Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I used to check myself in a small mirror I carried in my purse. Make sure my mascara and orange lipstick weren't smudgy, be sure there weren't specs of soot anyplace, or something awful like spinach on a tooth. But the times, and my traditions have changed.

There are still women who pull out a compact, after they've finished dining in a fancy restaurant, and reapply their lipstick -- eek, ick, yuck -- it not only seems rude and ridiculous -- it implies profound insecurity. It's unchic! Definitely a NO NO!

Let's get a little history going here. I started wearing makeup at age eleven. Pancake. And lipstick. I was sure my nose was huge (it isn't, it wasn't), but feeling like Cyrano, seeing my proboscis when I peered across my own face -- horrors -- the shine on it was horrible. So I'd lick my finger, rub it on the pancake, and pat it on my nose.

Then came adolescent blackheads, pimples, and a general tendency toward greasiness. At school I carried pancake and my sponge in a flowered zippered pouch I bought for 25 cents at Woolworth's, and re-applied pancake in the girls' room. Sometimes in an emergency, in the hallway as I traveled from class to class, I'd turn to the wall and quickly pat myself with the sponge.

Did I really? I did! Haven't thought about this for a long time, but I have a lunch meeting today to discuss various PR possibilities. I need to look my very best.

Ads keep reminding all of us to do more, much more, and there's a slew of new wonderful products to apply that are guaranteed to hide, cover, improve, create perfect skin, fabulous eyes, and lips. They are promoting stage makeup tricks.

I learned to apply stage makeup early on. Lining and shading the lips, lining upper and lower eyelids, making "ballerina" eyes ala Audrey Hepburn, highlighting/shadowing cheekbones, powdering lashes, augmenting your own lashes with false ones, layering on mascara, then powder, then more layers of mascara. It's all been in my repertoire for years. But the fact is, most of the tricks I learned for stage, are now what an ordinary teenager knows how to do.

(Small confession: I've never had the patience to "do" the tiny lower lashes. a lash by lash process that must be done with NO mistakes.)

It's time to get ready for the meeting. Though I wear very little makeup, it can take a half-hour to do slender subtle lines on my lids, pencil in my brows; and brush my lashes up with a dry mascara wand. Then, apply lipstick, a touch of palest pink and blot it till it's almost not there. (If you happen to see my picture someplace, take an extra good look.)

After lunch while we're discussing specifics, if I'm wondering how I look (of course I'll wonder, girls are brought up and taught to wonder), there will probably be a clean butter knife to glance at, or a quick check of myself in a teaspoon or tablespoon mirror.

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