Sometimes being a face painter requires more tact and skill than I thought. Skill to navigate people’s biases. And I am afraid I do not always get it right because as much as I try I cannot always read into people’s mind or intentions. Like the one time a mother sat her preteen son in my chair and asked me to paint him like a monkey. I was not sure if this was to be a punishment, or the kid actually wanted the face of a monkey on his face and was too shy, so the mom had to speak up for him. And the venues I work at are usually loud and do not allow me to have a conversation with the child. I felt bad that day, that evening actually. So I have decided I will not paint something that is not on my sample book on those occasions.
Some other times though, I can understand the frustration on the kid’s face. Because they asked for a design, and the mom overheard and said: “No, can you do something else”. Like the time this other boy wanted a scorpion. And just as I was getting ready to do it, the mom interjected and prohibited it, she asked if I could do a frog instead. The only frogs in my book were cute and pretty, meant for little girls or little boys, not a pre-teen. So after some quick thinking, and since I already had black loaded on my brush, I decided to paint a black frog, not a smiling one, but the silhouette of one on a wall. I sighed in relief when I was finished, and he saw the mirror and smiled.
Then there is the gender bias, little boys who like rainbows, and little girls who like spiders. Some parents seriously think that a spider in a little girl’s cheek is going to affect her for life. If anything, perhaps this is why most women are afraid of insects. Maybe if we let them, they can be bolder when they are adults at the sight of a spider. Yet I want both the child and the parent to be satisfied with the design painted and I can sympathize with both. So, yes, sometimes face painting, as temporary as it may be on someone’s face, can be challenging.