Saturday, January 19, 2008

Vanity Fair

I picked up a few hours temping today, and after work a friend called about going out for sushi. "I'll be ready in about an hour," he said. I said "I'll find something to kill the time."

So I wandered over to Bloomingdales, thinking maybe I could score some free moisturiser samples from a makeup counter. One of the women hooked me and reeled me in, explaining they had their "regional colour artist" at the store today and would I like some tips for freshening up my look? Sure! They plopped me down in a chair and started in. First, a cleanser. Then, a moisteriser. Then some eye serum. Then, finally, the war paint. In this order: highlight to banish under-eye shadows, facial primer, foundation, shimmer powder, then bronzer on my pale, dehydrated cheeks. Then the lady lit into my eyes. Starting with an oil-free base, then a blue eye pencil, purple eyeshadow, black eyeliner and finally, electric blue mascara. Just for the hell of it, she added some white shimmery stuff under my eyes to make them look bigger, and patted my eyebrows with "brow powder" so they'd match my red hair. (yes. there is such a thing as "brow powder.")Then--red lipstick and collagen-enhanced lip gloss.

I felt pretty. I felt saucy. I felt better than I had all week, a week spent largely inside lying in bed, agonizing about bills and money. Two pretty salesgirls swirled around me, patting my face and telling me how my skin was enjoying the moisturizing treatment. When I finally lifted the mirror, I looked like a model. My lips were the red you pictured 1930s movie icons wore, my eyes were greener than Scarlett O'Hara's. I thought, "yes, I just needed a little pampering!" Full of confidence and happy with my makeover, I ended up buying over a hundred dollars worth of makeup, and a handful of free samples. I felt so chic walking out of the store with that little "small brown bag" from Bloomingdales, wearing enough eyeshadow for a Moulin Rouge dancer. This isn't me, but oh--how fun!!!

When I walked outside, the wind hit me like a thousand tiny gnomes stabbing me all over my face with flash-frozen needles. My thighs felt like frozen pork steaks, nothing between them and the wind but a thin piece of polyester. I tucked my purse, canvas shoe bag and Bloomingdale's bag into the crook of my arm and set off down the four blocks to my friend's dorm. By the time I got there, I was crying from the cold, my nose a fountain, my vision blurry. I scurried into the bathroom to do damage control (still confident that the coeds were looking at fabulous me) and looked into the mirror.

My face was so numb I didn't realise I had tears running all the way down my face, but I could see the tracks they made, carved into the five layers of makeup. It looked like I was melting. Literally. I tried fixing the foundation, but the wind had sucked most of the moisterizer out of my cheeks and I ended up rubbing most of it off. My eyes were red from the combined cold and eye-makeup assault. I looked like I had been out partying most of the night, drinking heavily the whole time, and had had to fight off several unsuave suitors.

I'm embarassed. This isn't me. I'm not the kind of person who wears several layers of makeup, I don't get a thrill out of shopping at Bloomingdale's--most of the time I feel downright superior to those women. I'm ashamed that I fell for the allure of pretty makeups and hiding my real face under a mask of chemicals. I'm mad at myself for being embarassed that my most faithful moisteriser these long months has been plain shea butter and trying to do better. And I firmly believe that that melting face in the mirror was God telling me that vanity doesn't suit me and I should probably save my money.

I'll take the makeup back tomorrow. I should have stopped long before the brow powder and stuck with the free samples.


Samantha said...

Beware the song of the sirens. Those saleswomen are smooth talkers.

And I always thought you were beautiful just the way you are.

Laura said...

Awww honey! Not a hundred dollars. I hope they take it back. We all succumb to those flattering falsities now and then but when I get back to the US I'm sticking with good ol' wholesome and natural (and prohibitively expensive) Burts Bee's for all my vanity needs.