American Beauty is a series written by an American beauty writer temporarily marooned in Japan and is in no way affiliated with the actor Thora Birch.

Japan is a nation full of gorgeous things. Everywhere you look, there is a mountain you feel compelled to write a poem about, or a pair of jeans you would murder your neighbor to own, underscored by one of the most melodic languages you have ever heard. In English, you’re just kind of stringing together a macaroni necklace of words, but in Japanese, sentences are crafted into precise mosaics and then colored with vocal inflection, like a stained glass window animated by a sunbeam. Borne on the tongue of an American idiot, it becomes fragile and prone to shatter, like a stained glass window animated by a sledgehammer.

This is all to say that I am doing my best, thank you, but I lack the vocabulary and knack for the artisanal composition necessary to put together a Japanese sentence. Physically I am a grown man, but linguistically I am but a baby, able only to communicate yes and no, please, this is delicious, [noise indicating physical distress], laughter. I am also (like a baby) desperately in need of attention at all times. Babies do crazy things for attention, like shit on the floor, and I haven’t had to do that… yet!

But moving to a new country makes you do crazy things. When everything is a brand new experience, it warps your senses of danger and risk; when everything is unfamiliar and terrifying, everything is also somehow numbly comfortable and painless. I will tell you later about how a trip to McDonald's nearly turned into a diplomatic crisis, but I will tell you now about buying orange mascara, the easiest thing I have ever done. I was in a department store stacked on top of another department store shopping for kitchenware when I encountered it; in line for the register, between hand sanitizer and mixed nuts. I bought a tube along with a set of bowls and a spatula.

Ettusais’ Eye Edition Mascara Base comes in a tiny rainbow of colors, including a ghostly purple and a raspberry jam, but I went for the Healthy Style Copper Orange. My eyes are set so far back in my skull that wearing eyeshadow is a total waste, like painting a mural behind a refrigerator, but my hope was that lighting my eyelashes on fire would provide alternative drama and bring out the blue of my irises. Mostly I thought it would be a cool look. But if I’m being honest, I also hoped it would inspire more people to try to talk to me by silently introducing a natural healthy-style-copper-orange talking point into my daily conversations.

Applying Healthy Style Copper Orange mascara base is difficult—the provided brush is, I’m sorry to say, utterly impotent, and more like a sawed-off rake than anything resembling a mascara spoolie. But perhaps because it is nearly impossible to apply, it’s absolutely impossible to overapply. No matter how many times you, or I, scrape the comb against your/my eyelashes, it does no more than wrap each eyelash in a nuance of color. A kiss of leprechaun genetics.

Based on this description, are you surprised that nobody has seemed to notice? So far, my orange eyelashes have earned no compliments, no commentary, no banter; nothing beyond “How can I help you?” or “Thank you for visiting Starbucks.” The only person to mention them was a dinner companion, a fellow American, also kind of a bro from Oakland: “You’re doing an orange makeup thing?” he asked. And I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.


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