Thursday, February 10, 2011


About a year ago I piled tons of expensive department store make-up into shopping bags, brought it down into my lobby, and sold it all for $175 dollars to a young makeup artist who found my listing on Craigslist.

As she opened all of the Chanel, Dior, and YSL quads, she looked as though her hands were running through a pot of gold coins she’d discovered under a bush. “Why are you selling all of this,” she looked up at me in utter disbelief. “I’m over it,” I said, it was true. I’d had a love/hate relationship with the face paint over the years. And it seemed there was no middle ground. Being blessed with beautiful skin, it enabled me to take a feminist view on the stuff. I hated that I spent so much time in high school applying the stuff in front of the mirror. If I only had the right Bonnie Bell lip stuff, my boyfriend wouldn’t have dumped me. Fast forward to my big job in advertising it had become a full on addiction. I was medicating with margaritas, men, and mega amounts of department store hauls. I had made “friends” with the girl at the Chanel counter at Lord and Taylor a block away from work. I’d go in for a lipgloss, and with her “friendly” guidance I’d leave with a quarter of my paycheck’s worth of shadows, mascaras, pricey creams, and more. I’d feel that crack-type high when I was on the purchase, often returning home with a bagful of self-loathing regret. I had yet to “hit pan” (the act of burrowing down through the blush or eyeshadow til you hit the metal) on any item, ever. But I always wanted more. Years later, I started to identify ways I was self-medicating. Food, watches, foundations, I decided to make a clean break and cut myself off from cosmetics completely and never looked back, until today.

I’ve been thinking about my relationship with beauty lately, and giving it a second look. I like how I look without makeup, but I was curious to reopen the issue, and the duos and blushes that go along with. Riffling down under my sink, I unearthed a box I’d missed during my purge to get rid of all the paint. There were a couple of the black, sleek compacts with that classic Chanel logo, I’d forgotten how good they feel in your hand, the smart click they make when you snap the lid shut. It was like riding a bike, I’d been studying makeup techniques since I was six, decades later I created a perfect, natural arched brow. A lone YSL blush proved to be the perfect color, and brightened my mood one cheek at a time. That afternoon, I went to my local CVS and bought a mascara that had been recommended online. With some of the eye shadows I found in this forgotten treasure chest of goodies, I created a natural looking eye. Like the Madison Avenue copywriters spun it, “You. Only better.” But it was true. I wasn’t 16 anymore, it was the dead of winter, and suddenly I looked like I’d had the best sex of my life the night before.
If I kept this up, maybe I’d be having the best sex of my life by next week. It was uplifting, outside and in.

Years ago, a feisty old man copywriter that I adored back in the day snuck up on me as I stood waiting to go into a meeting and whispered like Snidely Whiplash in my ear, “Got your war paint on, I see.” He had noticed that I’d ramped up my makeup that morning, said I hadn’t fooled him - the manhunt was on. I brushed it off as ridiculousness, but I remember it to this day. Makeup is just another weapon in your arsenal, as important as witty repartee, refined oral skills, and knowing just when to flip that perfect medium rare steak. And I’m good with all of that, and the rewards that come with.

Makeup used to be my crack, but if taken in moderation it can also be your Seroquel, providing a lift in mood and confidence, it can be war paint, or just worn around the apartment, either way, I've found that beauty isn’t the enemy.


  1. As the years go on I wear less and less, but there is a basic minimum that I won't go out without. It always disturbs me, though, that the wearing of the paint has so skewed my perceptions about what I look like "au naturel." I must have been cute without it at some point in history, right?

    BTW, one thing I did do was ditch the expensive stuff years ago. The drugstore products are quite adequate and assuage some of the narcissistic guilt.

  2. What matters most is that we're cute on the INside. ;) And that we have big boobs.