A couple of weeks ago I shared time in the car with a friend who is also a writer and has a tremendous influence on my own writing. We were going to a fancy-dress event, and I’d taken great pains choosing what I would wear, tending to my hair, jewelry, and makeup. When I picked up my friend, I noticed how nice she looked, and for the first time in the 25 years of our friendship also noticed she had on no makeup. My skills at observation aren’t bad…I love to write about details, and I tell my writing students to use details to further plot, setting, character, often citing Chekhov’s gun: “If there’s a gun in act one, it must go off by act three.” Or some variation on that notion. I pride myself on my powers of observing and remembering details. So how is it that I’d never noticed that my friend doesn’t wear makeup?
She and I are the same age, so it’s not as if a youthful countenance makes it unnecessary for her to paint her face. Her skin is lovely, but not flawless. She uses her best feature to her advantage: a full head of curly black hair that she keeps dark, but allowing the gray at her temples to remain untouched. That evening I asked her if she’d ever worn makeup, and she said, “Oh, I experimented with it in college, but it always made me feel clownish, so I never used it again.”
Lately, in addition to having new thoughts about makeup, I’m questioning pocketbooks (I will get to the point of this blog in a minute or ten, I promise). An acupuncturist who’s been seeing me for shoulder pain has recommended that I rethink carrying a pocketbook…my go-to purse is a Baggalini, designed by flight attendants for ergonomics and efficiency. I carry it backpack style, one strap over each shoulder. It’s filled with what’s always felt requisite: in two outer zippered compartments are a calendar, a notepad (for random creative thoughts), a comb, a bib (don’t ask) and a handkerchief; inside are 10-12 credit-card thingees (eg, three credit cards, my AAA card, my social security card, my library card, etc.), a change purse, checks (to keep from having to carry a checkbook), my cell phone, business cards in a fabric case, 3 pens, a small tube of hand lotion, a cloth for cleaning my glasses, folding money, bookmarks to advertise my novel, and my makeup bag (zipper closure, about 4×4″, crammed full).
How do men do it? How do they survive without pocketbooks? For one thing, they don’t carry as much as women do, and for another, they have pockets (many years ago I stopped buying slacks without pockets, but even still, my pants only have two, not the four that men count on, and I seldom have a pocket in my blouses). And for a third and most important thing, most men don’t wear makeup (I know a couple of them who do, but I won’t go there).
Back to my friend who wears no makeup…she carries a huge pocketbook that is almost always crammed full, so it’s not true that giving up makeup will free me of pocketbooks.
TWO WEEKS LATER: For at least two weeks now I’ve gone without makeup, with one exception–a reading last week…in the car I put on makeup without even thinking about it. When I realized what I was doing, it was too late, and I shrugged off my feelings of having in some way let myself down. My title for this post came to me in several variations: “Making Myself Up” and “Making Up Myself” and “Making Up” and “Pretending.” I’m keeping the first one, because it most conveys what’s behind this ramble…when I cover my skin with concealer (aptly chosen Mad-Ave term), when I define my brows, thicken my lashes, add blush to my cheeks and color to my lips, I’ve made up someone I am not.
For now, I’m facing the world with what assets I have: good skin, clear blue eyes, hair that behaves most of the time. There’s something honest about not enhancing myself, and I plan to continue this experiment until I have a definite take on how I want to live from now on (with or without my concealers).
I have a new Baggalini–a hip bag, no weight on my shoulders. Most important of all, it’s too small for makeup.