Caro and I were enjoying another one of our "failed" shopping trips (the kind where we stop in at Sephora, bemoan the fact that they still haven't restocked the Apricot Souffle, and then proceed to buy substitute purchases (at other stores, mind you, ones that deserve our business) that we don't particularly need but seem to take home anyway) when we decided to give ourselves a break from toting around our monstrous shopping bags and sit down for a little lunch and nice big drink.
It goes without saying that mine was a martini ("touch of pink", it was called, and it danced on my tongue and was sweet enough to mask the staggering amounts of alcohol mixed into such a pretty little drink) and as we sipped and ate, I amused her with stories of my sisters and I sharing a bathroom growing up, and even now, when we all happen to be visiting at the same time.
Confession: I am a bad, bad girl.
Oh, not the good kind of bad. Not the naughty kind. Well, yeah, that too, but that's not what I'm referring to this time.
I mean the bad kind of bad: inept, dysfunctional, graceless, impaired.
While my sisters (of which I have 3) vie for mirror time to primp and preen, my routine consists more of things like eating cheerios, flossing, and changing my top 18 times. But as for hair? Makeup? Forget it. I suck.
And it pains me to admit this, because my mother was a hairdresser, went to beauty school and everything. When we were little, she'd line us up in the kitchen and she'd pass from one set of bangs to another with her curling iron, making us all look like brunette Farah Fawcett nesting dolls. My sisters have clearly inherited her talents, and developed them, while I have been left in the dust.
So this winter I set myself a goal: make my hair look less retarded. And I've tried, I really have. I can now do things with a curling iron other than give myself scathing ear blisters, which is a marked improvement. And the straightening iron is no longer my sworn enemy (now it's the friend I love to hate), although it still makes me cry when I spend 20 minutes coaxing it to perform miracles only to have my efforts derailed by stupid humidity (and even as I type this, I find myself hoping that humidity really does fuck with hair, and it's not just something my Mom told me in order to make me feel like less of a schmuck).
So Caro, good friend that she is, laughs at me only a little bit when I point to my face with the wrong end of a fork to highlight the fact that I am not wearing makeup, as if she hadn't already noticed.
I don't wear makeup because I can't wear makeup. I mean, ostensibly the stuff can be applied to my face, I just have no idea how to get it there. And not for lack of trying: every so often I'll feel inspired, and I'll buy some of those little pots with the pretty colours in them and I'll take them home and do my best but I'm just never happy with the Tammy Faye lookalike staring back at me when I'm done.
Time has come today.
Caro informs me that this is the day that I finally become a woman (I quickly gulp 2 more martinis in sheer panic).
Becoming a woman, it seems, involves donating a paycheque to a little boutique called MAC cosmetics. I brace myself before we walk in.
I am a blank canvas. The only things I've ever been able to master (well, more like muster) is mascara and lipgloss. The rest of my face is virgin territory (oh stop your snickering, I can refer to myself as a virgin with any spontaneous combustion...I'm pretty sure).
I let Caro and the girl at the store (whom I will call Miss MAC because if she wore a nametag, my heart palpitations were too severe to notice it) work their magic. I merely sat there in the unforgiving lighting, shedding tears for each and every pore, and looked up when they told me to, puckered when I must, and tried not to look completely flummoxed when they showed me the results in the Little Hand Mirror of Death.
The crash course in girliciousness was a bit overwhelming, and I neglected to take notes. I retained, however, that only morons think that one eye shadow is sufficient. Your eyelid, apparently, is a tiny palette on which you are to shove as many colours (complementary ones, whatever the fuck that means) as possible and then blend them like mad (and using 78 different brushes) until you either look sexy or you poke an eye out. The first one they both agreed on was called Naked Lunch.
"You must have Naked Lunch; everyone has Naked Lunch" they told me, and I grinned like the idiot that I am, because I do not have Naked Lunch, unless you count the book, of which I do have a copy, or the clothes-less midday meal which I may have partaken in a time or two. But Naked Lunch is just what goes on underneath the colour you actually intend to use. Naked Lunch is just a base coat which requires a primer underneath it and lots of accent colours on top. It's exhausting, and since I would never devote that much attention to a wall, what hope in hell does my face have?
Mascara comes after the colour and I finally felt confident enough to proclaim that "I had mascara under control."
"Then why aren't you wearing any?" Miss MAC asked.
"Um. I am" I said, because I was. Or I thought I was.
"Clear?" she asked, unable or unwilling to hide her disgust.
"No" I admitted, blowing her mind.
The thing about mascara is this: it's glop that short-lashed ladies use to make their lashes appear longer, and fuller. As Miss MAC pointed out, my lashes are stupid-long, but this does not get me off the hook. Even when you already naturally have what mascara hopes to achieve, you must always strive to be longer and thicker (whoa does that sound dirty) and thus the vicious cycle never ends. So Miss MAC is laying a few coats on me and Caro is exclaiming over her interesting barrel-roll method (which I, being the girl who obviously needs the tutorial, could not see because my eyes were closed because SOMEONE WAS POKING AT THEM WITH A WAND COVERED IN GOOP).
So yes. Eventually I had a small mountain of magic pots containing things like concealers and powders and shadows and blushes and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And Caro stands beside me at the cash whispering "You know you're about to spend a small fortune, right?" and it's fine because I'm getting my girl on, but still, you'd think a fortune would require a bag bigger than a Nutrigrain bar, right?
Anyhow, when we finally exited I must have been looking pretty punch-drunk, because Caro used our escalator time to quickly go over the steps, and their proper order. She even showed me which finger to use (there's a right finger? there's a wrong finger?) in order to be kindest to the skin underneath my eyes.
Oh holy lord, all these years I've been scrubbing and poking at that skin just as whole-heartedly as all the rest and it has taken me all these years to learn that I have been committing the ugliest of all womanly sins.
At home, later that night, getting ready to go out and do some damage, I line up all my purchases and go a little weak in the knees. I can stand in front of a near-stranger of the opposite sex in nothing but knee-high white leather motorcycle boots and not miss a beat, but put me in front of a vanity mirror and suddenly my palms could water the community garden.
But you know what? I think I did okay. I patted gently and used feathery strokes and even remembered the little wrist tap that gives you beauty instead of bozo. But then, I've always looked in the mirror without fearing that my face may cause violent traffic accidents so maybe I'm not the greatest judge. Maybe I need Paula Abdul to sit in my bathroom and break it to me gently. The real proof is in the pudding, and lacking pudding, a club full of cute boys will do nicely. Right?
Not so much. It turns out, boys aren't really checking out my eye makeup. They are, however, responding to SOMETHING, and I've made my peace with that, with some extra Naked Lunch winks for good measure.