By Vicky Huang
This piece describes my experience growing up with beauty standards. It highlights my first encounter with eyelid tape and the contrast between East Asian and Western notions of beauty.
I must’ve been no older than ten years old when I first saw my mom tape her eyelids. Every day was the same: she stood in front of the mirror, used a blade to cut off a slit of tape—no longer than two inches and much thinner than one millimeter—and I watched as she closed her eyes and pressed the tape against each eyelid. It makes my eyes bigger, she’d say. She did this for years until she gradually stopped—the constant artificial crease on her lids forced her original, natural monolids to change shape and, eventually, stay that way.
I never understood why she did it, and it wasn’t until I entered high school that I really began to understand the concept of East Asian beauty standards. I had gotten into K-Pop, and learned about how idols got plastic surgery to have eyes like Westerners and wore foundation multiple shades lighter than their skin tone to look whiter. Female idols like Bae Suzy or Krystal Jung, with their long hair, pale skin, and round eyes, were at the forefront of “feminine ideals,” and a quick YouTube search would give you an abundance of tutorials on how to have makeup or hair just like them.
It suddenly started to make sense why my mom taped her eyelids every day for years. And why whenever she complimented my eyes, it would just be about the left one. 妳的雙眼皮今天好漂亮哦Your double eyelid looks so pretty today!
Double eyelid. Singular.
Only my left eye had a double eyelid. And the other? A classic, East Asian monolid. I never saw anything wrong with my monolid. But I hated my double eyelid. I hated the way it never folded all the way across my eye. How it seems to get stuck halfway, and how I’d feel it every time I blinked.
It was then that I realized the subjectivity of beauty.
I remember watching a video of a Western girl showing her viewers how she transforms her natural double eyelids into monolids to look like the “perfect Korean idol”—using Elmer’s Glue. I watched, in shock, as she talked about dabbing glue onto her lids, pulling the double eyelid over the surface of her eye and securing it in place—as if it were the most natural thing in the world! Why did East Asians work so hard to change their physical features in order to match those of Westerners, while Westerners were making tutorials on how to obtain the very same features that East Asians so strongly disliked.
Now, as I try to do my makeup in front of the mirror, the question remains unanswered. I know the black eyeliner won’t show up on my right eye unless I draw a layer thick enough to go past my monolid, but I do it anyway. My eyes won’t look as accentuated as Bae Suzy’s, nor will the bright eyeshadow pop on my eyelid with barely any lid space—but I do it anyway.
Vicky Huang is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Queens, NY.