I’m sitting in a booth on the 86 tram, en route to uni. Just passing Ethel Grove, so almost there. At this point in my commute, I’d normally be halfway through a podcast or listening to a selection of pump-up tracks on Spotify. I’d also be halfway through applying my makeup. If I hazard a guess, if I’m just passing Reservoir High School now, I’d be applying some winged eyeliner with my handy black liquid eyeliner pen. I’d then look up and see we’re at Preston Cemetery, so would speedily grab out my mascara and brush up my top lashes. We’re at the intersection now, just heard the kindly, middle-aged-man-sounding voice announced: “the next stop is La Trobe University”. At this point, I’d zip up my portable makeup bag, before somewhat frenziedly cramming it into my backpack. In a few moments, I’d be hurrying out the tram door to the sound of those this is your final warning beep beep beeeeps. 

Funnily enough, this morning I did apply my makeup on the tram. I just started and finished it earlier than I usually do, so I’d have time to start this opinion piece (ever the multitasker). What I was just describing, about me madly packing away my things before exiting at my tram stop? Yeah, that all happened about five minutes ago. In fact, I’m writing this paragraph as I sit on the La Trobe University tram stop bench, my coat splayed out next to me because I didn’t have time to put it back on before exiting the tram. Perhaps I’ll always be cramming something in at the last minute, inevitably leaping out of the tram doors, half-dressed, cradling the contents of my backpack (which I decided to empty out over the course of the tram journey) in my hands and/or balanced against a sturdy region of my body. I’m okay with that. In fact, I’ve come to accept that it’s the only way I choose to live my life; somewhat chaotically. 

Which brings me to the first reason why I do my makeup on the tram. I lack the drive to prioritise it as part of my home-based morning routine. I wake up wanting to do two things:

1) listen to pump-up music 

2) eat a breakfast meal involving peanut butter. 

This morning I did both of those things, although the order of events went: woke up, searched for pump-up music on Spotify to help inspire motivation to roll my achy body out of the comforting surrounds of my bed (made more challenging by my recently purchased heated fitted blanket; thanks/no thanks Kmart), put on exercise gear, ate a handful of granola, went for a run to Princes Park whilst listening to an assortment of podcasts, came back, grabbed the overnight oats I prepared earlier out of the fridge, added some bouge toppings, then ate my breakfast whilst listening to, you guessed it, pump up music on Spotify. When I write it all down, it kind of makes sense that my makeup application falls to the wayside.

Also, I don’t believe I’m the sole creature of my kind. In fact, I know there are others out there. Others who experience time differently. For us, time feels longer… holds endless possibilities. I think I can speak for my fellow ‘time ambitious’ friends when I say that we are constantly surprised to discover that allowing ourselves ten minutes to decide on a uni outfit, get dressed in said uni outfit, brush our teeth, pack our backpack, and do a final wee, often isn’t sufficient. I’m proud to say, however, that with years of practice I’ve gotten close to hitting the 10-minute mark. Since making the concerted decision to dedicate my makeup application to my tram ride, I’ve noticed that my ambitious morning routine is more achievable than ever before. There are two reasons why I do my makeup on the tram:

1) I’m a slow riser, I enjoy a morning run, my leisurely breakfast is important to me, and I tend to leave myself ten minutes to do everything else. Makeup can be applied anytime and anywhere. The often-uncrowded 86 tram, where I spend 30 minutes each morning, is a setting where I can relaxedly and carefully apply my makeup – so I do. 

2) This one is not what prompted me to start doing my makeup on the tram (see reason #1), yet it’s at the heart of why I’ve continued to do it and why I felt compelled to write this piece. I apply my makeup on the tram because I hope that fellow commuters who have the same habit might observe what I’m doing, see that applying makeup in a public setting is 100% acceptable, and potentially be inspired to follow suit. 

I can recall the moment I first voiced my sense that a tram-based makeup routine serves a higher purpose. I was on the crowded, not as makeup-routine-friendly, 58 tram. I bumped into my friend, Annie, and we began chatting about an Instagram post I’d shared recently. The post was a series of photos, three accidental selfies to be exact, depicting me being caught unaware as I applied makeup on the tram. Let me explain. My tram-based makeup routine involves using the selfie camera on my iPhone as a mirror, whilst simultaneously listening to music. Now, if you press the volume button whilst using the iPhone camera app, the volume button transforms into a let’s take a photo button, or in my case, a let’s take an accidental selfie while you’re midway through applying concealer. 

A few minutes of jovial tram banter later, it suddenly dawned on me – likely when I caught sight of the bemused expression on my friend’s face – that she and perhaps others who’d liked my recent Instagram post didn’t understand why I was doing it all. I’ll admit that the Instagram post had an element of sarcasm, yet my intention was not only to poke fun at myself. So why am I doing it all? In truth, because I feel that, if I perform the act of applying makeup in public – an act that is usually done in the privacy of one’s bathroom – it puts into question the notion that we need to hide the intricacies of this ritualistic act or be self-conscious about how we go from a naked face to a made-up face each morning. I like to think that, if every day, I make the purposeful decision to be unashamed about applying makeup in front of strangers, then perhaps other girls, women, or anyone who regularly applies makeup, might take this as evidence that it will all be okay if they don’t get every bit of their morning routine (e.g. makeup) done before they leave the house because, folks, you can do it on the tram.  

If you wear makeup too, that’s about ten to 30 minutes worth of time that non-makeup-wearing people have freed up each morning. I’m not saying this to suggest applying makeup is a burden, nor am I about to proclaim, “screw the patriarchy! #losethelippy and #binthebronzer”. We can all still wear makeup and call ourselves feminists. What I’m saying is that it’s a decent amount of time, so if you have the capacity to do your makeup during your morning commute, then I invite you to do it! Proudly present your raw, unique face to strangers at eight in the morning and show them how, with an assortment of powders, liquids, and creams, you can accentuate your features in a way that emboldens you.

For me, my tram-based makeup routine is 20 minutes of self-care. Which brings me to the third, and final reason, why I do my makeup on the tram. When I display my makeup on my lap, grab out my tinted moisturiser, and start blobbing it and smoothing it on my face, it feels like I’m flipping the bird to my self-conscious self. I should point out that while I still believe in reason two (a.k.a. wanting to start a tram-based makeup routine revolution), I’m starting to realise that people rarely take much notice of me, no matter how elaborate my makeup routine is that day. Take this morning, for instance. I counted only one man who glanced in my direction. That was it. Also, the man looked away after about three seconds. But then, I stare off into space all the time, so what’s to say he wasn’t doing the same? Anywho… perhaps the most important reason why I do my makeup on the tram is that it’s an experiential reminder to myself that people can cope with my eccentricities, or put simply, that they can cope with me doing me. The more I do my makeup on the tram, the less I feel the need to make a self-deprecating joke about it. Also, who doesn’t enjoy an early morning adrenaline rush? Stuffing my makeup bag away before leaping through the about-to-close-on-me tram doors is my daily Russian roulette.

In case they were lost amongst my stream of consciousness, somewhat Queer Eye-esque material, here is a summary of the three reasons why I do my makeup on the tram:

  1. It’s a time saver.
  2. I want to start a tram-based makeup routine movement and;
  3. I find it empowering.

I shall leave you with the photo series I posted to my Instagram. If there is one thing I want you to take away, it’s this: don’t delete your accidental selfies, turn them into art and share them with the world!

Photo: by Apiranthan Mathivannan with permissions. Their photos can be found in edition four of Rabelais.

Note: images mentioned by the author in the final paragraph can be found in edition four of Rabelais.


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