight out of their regulation skirts into their casual uniform of skinny jeans and puffer jackets with Vans or Converse. A fair few had layered up the mascara and a handful were dabbling in bold lipstick, but for the most part the prevailing beauty look was as standardised as their wardrobe. Long hair, worn loose and often straightened, with a little glossy lip balm.

Nothing here to scare parents and grandparents, of whom, truth be told, a number suffer from selective memory syndrome. Seems to me, it's a relatively small subset of today's teens who slap on too much makeup. I was once part of that subset. In fact, I wore more makeup and considerably more hair product than the average teenager does these days.

Good to get it out of your system before your get a proper job, is how I rationalise it.

The biggest change since I was growing up is the alarming sight of littlies encouraged to play real-life dolly by mothers whose mental age must be questioned. Maybe that's why by the time these little girls turn into teenagers, they are less bothered with face paint than we were. For those teenagers who do want to wear makeup, it's now readily available without societal censure and this combined with endless print and internet tutorials ensures their look is usually pretty presentable. But if yours is one of those teenagers who applies foundation and powder like a kabuki mask, remember this will pass, along with the often near-invisible spots they seek to disguise. Telling them to let their skin breathe may be sound advice, but it won't sink in, so just stock up on cleansing wipes. Celebrate that they are experimenting and subtly provide guidance rather than censure.

For the generation or two before mine, who grew up when being teenaged was being invented, looking different from your parents was a rebellious rite of passage. By the time disco and punk rock and then hip-hop shook up the music scene, appearance was ever more a tribal identifier. Club culture made everyone feel a star, whereas the prevailing infatuation with celebrity culture has the opposite effect. Styled half-starved red-carpeteers in impossibly expensive outfits create agonies of aspiration and show remarkably little imagination.

If that's what teenagers seek to emulate - along with having you buy a designer frock for their school ball - then spare us all.

Give me smudgy eyes, a borrowed dress and an overdose of attitude any day to "me too" or "mini-me" choices. Which somehow leads us back to grunge, this being the latest bygone era being mined for fashion and beauty inspiration.

Slip dresses, daggy cardigans, bed hair and maroon lipstick, here we come again. Well, not I hope anyone who was there first time round. Fashion is all about style reinvention. Case in point, a cleaned up Courtney Love, who just wore a tasteful champagne pink sheath dress to her 50th birthday party.

If she'd done that in the early 1990s, no one would ever have heard of her now.

- VIVA

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