(Written in April, 2011)
My dental hygienist is cleaning my teeth, and I'm telling her about my horrific passport photos. I suggest that we set up a mini-makeup clinic and hair salon at every location where passport pics are taken, so that women could look their best when looking their worst. "We'd make a mint," I say, although it sounds more like, "Wud mukka munth."
Amanda has been up to dental hi-jinx for a long time, so she understands. She understands that this is a bad idea. She also understands that I need help, so she recommends that I meet her at the makeup counter of Saks Fifth Avenue for a makeover.
When her hands and instruments are out of my mouth, I make clear that my last and only makeover took place when I was 22. The woman attempting to remake me, certainly did. She spackled me with layer upon layer of plaster-like goop. I was the original American Idol -- one that could have been placed in the middle of town in the same way that Michelangelo's David graces the main piazza in Florence, Italy. Except that I was not that big or impressive or well crafted or male or, shall we say, statue-esque. I guess I should say that the only real similarity was that if the statue of David or the newly made up me had smiled, both our faces would have cracked.
Despite the heavy-handed application of facial plaster, I thought I looked pretty damn cute -- although dour. I remember catching sight of my unrecognizable self in a store window: My skin was unchipped porcelain. My lips were full and pouty, my cheek bones high and highlighted, my eyes, flashy. My eyelashes were so long, they were practically knocking into passersby. I quickly adopted a near approximation of a confident, sexy stride.
When I strode into my apartment, my roommate shrieked: "What the HELL happened to you?!"
It took me two hours, a jar of Vaseline, and a roll of paper towels to remove my faux face.
"My make-up lady will know just what to do to make you look great," Amanda assured me.
Several days later, Amanda and I meet at the agreed-upon department store makeup counter. As an averred mall-hater, I take pride in avoiding exactly this type of location. I had considered donning a big hat and large sunglasses to shield me from the glare of the sun and anyone who might know me, but I reconsidered; it would be very difficult to apply makeup through a lens, darkly.
The makeup applicator is on break, so we escalate up to the designer dress boutiques. We waste time rummaging through racks of teeny ensembles, designed for tall babies or anorexic tweens, with huge prices that we couldn't afford, even if we wanted to buy something. Which we don't. Then we wander among displays of equally pricey dishes, glasses, and knickknacks. I decide to forgo purchasing a bead-bedecked bread knife in favor of paying my monthly mortgage. Sure, it's not as pretty, but woman cannot live by bread alone.
We return to the makeup counter and wait some more, while I comment, in hushed tones, that I don't want to walk out looking like any of the cosmetics consultants who are hard or hardly at work there. Amanda tells me to be quieter.
Finally, our gal appears -- well coiffed and smartly made up and down. Amanda introduces us, and I immediately clarify my intentions and parameters: "I want to look younger and as close as I can get to beautiful. And the process has to take me no more than two minutes a day. Otherwise, we are both wasting our time. Can you fix me?"
Let's call her "Cherry" is up to the challenge. She concentrates on the things that need the most fixing: a tinted moisturizer will lend me a natural "glow"; some missing eyebrow hairs will be penciled in to give me a more youthful visage; mascara and eye liner will make my eyes "pop."
I am assured by both Cherry and Amanda that I have received the equivalent of a magical, miracle redesign. I look "fresh," "vibrant," "renewed," "finished." My eyes are not just plain ol' windows to my soul; they're picture windows, no, Palladium windows, framed by lashes so long they can't believe they're real! My complexion comes and "glows." Frankly, I can't wait to see me!
I look in the mirror. My mother looks back at me. I am totally freaked out to realize that I have become my very own mother!!!!!
Despite the disquiet I feel, I am now the proud owner of a small collection of makeup that takes me 118 seconds to apply, that gives me a look so natural that nobody notices, and that cost me the equivalent of half a dress I can't afford.