When our oldest, who is now 21, was playing tee-ball, there was another boy’s mother who absolutely transfixed me. I could not take my eyes off her, which I imagine was the point. She would show up, game after game, wearing skintight white jeans, arms clacking with gold and silver bangles, her face expertly made up. She was gorgeous; I was dowdy. She was a very nice mom who never sat down, either because her jeans were too tight or because she didn’t want to get that red clay dust on her white pants.
I was there at the game to cheer on my son, so every once in awhile I would tear my eyes off Wonder Mom and go back to watching the action on the field. Most of the other moms looked like me: jeans or sweatpants, hoodies, T-shirts, the usual mom-wear. I wondered about the decked-out mom, how she found time to apply the perfect makeup, sport the perfect outfit, etc. In those days, if I wore a belt that sort of matched my shoes, I had succeeded in pulling together a good look. The only day of the week I wore makeup was on Sunday when I would get dressed up for church.
The sight of this mom “cake,” iced to perfection at all times, got me wondering about my priorities, or lack thereof. Why didn’t I care about my appearance Could I, too, be a Maybelline Mom? Was I even capable of looking glamorous and uber girly? Did I even want to go there, into the world of cosmetic dependence?
I started out life as a tomboy and, with the exception of high school years filled with eyeliner, blush and the usual accoutrement, pretty much hung in there with the boys for most of my life. I liked the things boys did: trekking around in the woods, pulling up sassafras roots, playing war and chasing the Oscar Meyer Wiener Wagon when it drove through town. I did play with Barbie dolls, but they were always being meted out horrific deaths or dinosaur-related fatalities instead of mooning over Ken or wondering what to wear to the Sock Hop.
The only time I wore makeup all the time was in high school. It was applied with a shovel and consisted mostly of heavy black eyeliner and Yardley’s “Glimmerick,” an eye shadow that made one's eyes look robotic and infected: the perfect come-on. My BFF Jane and I also had this peculiar notion that wearing Erace, an under-eye concealer, on our lips was a very hip and happening thing to do.
Mo’town is filled with pretty women who wouldn’t dare leave the house without Estee Lauder. For the most part, they are not my friends. I would never disparage these lovely ladies; I just don’t get what makes them tick. I wear makeup for special occasions. I do not wear makeup to work and am always amazed at the glamorous moms who have obviously taken great pains to look pretty when toting their offspring to the . My question is this: What kind of time-management secrets are these girlie girls withholding?
When I was actively mothering 24/7, I don’t remember having a moment to myself. The morning was a rush of early morning dog-walking, waking the boys, cajoling them to eat, where’s my homework, who took my gym shorts, did you sign my math quiz? Any spare time was spent loading the washing machine or having one more cup of coffee before heading out to my job substitute teaching at the . I would take a stab at applying some blush and lipstick, but that was it. My jones for joe and the crossword puzzle would always win out over mascara.
The number of sixth-grade girls wearing what I would consider heavy makeup stunned me. One girl in particular was Cleopatra-like in her kohl black eyeliner. She was sophisticated well beyond her years in clothing as well, wearing tops that were just a tad revealing and pants with the word “Juicy” on the backside. I wasn’t surprised, one afternoon, to see her and her mother at . Her mother was wearing the tiniest of tennis dresses. Her mane was expertly highlighted, her cleavage abundantly present and beckoning all eyes in the dreary drugstore. I felt like a hobo, a dust mite.
So, did I rush back down the cosmetic aisle and stock up? No, I went home to brood. Why do some women feel they need makeup just to leave the house while other women could care less? I thanked my lucky stars I was a mother of boys because I would never have to deal with the “Juicy” backside issues.
In last week’s Inquirer, on the day after the Academy Awards, a Philadelphia-based organization called the Renfrew Center Foundation—which has as its mission to advance "the education, prevention, research and treatment of eating disorders"—was asking American women to forget the Tinseltown ideal and ditch the makeup, if only for one day. I was a tad puzzled as to what eating disorders had to do with wearing makeup, so I read on. It seems the Renfrew Center has found “some of our patients depend on makeup for self-worth. A lot of our patients hide themselves behind makeup.”
According to Renfrew, cosmetics all too often become a crutch. Women who suffer from eating disorders often also have body dysmorphic disorder, a preoccupation with body image. They would never consider leaving the house without their face paint.
Being the contrarian I am, the article made me want to rush upstairs and slather my face with peaches and pinks and my eyes with exotic brown lines. I wanted to pluck my brows to an ironic arch and dye my lips a fruity coral. In other words, I wanted to tell this institute a thing or two about girlie girls, even though I am not and will never be one.
If makeup makes you feel good, wear it. If you don’t like spending time in the morning applying it, don’t do it. I wonder, though, what message is being sent to daughters? Are they learning that one isn’t pretty unless one is wearing makeup?