I’ve written a couple of “confessions” posts in the past (here and here and here). Here’s another one about make-up. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with make-up most of my life. The only time Dad ever spanked me was because of lipstick. I was five, and like most little girls, I was fascinated by all the neat stuff Mom put on her face, especially lipstick. One day I asked permission to put on some lipstick, but for some adult reason, she said no. Forbidden fruit is always the most tempting, so when she wasn’t looking, I slipped over to her dressing table and did the one thing I had been told not to do. I’m pretty intelligent, but sometimes I’m not very smart. I’m not sure how I expected to get away with my crime with the evidence smeared all over my face, and I didn’t. Not an auspicious beginning.
I couldn’t wait to use make-up, but Mom said I had to wait until I was thirteen. That was the olden days when younger girls were forced to remain bare faced except on Halloween. But fate was on my side. When I was eleven, I had a particularly unpleasant bout of tonsillitis, and a blood vessel ruptured in my throat. The accompanying hemorrhage, while not life threatening, left me with a ghostly pallor. I was ecstatic when, after my recovery, Mom took me to the store to buy lipstick.
However, like a lot of grown-up things, the new wore off before long. Oh, it was fun to compare colors with the other girls who were beginning to dabble in cosmetics and to accompany the ladies to the powder room to freshen up. But it had its negative side. Somehow my lip color seemed to disappear into thin air, and Mom let me know when it was gone.
“Linda, you look pale. Go put on some lipstick.”
Before, I was a little girl who needed nothing more than a smile to be cute, but now I was a young lady who needed the help of artificial color to be acceptable. Teen magazines and peer pressure did their work, and I was soon wearing foundation, blush, and a full complement of eye make-up. Through the years I became so adept in the cosmetic arts that I received the following compliment from my first husband.
“You do more with what you have to work with than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Have I mentioned that he was the master of the left-handed compliment? With his encouragement and enabling, I became a full-blown Merle Norman addict, and it took me 45 minutes to achieve the “natural look” before I set foot outside the house. But our marriage broke up after 23 years, and my relationship with make-up began to falter not long after that.
Trying to find ways to cope with being newly single, I attended an open rehearsal of a local ladies’ barbershop chorus. I liked what I saw, so I auditioned, received my pink rose, and became an official member of The Rich-Tones Chorus. Martha got her rose the same night, and since we lived close to each other, we car pooled to rehearsal and became friends. Martha didn’t share my need to hide behind a mask, and one Saturday morning she performed an intervention. My doorbell rang at 8:00 am, and there she was.
“Get your shoes on. We’re hitting some garage sales.”
“But I haven’t put on my make-up.”
“That’s okay. You look fine.”
I slipped on some shoes, grabbed my purse, and slipped a mascara wand into my pocket. As soon as I was in the car, I flipped down the visor, but before I could get the mascara to my lashes, Martha slapped my hand.
“Put that thing away. You look fine.”
We had a great time, and no children ran screaming to their mothers at the sight of my naked face. It was the first step in breaking free from my addiction.
Being part of a performance group also helped in an unexpected way. The Rich-Tones wore full stage make-up including some dramatic eye treatments. One of our costumes was pink and purple and so was the eye shadow. Everything was fine until we went to the Sweet Adelines International Contest. It was one of the most exciting weeks in my life, but after 5 days in grease paint I came home with itchy, crusty eyelids. I did what any good addict would do. I went to my supplier, my Merle Norman sales lady. After hearing my sad tale, she said it was probably an allergy to red dyes, and that I should avoid the pink and purple shadows. I stayed in the chorus and itched for another year or so, but my personal color palette was forever depleted and my total dependence on hiding behind an artificial face was also lessened.
Martha was good for my confidence, but David was the one who really convinced me I was acceptable as I am. He told me I was beautiful before I put on my face, and he never complained when my lipstick faded. When we first traveled by motorcycle, I kept up my morning routine, but he looked at me and asked why I was “putting that stuff on.” After a few experiences with mascara running down my cheeks or gnats sticking in my foundation, I decided he was right and settled for moisturizer with sunscreen. Once you’ve “come out” in one situation, it’s easier to do so in others, and make-up became more of a choice than a necessity. I also simplified, and make-up time dwindled from 45 to 10 minutes.
In the last few years, age has taken a hand in loosening the final bonds of my addiction. I inherited good genes from both my parents, and my face is still fairly smooth, but I have a crease here and there. By the end of the day, my regular foundation collected in those creases and was very unattractive. After trying a few alternatives, I simplified further and settled on a tinted moisturizer.
Several months ago, the itching returned. I wasn’t wearing make-up very often, usually Sundays and special occasions. Like biking, working around our country place doesn’t require it. But every time I did, my eyes watered and itched, so I took it off as soon as possible. Then two weeks ago I woke up on Monday morning with what looked like pink eye. I went to the doctor for a steroid shot, bought some over-the-counter eye drops, bought hyperallergenic mascara and eye-liner, but my eyes still itched.
Yesterday, by the time we got home from morning services, my eyes were burning so badly, I took off my eye make-up even though I was going to a Bible study and church cook-out later. I had a great time, and no one seemed to notice my pale face. This may be the death of my addiction. I may leave the cosmetics in the drawer for a while and work on the kind of beauty Peter talked about:
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. I Peter 3:3-4