Interestingly, I am looking for something that is conspicuously missing from my purse. A makeup bag. I have one but I don't carry it. It sits, packed, on my vanity and mostly collects dust. Every woman I know carries a makeup bag in her purse - even if its just a small one. The only makeup I regularly carry in my purse is a lipstick and it is invariably the wrong shade. I do carry a compact mirror as well - I have no idea why. However, I have an interview on Thursday and its got me thinking about the makeup bag. I'm going to need it.
In the overall scheme of the universe, I am aware that the subject of my makeup is of no importance whatsoever. I know this because so far the sun has come up every morning regardless of whether or not I have a collection of Clinique products in my bathroom drawer. But I do know it can make a difference in the way you are perceived. At least initially. And in an interview, you want to be perceived in the best possible light (dim, if it can be arranged).
A few months ago I posted my Facebook photo. It was taken on a day that I attended a "fancy country club-type event" so I had spent a great deal of time on my makeup. Once the photo was posted, right away, a couple of people commented enthusiastically what a "great picture" it is. Since then, so many people have made the same comment that it has become a mildly backward compliment. What I have come to understand it to really mean is: "What a surprisingly great photo that is. Because, you know, you don't really look like that".
When I was young (and perfect looking), I wouldn't clean a toilet without eye-liner. As I got older I made the effort less and less. Now its an effort to put it on at all. It has just become something I don't do. And I wonder, when did my schedule get so busy and full that I couldn't set aside the 5 minutes each day for a little of what my friend Jan calls "arts and crafts"? Lord knows, it certainly wouldn't be a waste of my time. About a year ago, after having had a few moments of clarity in front of the mirror, I decided I really needed to start making the effort regularly so I went to a professional for some help in designing a simple make-up regimen. I told her that I did not want to wear foundation because I thought my skin looked pretty good and I didn't like the feel of it. She assured me that it wasn't necessary. I simply had to use a little concealer to cover a few dark spots that all women (and men) get at this age. She explained to me that while I may not really notice them (because I am used to seeing them), they can make a person look older. I thought of my grandmother Mildred and, remembering her age spots, agreed. "Cover away!", I said. She took a tiny brush and went to work, dabbing each "spot". After she had found every last one of them, she gave me a mirror so that I could see where they were located. There looked to be about three hundred. At least.
I bought the foundation.
As I mull this further, I guess I'm not surprised when I realize that I do, in fact, have a daily awareness that other women - women my age - wear it and I don't. I think about it when I see the other moms at Grace's school - early in the morning - with the whole face "on" (obviously they still don't clean the toilet without it.) I am aware of it when I go to the market and hope I don't run into anyone I know (the fear of which is never strong enough to prompt me to prepare for that eventuality.) So if I am aware of it, it clearly matters to me. And if it matters to me, why do I so commit myself to not wearing it? Could anything so ridiculously unimportant as the lack of a cosmetic regime possibly be a symptom of some bigger issue?
Maybe. It is annoying how much time I have spent this week obsessing about makeup. But I think I have stumbled upon something. I think my decision to not make the makeup effort - however long ago that was - was one of many decisions I have made to "resign to the fear".
Of all the difficulties life has presented to me, I think I battle most against fear. Sometimes it is a healthy fear of something I should be afraid of and sometimes it is completely irrational. Occasionally the scale has tipped too heavily on the side of the irrational and I have had to hold hands with Celexa, but usually this fear thing is something I sort of work into my lifestyle. Sometimes the way I deal with fear is to stand in front of it and look it right in the face. But sometimes I stand in front of it and close my eyes so I can let it just go ahead and run over me. End the panic and get that horrible-thing-that-is-about-to-happen over with. I actually read about this in "O" Magazine (yes, I'm even reading her magazine). They call it a "counterphobic mechanism". This is where you run to, instead of away from what you are afraid of. Sabotage. Yup, that's me.
Now I know that none of you have ever heard of this, but getting old is something I'm actually afraid of (sort of a mixture of irrational AND real). I have always had a heightened sense of the fact that time marches on. And it isn't so much of a march as a speed run. So once I realized that achieving photogenic perfection was going to require a little more than lip gloss and mascara to do the trick, I think I just pulled out that old white flag and started waiving. I do remember in my 30's (when I really looked fabulous - I have photos to prove it!) being aware that: "I'm not going to look like this forever. They day will come when I look old and tired". And then fear must have kicked in and I thought: "And why wait for that day? There's no time like the present!" So at a time when I could have easily sustained looking my best, I stopped trying. Similarly, I think it played into the weight gain. Finding that weight maintenance was getting a little trickier, I raced to "Plus Size". "Ah! I made it! Nothing to fear. Pass me a doughnut."
This discovery has presented itself as a line drawn in the sand. I can either decide to embrace my old choices and stick to the program (or rather the non-program) or I can decide to acknowledge and address the fact that it does matter to me. To change would be hard because if I decide to switch gears and stop dodging friends in the aisles of the grocery store or wearing sunglasses inside, its going to require not only dumping but repairing some wear and tear. And I think it will mean a complete all-or-nothing effort. Not just the makeup but the weight loss, exercise. Oh the horror. This would include a regular manicure (the acrylics cannot be left to grow unfilled), the pedi must be maintained which means I must always remember to shave the hair on my feet (am I the only one?) I must wax and not bleach the upper lip (once, when bleached, the morning sun hit my face and my lip glistened like it had been touched by Midas.) I can no longer tell myself that an inch of grey roots qualifies as "highlights".
No, its gonna be a major overhaul - because at 52, unemployed with 3 kids out the door and needing the energy to do all over again with a 10-year-old, it ain't over. Its just starting. Again. And I am going to say it over and over like a mantra until I believe it.
My makeup bag is one thing I am putting in the purse.