Some Women Tell Some Men About Makeup

A chat about kohl, mascara, and lipstick


All my life, I have loved explaining my beauty routine to men.

There’s something pure and exhilarating about it, like teaching a puppy to walk down stairs. I love hearing little questions they have squirreled away but don’t care quite enough to Google. Things like, “Does bronzer hurt?” and “What is a mask for?” Plus, there’s something satisfying in being the unequivocal expert on a given topic; having the whole floor conceded and stepping fully into your spotlight. I am comfortable with that power dynamic. It is my preferred conversational position.

So yesterday, when my Swole coworker brought an eyeshadow palette to the office in order to teach our editor Silvia Killingsworth how to do a smokey eye, I was pleased to watch the men in the office crane their necks in polite curiousity.

Our bossfather Alex Balk headed home just before the master class began, claiming working remotely would be better than feeling like he was in the way during the lesson. This is a fine strat, and I understand the impulse, but minutes later when he slid into the work Slack looking for updates on how the tutorial was going, my soul…….did this:

Me | Giphy

Balk wanted to learn! And, by default, I wanted to explain!

So I opened the floor and invited Balk and our coworker Mike Dang to ask us any beauty questions they were harboring deep in their lil hearts, and we did our best to give understandable answers. It’s honestly kind of a writing exercise. A word game. Think about it: how would you describe lotion to someone who’s never seen or felt it? Deodorant?

Anyway, here it is. Three women teaching two men about kohl, mascara, and lipstick:


Alex Balk: Are you gals all smoke eyed yet

Mike Dang:

Kelly Conaboy: my favorite artist

Silvia Killingsworth: The Awl is finally a Home Base & Social Club for Women in New York

Balk: so are your eyes the right shape for smokeying

Christine Friar: honey with the right brushes and a little patience any eye can be a smokey eye

Balk: KELLY–kohl-rimmed-eyes-kohl-pencil-40327.html

Kelly: wow you were right: kohl eyes

Silvia: yeah!
wait this was a question?
i mean
kohl is a KIND of eyeliner

Balk: i wanted to know if that’s what smokey eye was
and kelly told me that i was a crazy person who was making up kohl because i was stupid and ugly and also nobody likes me
she was very mean

Kelly: I have to speak my truth and if that makes you uncomfortable then “I’m sorry”

Balk: hahaha
so is it like a “all kohl is smoked eye but not all smoked eye is kohl” thing?

Christine: yes!
kohl is like a type of eyeliner
so your kohl eye CAN be a smoky eye, but your smoky eye is not necessarily a kohl eye

Balk: okay so one more
what is mascara and how does it fit into this whole cosmology

Kelly: 🙂

Mike: Mascara is lashes?

Christine: yes!
mascara is wet like hmm….clay?
and it comes in a bottle with a brush
and you put it on your eyelashes
to change their color

Kelly: yeah to make them more visible
more dramatic

Christine: so when you put on mascara you brush your eyelashes 🙂
and they become dark and probably clumpy 🙂

Silvia: yah like a comb

Christine: and then all of the boys go “wow”
and you say “yeah i know”

Balk: hahahaha
i’m learning so much today

Christine: your question may have been a joke but i love 2 explain things

Balk: no i was being sincere

Christine: okay great
mascara’s also wild because so many of them are very bad?
and there’s no way to know but to just like, put it on your eyes

Silvia: YES

Christine: so often if you like
or breathe
or touch your face
your mascara will leave circles under yr eyes
and make you look very ancient and haunted
which is actually a great look

Silvia: yeah you like look shook after a workout
its rude

Balk: So would it be a crazy speculation to say that if you are someone who, say, has made a woman cry, it is her mascara that you are trying not to pay attention to because shit looks all melty under her eyes?

Christine: yes!!!!
a stunning hypothetical!!!

