Since my teenage years, I have always been obsessed with skincare and cosmetics. From the latest moisturiser-infused lippie to the trendiest shade of eyeshadow, I would buy every new product on the market that I could possibly afford.
Even now, as a married mother-of-two, my interest remains. I have amassed a collection of products so large, that our flat’s extra storeroom was even converted to become my personal powder room. None of my family members were allowed near “The Queen’s Walk-in Powder Room” (as my husband called it jokingly) without my permission. I was very protective of my “treasures” and thought of my family members as too plebian for me to even bother talking to them about my beauty addiction.
Imagine the distress I felt when a newly-bought lipstick went missing one day! I searched high and low in the powder room, and to my horror, I soon discovered other suspicious “misdemeanors”: Clean makeup brushes that looked like they were recently used, shallower cakes of compact powder and incomplete colour palettes. Someone had messed around in the Queen’s treasure room!
Like a detective, I listed down the most immediate suspects. Was it my husband, Harry*? I had read about how men nowadays would try out their other half’s face care products on the sly, so that they would not feel like their masculinity was on the line. But he knew next-to-nothing about makeup, and even mistook BB and CC cream as ice-cream flavours. My five-year-old, Samantha*, got an earful from me when she had used my lipsticks as crayons so she would not dare to commit the same mistake twice.
Or was it my sister, Leng*, who lived with us? She was quite a cheapskate and did borrow my cosmetics now and then. Was she getting desperate in her need to find a man? As for my teenage son, Ethan*, he would rather be surfing online than looking in his mummy’s makeup pouch.
I asked all of them at dinnertime that same day if any of them was using my makeup but they all dismissed me as being forgetful and paranoid, that I had simply lost them or threw them out. I decided to test them; for a week, I purposely left my cosmetic items around the house to see what would happen.
My husband gave me a bottle of memory-enhancing Gingko Biloba supplements when he found my makeup pouch on his study room desk. Samantha asked for candy as a reward for finding them. The pouch I left in Ethan’s room was left untouched. And Leng came back to me with the products and said they were “too cheap and old school” for her liking but asked to keep the freebie pouch, which only confirmed my suspicions of her… as being not self-aware and “unmarriageable”.
My amateur detective work had yielded nothing except a bruised ego… and I became even more determined to find the culprit.
As a last resort, I decided to sniff around my family members’ rooms when they were not around. I finally found traces of foundation powder on a laptop and a pillowcase. They were Ethan’s.
My mind reeled with questions and I even felt a tinge of a mother’s guilt. How do I approach this with a 15-year-old teenage boy? Why did I not notice this before? He must have been very discreet, applying it when everyone was asleep, and washing it off before morning.
Since the discovery, I felt uncomfortable, even though I had read some articles saying that it’s very common for guys in Korea and Japan to apply makeup; Ethan’s been following K-Pop music lately and maybe his “inspiration” stemmed from that. So one day, I decided to speak to my son.
Ethan was not really embarrassed at all. He firstly apologised for going through my stuff without my permission and confessed to me that it was curiosity which led him to do what he did secretly; he told me it’s a new youth fad for guys to experiment with makeup, and some of the male classmates in his school do it too. And I was relieved as Ethan was matured enough to assure me that it was not because he wanted to look like or become a girl. However, he made me promise to keep this from the rest of the family as they might not understand, since most of them are pretty conservative.
Now, Ethan and I go on mother-son buying trips during beauty sales, in private and without the other family members. To me, being a supportive parent means never to intrude on your child’s secrets, but share in the burden of knowing and keeping the secrets, secret.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
This story was first published at The Singapore’s Women’s Weekly, 15 July 2017.