How I Came To Love My Big Purple Under-Eye Bags

It was a saga, but I'm finally there.

I always look tired. I have these heavy bags under my eyes that you can carry groceries in, where purple and blue bruises mix in with the freckles across my cheeks. A gift from my Slavic family, I spent the majority of my life trying to find ways to hide them. My bathroom cabinet was filled with pots and paints that promised to act like magic tricks, where a finger dab here and a brush buff there would erase those bags and leave me looking fresh-faced.

But it never worked. From green skin correctors, to special lightening creams, to concealer so thick it felt tacky on my fingers, I would layer it on, hoping that this would be the day the bruises disappeared. And they did, kind of. The color would be gone, but that sunken look still stuck around, making me appear like I needed a cup of coffee or maybe to take a nap for eternity.

This had been my battle since I was 13 and I learned from my tween magazines that imperfections would be your undoing. "Pretty" is the currency women get in the world, and the more opportunities you want, the more you have to conform to the ever-unattainable beauty standards they pile on us.

My bags were the first thing my eyes went to in the morning, and the first thing I would cringe at after taking a picture on a Friday night. I thought I would spend the rest of my life hating them. But everything changed two years ago when I bought a one-way ticket to Europe. 

I'm lucky enough to be a freelancer who doesn't need to check into an office, so I decided I should push myself while I had the chance, to get outside of my comfort zone by traveling and working in places I have never been. One of those places was Paris, and trying to save a little money, I stayed in an Airbnb with a couple living close to Notre Dame, where the husband was Parisian and the wife Brazilian. 

Her and her eye bags changed everything for me. 

She was a law student and would come home late in the evening, always frazzle-haired and tired, but smiling and always ready to pour us a glass of wine or two. One night we were sitting at her little kitchen table tucked into the corner of her attic apartment, making our way through a second glass of Merlot and talking about her day. And as she talked, I got fixated on her eyes. Right underneath her brown eyes were the same bags I had, bruised purple with blue veins, and topped off with mascara smudges and the shadows of a long day. But instead of itching to bring out my concealer wand to buff them away, I found them kind of... beautiful.

Those different dark colors brought out the brown in her eyes, and isn't it something beautiful to have a woman sitting there confident and untroubled by these small, so-called flaws? I took a second peek at her through the rim of my wine glass, suspicious over how blasé she was about these bags that have haunted me for half of my life. They made it look like she had worked long hours, but like she was satisfied with that fact. She looked strong and interesting, happy and comfortable with herself. And as she smiled at me across the table and wondered out loud if we should balance some of this wine with bread, it just clicked for me. 

I have been looking at my bags through the eyes of everyone but mine. I never had an issue with them until someone pointed straight at them and said "no," asking me to find ways to spackle and buff them so they didn't have to look at them. But now, I see that they're beautiful. They're the evidence of a job well done at the end of the day, when you come home tired with your eyeliner faded and your eyes just a little droopy. They're the same exact bags that my grandmother has and that my mom leaves uncovered, who both came from Poland and let me share in the tradition. 

My under-eye bags are mine, and I don't see them as a flaw anymore. They're part of my story, part of me, and there's no part of me that wants to waste time not loving myself. Heavy grocery bags and all. 

Marlen Komar is a writer living in Chicago with a penchant for mom jeans and kimchi tacos, and primarily writes about fashion history. She has bylines in Bustle, CNN Style, Racked, Allure, Curbed, and Apartment Therapy, and rarely stays in one place too long as she travels for most of the year. Website: