By Rachel, on February 7, 2010

NOLA


Once upon a time there was a girl who never wore makeup. It wasn’t that she didn’t like makeup. She did. She simply had two things working against her.

  1. Ignorance: She didn’t know how to apply it
  2. Laziness: She was too lazy to learn

Of course, there were other reasons – most of them dealing with real or imagined impediments in relation to her appearance. There was her coloring for instance. A coloring that’s been described as tan, olive, yellow, rosy, green, pale, etc., etc.  So there was no point in getting powder, foundation, shadow, or concealer as none would really match her- she thought.

There was the shape of her eyes, which she convinced herself were not really suited for eyeshadow.  There was her problem skin which would break out at the mention of makeup. And there was the fact that she thought she would probably end up looking stupid. Just a few of the hundreds of reasons she concocted for not wearing makeup.

In any case, said girl would wake up, brush teeth, brush hair, apply gloss (makeup for scaredy cats)  and go. It went on like this for years even though often she wistfully fingered the shadow samples in Duane Reade; wondered what magic concealer would work on her face if only in the right color; browsed the aisles of Sephora half dazed by the colors, the powders, the promise of poreless perfection. But those were only temporary flights of fancy.  Always she walked out empty handed though perhaps with a spritz of new perfume on her wrists. She avoided the cosmetics counter at Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and especially at the mall stores in Jersey because the salesgirls there seemed less busy, more hungry, and their claws were showing.

It was a boring existence cosmetically speaking. The allure of brushes and puffs, pencils and creams seemed luxurious and decadent and out of her reach. It seemed deliciously female. After all, there were thousands  of images stored in her brain of women in dressing rooms, powder rooms, at vanity sets, women and women and women primping, curling, brushing, blending, patting, pulling, fluffing, teasing, tweezing, pouting, puckering, swishing their painted faces from side to side and peering at the results admiringly.

Still it was an existence that allowed impromptu dashes out the door for coffee; the ability to sleep til the last snooze alarm before leaving the house; and stretches of long and lanky time. For she did take notice that, in addition to the tools and paints of the medium, the one thing needed most of all was time. So she sipped her coffee and basked in the morning sun – makeup free. She wasn’t glamorous but she passed the grade.

Until the day that once upon a time became the present. And our girl, after years of coffee, smoking, drinking, and late nights dancing, suddenly looked in the mirror before dashing out the door and caught a glimpse of…something. It wasn’t tiredness – she’s been tired before. It wasn’t a blemish. She’d had that before. It wasn’t a bad hair day or puffy eye day or black circle day – it was simply something small – a nuanced something -that wasn’t as it had been before. Gravity? Perhaps.

And then there was the big, beautiful, bouncy gurgling baby. The one with the smiles and cheeks and feet and belly. The one that absorbed every single minute of the day and most of the night and unfortunately, cultivated a frumpy feeling in her of her.  That baby, plus the certain something out of place, was what brought her back to Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid – stalking the makeup aisles sneakily yet determinedly- suddenly confronted with over a thousand choices to make her face look right again.

Except that her face did not look right again. It didn’t look bad. But it didn’t look right- not like it did circa 1998. And what she discovered was that much like with cooking there was a delicate balance of addition and subtraction. If you put on a shadow, you  must then define the lashes. If you define the lashes, the brows must be in place. If the eyes are done then the mouth must be understated but not natural because that only looks half done. And above all the face must be smooth and flawless. When all is said and done a hundred tweaks and touches and strokes must be executed to produce a seemingly effortless decent looking product.

This was why that girl in high school with the fake contacts and the hairsprayed bangs and the push up bra said she got up two hours before leaving to school. Back then I, or should I say “said girl”, scoffed. Today I empathize. Not with Cuban Barbie from high school. She was 16 and ridiculous. But I empathize with all of the individuals out there who put in some of effort to present a put together form of themselves to the world – to put on their game face, their mask, their armor - much as  I try to do now.

Which will bring us to part two of this post…..tomorrow.

Until then…



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