Africa

Makeup

Me, Dany and Faia at the waterfalls of Bombaím last year

Faia comes up behind me, close. You can smell the cologne he’s wearing. It’s an athlete’s cologne, a small spritz and it’s like he’s freshly showered. A cologne of physical power and sexual success, or perhaps it’s the way he wears it that pronounces these two qualities.

He plays ever-so-lightly with my hair. “You’re beautiful, you know,” he says to me. “Você é muito linda.”

In his head it’s the beginning of one of his Brazilian telenovelas, and in my head I am mildly grossed out.

Me, Dany and Faia at the waterfalls of Bombaím last year

His hands fall from my hair to the sides of my arms, just below my shoulder. He squeezes them lightly, but firmly. “Why have Kilson,” he says, “When you can have me?” He repeats himself. “When you can have me?” He gives my arms another squeeze.

I remain silent. Kilson and I broke up nearly a year ago, but perhaps now is not the time to mention that.

Faia retreats into his room and twenty minutes later you hear him making love to his latest squeeze. Her screams sound like she’s being skinned alive. But with Faia, you never know: maybe she is being skinned alive while Abade and I are sitting around watching “Mythbusters” and turning up the volume so we don’t hear.

Faia’s a great friend to have on your side but definitely, most certainly, perhaps too obviously, not dating material.

For those of you who don’t know Faia, read my previous impressions about him and his dating life during my visit to São Tomé e Príncipe last year. We have always had an interesting, if not slightly off-balance, relationship. This visit, he has treated me quite humanely, but you can nail down the exact day – the exact moment – he started being particularly nice. It was the day I finally found my lost bag. Or perhaps you could describe it as the first day I started to wear makeup.

A lot changed after I started to wear makeup, and it was quite a swift jump. Just that morning when waiting at the baggage claim, I asked one of the security guards where I could locate my missing baggage, and he began to laugh as he pointed out my man-beard. “Sorry, but…” he stifled between laughs, tracing his own chin and giggling.

That same morning I was wearing eyeliner and when I walked into a store to buy a permanent marker, the clerk stopped to say, “I just want you to know, you are very beautiful.” And when I walked into computer class that afternoon, all of the teachers gasped in surprise. Wow, I didn’t realize I was looking that awful without cosmetics!

I hesitate to make the broad deduction that when you wear makeup people treat you more nicely, you get away with more things, and you attract significantly more attention from admirers than when you don’t wear makeup. I don’t want to be generic like that. But the visible difference that has occurred in my time here is certainly worth mentioning. With fresh makeup and new clothes, the world has warmed to me. But it has also heated. In the spirit of personal safety, it’s good to be cautious when you know you’re standing out more. Faia may be nice to me again, but there’s a fine line that we are walking, and I haven’t forgotten that.

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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