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by Rima Magee

There is a nice lady in our mobile home park that will not be seen outside her door without her makeup on. She is lovely without it, but then

A multibillion dollar beauty industry has successfully promoted the idea that if you don't wear their products you look like death warmed over. Of course, there are those whose use of cosmetics make them look like death took a holiday.

It starts when a girl, hardly out of diapers, runs amuck with her mother's makeup kit. She has seen her mother painstakingly doing her eyes, face all scrunched up as she puts on mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow to be followed by facial contortions congruent with blush and lipstick. Finally, the look of satisfaction appears as she looks once more in the mirror, shoving the stuff toward the back of the bathroom sink where, later, little Kimberly has to stand on tiptoe to reach it. And reach it she does.

The next scene is that of horrified parents seeing the results of Kimberly's attempts at gilding the lily. The mascara is a black smear across her forehead and tears are running through the blush covering her cheeks because she has stuck the brush in her eye. Her lips are as red and exaggerated as a clown's. One draws a veil

Since I didn't wear much makeup when my daughter was a toddler, I missed this unique horrific happening. But my daughter did use my lipstick to make pretty smears on the tile in the bathroom. The use of makeup did not raise its controversial head until she reached junior high school.

"Mu-ther!" she protested. "I'm the only one in Junior High with a naked face. I want a lipstick like everyone else!" This went on for a while until I gave in, up to a point. I bought her one of those orangey things that turned pink on the lips. Tangee, I think it was called. She wore it proudly for a year and then protested that she wanted a red one "like the other girls wear, Mu-ther!" For Christmas that year, just before she entered ninth grade, I presented her with a red lipstick. She squealed with delight. "Oh, Mommy, you're so special," came with a lot of grateful hugs and kisses.

Did she take off from there for the full treatment? No, she wore the lipstick every day for about a month then stopped. "Aren't you putting on your lipstick today?" I asked one morning as she was rushing to get ready for school. "No. It's too much trouble," she replied airily and dashed off.

Not until her later years in high school did she wear makeup to school and on dates. Powder on the nose and lipstick. After poking herself in the eye with the mascara brush a couple of times, she gave up on that and decided her lashes were long enough. To this day, now in her fifties, she has beautiful skin that is touched by nothing more than mild soap and water. She admitted to me a few days ago that she would like to wear eye liner but she can't see to put it on without her glasses and it's impossible to manage wearing bifocals. Oh, well.

It used to be that purveyors of lipstick and nail polish offered a selection of varied shades of pink and red to complement the pinks and reds of healthy skins. The idea was to enhance one's appearance without it being obvious. That day is long gone. You still have your choice of pinks and reds, but now they are coded as to warm colors and cold colors. In addition there is every color and shade of the spectrum ranging from white to black, including silver and gold and those that are speckled with glitter. Can you imagine a normal male wanting to kiss a girl with glittery green lips with nails to match?

Nowadays pancake concoctions to hide blemishes and to fill in wrinkles, astringents to tighten the skin (we used to use ice water), products to dry oily skin and to oil dry skin and all sorts of other creams emulate the Fountain of Youth. (You would have to live alone to use these as directed. Husbands and Significant Others have a tendency to quail at the sight or feel of a woman so engaged in 'beautifying' herself.)

I succumbed once to the lure of an apricot defoliant sample. After applying it I wandered into the living room where Himself was watching a football game. As I passed across his line of vision he looked up, stared for a moment and shuddered. "It's just a mudpack," I volunteered. He closed his eyes, raised an arm with a finger pointing toward the bathroom. I laughed, and went.

Women have been indulging in enhancement since time began. I think Salome was described as wearing kohl around her eyes as she flirted with her seven veils. Painted women were equated with harlots. In previous centuries, before the pure food and drug laws intervened, women of fashion died from putting whitening and beauty spots on their faces. Such compounds were infused with poisonous metallic powders. Actresses saw their skin age prematurely from the heavy makeup required on stage before modern lighting made it unnecessary. Theatrical makeup now has become an art form with precautions taken to protect the skin from harmful chemicals and hypoallergenic products exist for the sensitive. And when subtlety applied with good taste and judgment, makeup can enhance a woman's best features and minimize flaws.

Some young women, apparently desperate to make an impression, are prey to the maximum color wheel of the beauty consultants without the opinion of an impartial judge. Purple lips and matching nails do not look good on a girl with dark hair and an olive complexion.

Do I wear makeup? Sometimes. Discretely. Like the nice lady in our mobile home park does.


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