Stale marshmallows

Safta doesn’t buy new marshmallows when the old ones go stale. And she never makes cocoa for herself. So, the only time they get any use are on cold, post-sleepover mornings in a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

In the final three weeks of seventh grade, I started wearing makeup. I would stand in my bathroom every morning poking myself in the eye with a mascara wand and dusting my face with powder foundation.

But after a few months, I started to feel disgusting every time I picked up my brushes. The nose my mom told me to be proud of would be covered by a multi-step contouring routine. The acne I’d spent years getting under control flared under the stress of scrubbing my face nightly to get rid of the makeup but was carefully covered the next day with foundation and concealer.

I hid myself trying to look pretty.

Hills and valleys form in the hard exterior of the marshmallow, etched by the hot chocolate. The liquid doesn’t get far past its surface, but I try anyway, hoping the marshmallow will soften. My spoon slips on its smooth, hard exterior as I roll it to coat.

Safta keeps half-and-half for her coffee, so she always adds a splash to the cocoa. But it’s not enough to temper the boiling water that makes up most of the cup. The first sip burns my tongue.

You look beautiful.

You would look so pretty with makeup.

It’s not that you look bad — I just think you would look so beautiful with makeup.

I take a bite of stale marshmallow. Chalky, dry, too-firm. I’ve heard the words from my mom, from my other grandmother. I tell her I used to wear makeup because I felt bad about my face, but I stopped because wearing makeup felt like covering it up rather than learning to accept it. It’s the same argument I made to my mom and grandma.

The same argument I still make to myself.

With a bite taken out, the marshmallow rocks side to side in the hot chocolate. The sky outside shifts from grey to bright blue. A ship’s horn sounds in the distance. We play Rummikub and Mahjong, and she tells me about the Turkish melodrama she’s watching. My half-drunk cup of hot chocolate now cold sits beside me.

This article is a part of The Ubyssey's 2023 creative non-fiction supplement, beauty.