This last Wednesday, I arrived home way earlier than I usually do. So I locked up myself in my room to read.

With the shift in hours, the material changed from the academic to Nora Roberts. This shift was also characterized by a cozening up and by around 10 O’clock, I was ready to doze off.

So I made that good night phone call to the boyfriend. Instead of droopy eyes, at the end of the phone call, I was feeling a little more stimulated. I sank deeper into the bed, clutched loosely onto the duvet and decided to read some more. The idea was to read until I dropped the the phone on my way into dreamland. But that did not happen.

For all the hours I had been holed up reading, one thought had floated to surface of my consciousness and stubbornly remained there; I had not washed my face.

I have not always been an advocate of the whole nighttime skin ritual clan, but lately I find myself consciously making an effort to wash off my make up. This Wednesday evening was no different; I found myself leaving the warm cocoon and placing my feet on the icy floor tiles.

On hearing the grit my door makes every time I open it, my niece rushed to me. Following me to the bathroom and ten shadowing while I found warm water for my face. When she insisted on pouring the Rose Water into the basin with me, I let her. Then took off my wrist watch and handed it over to hold. The idea was to distract her and stop her from crowding- not that I succeeded.

As I leaned over and wet my face, so did she lean over. Avoiding the water, with the knowledge that her mother would fuss is she dared touch it, bit peering at me with crazy concentration. The peering was then followed with instructions; my niece is a three year old expect on the does and don’ts of face washing.

While she was instructing me to shut my eyes lest soap got into them, I was questioning why I had to leave my warm bed for this madness. No one has ever died from going to bed with a little lipstick and foundation on. Even as I argued with myself, I stretched for the exfoliation gloves. When I could not find them, I opened my eyes to find the niece’s face so close to mine, we were probably breathing each other CO2.

You should have seen the look in her eyes; it got me thinking about the last time someone had stared at my skin.

I spent my high school days highly alert about my acne. Looking back, I do not think it was that serious. It was hardly worse than your average teenager’s bout. In time, I was so accustomed to the comments and unsolicited advice that the acne prone skin had grown thick. And rarely, when the thickness was not enough, sarcasm always came through for me. Well, until this one time.

I was standing in the middle of the room, with a bunch of other girls, overlooking a magazine when a friend rubbed their closed fist on my face and asked,

‘Chali yako akikudara uso, anaskianga poaa?’

My boyfriend was as close to imaginary as they get. And while that is the first thought I had, I remember wondering if that was a joke. Should I have laughed at my friend’s comment.

I had not thought of that incident until last Wednesday evening when I caught my niece contemplating my bed time face washing. I wondered will that at one point influence her thoughts on beauty? When she is thirteen and suffers (just a touch of) acne, will she wonder why religiously washing your face before bed doesn’t protect you from it?

I hope she will fare* better than I did. I hope beauty for her, will have a more concrete meaning and less invasive influence on the quality of life.

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