I’m often asked what it’s like to be a writer — how I spend my days, how I experience the world. And so I will be sharing occasional essays from the front lines of my writing life. Enjoy!
So here I am at the cosmetics store Sephora with my 20-year-old daughter, Jenna, who has brought me here to get a new look. “What’s wrong with my look?” I want to ask, but I know better because she’ll tell me.
I’m here because there is something hopeful about getting a new look. Perhaps it will give me a new outlook, too. I am at an age when I see, not so much my age, but aging. My boobs are heading south while my hips are heading east and west. Up north, gray is slipping in. I look in the mirror and both my reflection and I do a double-take, wondering who the other is.
Actually, it’s not that bad, at least not every day. Sometimes I look and see someone who looks good, not just at her age but at any age.
Anyway, here we are, surrounded by vials, tubes, bottles and other elixirs. A salesgirl approaches. “Need help?” she asks.
“My daughter says I need a new look,” I say.
The salesgirl and Jenna exchange glances and smile. They’re members of a secret society dedicated to getting mothers to be less embarrassing in public.
Jenna makes some suggestions. To begin: foundation, concealer, primer, all of which makes me think we’d be better off at Home Depot. The salesgirl adds to the list — eye shadow, blush, mascara and lipstick — but all I really hear her say is ka-ching, ka-ching.
The salesgirl begins with foundation. She puts two dabs of tan liquid onto the back of my hand, rubs them into my skin and asks me which color I prefer. Beats me. They’re darker than pantyhose and will plug my pores with toxins.
I turn to my daughter. “What do you think?” She and the salesgirl confab. They make a decision and I smile. From herein I will appoint Jenna my proxy.
The discussion next turns to concealer, the concept of which is disconcerting. Which of my features is so awful that it must be concealed? And my oh my! That Barbie-sized tube of the concealer costs enough to set back my retirement.
Foundation and concealer applied, the salesgirl comes at me with a brush so large it could paint a wall in a single stroke. On it is blush, which, the salesgirl instructs, I am to apply just below my cheekbones. I nod even though I know that once on my own, I’ll need GPS to find the exact spot.
Next, eye shadow. Eye shadows. Surprise, surprise. One shade is insufficient; I need a palette of browns and tans, each assigned a specific location: on my lids, in the crease of my eye, at its edges and beneath my brows. I hope Jenna is listening because this is all too much to follow; I’m still trying to grasp the meaning of concealers.
One last confab and Jenna and the salesgirl determine my makeover is complete. (My wardrobe is a whole other matter.) I am handed a mirror. “Well?” my daughter asks. But what to say? I still look like me, only in makeup. The concealer hasn’t concealed what I still consider my imperfections: chin too long, brows too low. And I still feel like me, uncomfortable in situations in which I try to be someone other than who I am.
But I love my daughter and she loves me, and I trust her beauty sense. And when she tells me I look great, I am determined to believe her.
We walk to the cash register. Foundation, concealer, primer — ka-ching. Eye shadows, mascara, blush. Ka-ching, ka-ching. Oh, but when we leave the store and Jenna weaves her arm through mine, it seems that today’s investment is a good one. I am with my darling daughter, and I’ve made her so very happy. For this, no makeover is required.