Underneath

Putting on makeup is a kind of art.
You got your brushes and paint pots
and your face is your canvas.
Carefully drawing lines around your eyes,
filling your lips with colour

and summoning shadows under cheekbones.
The finished product is not a painting
but a mask that has gotten so familiar
you hardly notice when it's there.
But its absence feels like being stripped
of all your clothes.

Getting dressed is a kind of art.
All these colourful pieces of fabric
in different sizes and shapes
to perfectly fit around your body.
Layer after layer you carefully
pick and choose what suits you best.
Soft wool and warm cotton push everything
where it needs to be;
cover up what mustn't be seen.
Always wearing an armour
to protect you from those judgy eyes
that feel like cold needles piercing your skin.

Wrapped in mask and armour from day to day
I am brave enough to face the storm that is the world.
The right pair of shoes can give me confidence
to walk into a room like I own the place.
A batting of long black eyelashes
can hypnotize men like Sirens singing.
It's all a deception, a mirage -
changed so easily.

If I want to go unnoticed I wear glasses;
for glasses are my cloak of invisibility.
Girls with glasses are smart not pretty,
everyone knows that.
Girls with glasses are good wifes
and mothers
but not drunken kisses
at parties.

Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds
because it has more to prove1.
Women are like glass.
Always trying to be better, wanting to do more.
Yet even when we exceed all expectations,
discover land no one has been to before,
achieve a lifetime of new records,
we still aren't enough.
We will never be enough for men
cutting us with their sharp words
like diamonds through glass.

That's what the armour is for,
to protect our hearts and minds.
And the mask?
It attracts soft and powerful words:
pretty, beautiful, drop dead gorgeous.
But never lay down your clothes,
never wipe away the makeup,
for if they see behind the illusion,
they'll stand in front of you,
arms crossed, foreheads wrinkled,
ice cold needles aimed
at your shieldless self saying:
'It's not as pretty... underneath.'

1A quote from Terry Pratchett

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