Balk: i’ve only read about it

Kelly: like lauren conrad


Kelly: exactly


Balk: okay so
bear in mind
i am a cis etc

Mike: Did you think women just cried black tears

Kelly: lol

Balk: i just group them all as “eyeshadow”
i didn’t know there were so many component parts!

Silvia: oh my god

Kelly: “And what do tampons do?”

Christine: i love this!!!!
do you have more questions

Silvia: keep em coming

Balk: i read about tampons on the hairpin, i feel like i’m up to speed on that
what is the difference between lip gloss and lipstick

Mike: One is made from bubblegum and the other is made from whales

Balk: hahaha

Kelly: lol

Christine: ooh!
gloss is often a liquid in a tube with a little spongey wand

Silvia: it’s sticky and gloopy

Kelly: gloss is for shiny mouth

Christine: and color is optional for gloss, it is mostly about shine

Silvia: water mouth
wet mouth

Kelly: yeah to make your mouth look wet
even though it’s actually just sticky


what would you say the consistency’s like?
white out?
and wet at the same time
and bad

Kelly: yeah gloss is bad
it’s for children

Christine: AND THEN lipstick is color
and can look so many different ways
hoo boy
talkin tubes, talkin pencils

also lipstick:

Balk: slow down i’m still absorbing
BUT seems like there is some advanced level teaching happening now

Christine: yes sorry i’m going fast

is that … legal?

Kelly: pencil is good
there’s also lip liner which is also pencil

Christine: the pencil is a relatively new moment for lipstick
lipstick was like “hey, it’s the new millennium”
and we were like “hell yeah”

Balk: so wait
lip liner is a pencil that you draw a line around your lipstick or gloss with, but lipstick can now also be a pencil

Kelly: yes

Balk: this is like the holy trinity

Christine: the liner pencil is hard and bad
like…..a soft crayon
but then the lipstick pencil
is v smooth and easy to apply like reg lipstick
it just happens to be inside of a pencil
a fat pencil

Balk: is it… wet?

Christine: hm

Balk: like i imagine lipstick as “wet” and pencil stuff as “dry”

Christine: have you ever used cray pas?
in art class?

Balk: yes!

Christine: that is what lipstick is like!
it’s like malleable
but not wet
peanut butter
lipstick is as easy 2 spread as peanut butter
but not sticky like that
just equally wet

Kelly: 🙂

Christine: 🙂

Balk: I have never been more thankful to be a cis etc man
just learning this shit alone seems exhausting, nevermind doing it

Christine: imagine if you will
having peanut butter that you have applied in the exact shape of your lips
and then
or talking
or kissing
without messing it up
it is……quite an ask

Balk: If I were as stupid as Kelly thinks I am I would say “Well just don’t wear makeup”

Kelly: well my assessment of you has been validated

Silvia: you’re mostly right but it’s way too late makeup has been long reclaimed by women to torture each other and MOSTLY themselves

Christine: also it is fun!!!
if u are coming from a space of “THIS IS TIGHT” and not “I AM A HAG WHO MUST BE HIDDEN”

Kelly: Yeah it’s fun and guys get to grow a beard on their face to change it so

Christine: yeah you get to contour with sideburns
and hide doub chins with beards

Balk: wait so making peanut butter lips is like a good time for you

Christine: it’s not a wholly unpleasant feeling
peanut butter is not a perfect comparison bc once the lipsticks on youre less aware of its physical presence
but lipstick is AS WET AS peanut butter
if that makes sense
but yeah no it’s dumb to do all that work and then have to exist in space with weather and sweat and hands
BUT much in the way it is fun to paint or make a pot it is fun to take your face and make it another face

Kelly: hahaha
“lipstick is AS WET AS peanut butter”

Balk: I feel like I have peeked behind a curtain and seen things my kind is never supposed to see
I guess the next time I am going to complain about waiting so long for a woman to get ready I will remember this conversation and be a little more understanding.
Thanks for the valuable lesson!

Christine: truly