Make-up, slap, warpaint… Call it what you will, there's no doubt that we have an obsession with painting our faces. It's thought that most women will spend €100,000 on make-up over the course of their lives. That sounds completely mental but let's assume you live to be 75 (sound reasonable?) and you maybe start wearing make-up at 15, that's 60 full years of shovelling that stuff on. It still sounds like a hell of a lot but then I think of the half-used bottles of foundation, the dried-up mascara, the untouched eye-shadows that I own.
When I feel like a splurge but don't have the cash for a pair of shoes, I generally head for the glitter. A quick fix, a pick-me-up, something I can use instantly.
Take the 'lipstick effect'. Historically, in times of austerity, sales in lipstick soared. Women want a little sumthin' sumthin' to lift the mood, and the cheeks, without killing their credit rating.
Putting on make-up is a wonderfully tiresome task that I love and hate. Load it on, layer it up. Paint, powder, rouge, gloss. Undo, redo, stick it, pull it, wipe it, fix it. Wash it off and start again.
Of course, I'm thankful that we have it as part of our artillery, our armour; like high heels we associate it with confidence and power. I like that we get to dabble and play and express ourselves with a colourful lip or spider-like eyelashes. We can embody a character in an instant, paint on a temporary mask and a dusting of confidence. But when we become so dependent, so utterly consumed, that we can't leave the house without a head full of slap, it can't be a good thing?
In the past, make-up was used to enhance what you had. To adorn the face that was given to you, respectful of the flaws, embracing the imperfections. Now everyone wants to look like Kim bloody Kardashian. With cheekbones you could cut cheese on, more peaks and valleys than Connemara and a bee-stung pout that would have previously led to immediate hospitalisation.
We have become artists of illusion, we don't just bang on some Max Factor Pan-Stick and set it with some worryingly chalky powder you picked up in Miss Selfridge and a slick of Rimmel's 'Heather Shimmer' lippie. Oh no! We use primers and highlighters, illuminating and contouring as we go. Add to that the liners and shadows, the gels and the creams, we create a daily masterpiece we hide behind - something to feel bad about when we don't quite measure up to Kim.
Teenage YouTubers amass millions of dollars and views as they teach us how to perfect the 'smokey eye' or nail Taylor Swift's 'perfectly pink pout', and we eat it up like pasta. Possibly the most well-known of them all is Michelle Phan, a beauty vlogger with almost eight million subscribers, more than 900 million video views since December 2013, and a reported net worth of €2.5m. There are more like her, millions more. Make-up tutorials are some of YouTube's most popular content.
Of course, I get it, I do. I'm guilty of over-glossing on occasion too. Maybe because I have to wear slap for work I resist it in 'real life' or maybe I'm just a bit tired of it all, the hours and money spent beautifying. I think I'll pack it in, I get fired up and ready to make a stand…
And then I remember the joy I feel when I sprinkle some glitter on my naked eyelids and head outside. How a slick of heavy black liquid liner transports me back to a time when Andy Warhol ruled the roost. I realise then that when we use make-up for good, it is one of life's little presents.
Last week I visited Armagh Public Library. I got to see a first edition of Gulliver's Travels, the copy that Jonathan Swift used to make amendments. It was the first time in a long time that I stood in a library, I'd forgotten how peaceful but powerful they are. Not just the quietness but the weight of the minds and lives on the shelves all around. Goodbye Kindle, I'm going back to basics.