The lady at the MAC counter wore orangey-red lipstick, caked on about an inch thick. The rest of her face was clownishly white and matte, and she looked like she had tried using liquid eyeliner for the first time that morning. Her eyelashes were like furry tarantula legs. She wore four-inch heels and you could tell she thought she was all that.
This should have been my first clue to keep on walking.
But I’ve been thinking my makeup routine needs a kick in the ribs. I turn 40 this year and have been contemplating what I should look like for my mid-life crisis. I didn’t know if MAC did animal testing, but I did know they are more expensive than my usual Body Shop cosmetics. It felt like an exciting and calculated risk to stop and browse.
I asked the lady for her assistance and suggestions in how to spruce up my look. I generally wear a shimmery taupe shadow, black or brown eyeliner, mascara, and a pinkish blush. Sometimes I jazz things up with radiant highlighter. She suggested a foundation, a concealer, and a foundation to wear on top of the foundation. While I wasn’t aware I needed quite so much, uh, coverage, I went along for the ride. She applied purple eyeliner and brown shadows.
Her hands, working over my face, smelled faintly of latex. “You don’t want all this shimmer,” she said. “It’s too young for you. A matte shadow will, you know, bring you up more to your age.”
Wait. What? Did she just call me old? I desperately wanted to say something, but my tongue was frozen.
I love shimmer. I mean, gone are the days when I plastered my entire body in vanilla-scented glitter to go out for the night, but a girl’s gotta’ have a little glow! As for not looking my age? Well, that pleases me. Lately, I have been shocking people when I mention that I am about to turn the big Four Oh. I have decent, dewy skin and mischievous, bright blue eyes. But as I sat sweating in that chair, I felt like an elderly, bitter, wrinkled-up olive.
She worked away, building layer upon layer on my skin. Inside, I shook, insulted, and hurt. Incredulously, I let her complete her task, mentally calculating how much it would cost to purchase the twenty products she was glopping onto my flesh, vowing not to spend a cent, wondering if she worked on commission.
I examined myself in the hand held mirror, then peeked up at her vapid, 20-something face.
“I want to go outside and look at it in the natural light,” I told her. “I’ll be right back.” I’m not sure why I felt the need to lie to her; I clearly had no intention of returning or buying anything from her.
Driving home, the tears created rivulets in the make up on my cheeks. Too old for shimmer, I chanted in my head. By the time I walked into the house I was sobbing. I collapsed in my husband’s arms. “The lady at the MAC counter said I was too old for shimmery make up!” I cried. He kissed me. Reassured me. Told me it didn’t matter what anyone else in the world thought. Who made those stupid make up rules anyway?
Still crying, like a wounded child, I went into the bathroom and washed my face. As the dark circles and laugh lines emerged from beneath the mask, I felt comforted, but wished I could go back and say something pithy and bright to that salesgirl.
I contemplated my nearly, 40-year-old face.
Maybe the change would be to wear less make up, I thought, and blew my nose.
Who am I fooling? I’ll never give up my shimmer. In fact, I think I will wear more.