The last night of the festivities came with expectations around how I should present myself. Not necessarily from my coworkers, but definitely from my inner ideal of how certain events should be approached. I thought my wardrobe through, checked myself in the mirror from every angle, adjusted a few minor yet important details, and sat down in front of the mirror to put makeup on.
I don't usually wear any, with my work being so casual and my skincare routine focusing on feeling fresh. I used to have to do it every day, spending ten, twenty, thirty minutes in front of the mirror and worrying about my looks before going to work. In some contexts, it was even part of my job - during a ten-month stint in consulting I was told I'm a "premium product" and "I should look the part" (I'm still impressed I lasted there for ten full months).
Makeup can be fun and freeing, with a lot of room for experimentation and exploration. It's part of the toolset I can use to express my personality, and those minutes in front of the mirror are often enjoyable, meditative even. Applying mascara becomes second nature, so I can freely ponder about anything that comes to mind.
Makeup often is, and in my previous jobs usually was, expected, because I am a woman. If I don't wear it, I'm either sick or not taking care of myself. The number of comments from the well-meaning, usually older women about the way I look, with a lot of concern around my partner leaving me if I don't "look like a real woman", makes my head spin. I can be healthy and happy, taking care of my diet and my fitness regime, yet I'm still not enough of a woman for my grandma to accept my partner is not going to dump me for the next appropriately female-presenting person he sees.
I'm lucky that now my looks are no longer part of my job, and anything I decide to put or not put on my face is entirely my choice. And with that, experimenting with a different look just for tonight was fun and pleasant, especially knowing my brushes and eyeshadows can rest at the bottom of the drawer until I feel like using them.