Is It Time to Buy Makeup When You Look Like the Walking Dead?
To age or not to age
“Peterborough Extra beauty counter” by Tesco PLC is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
I never wanted to be liked for my looks because then I had to maintain them. If someone liked me for my personality — that was a more manageable limbo bar to squeeze under.
I can usually find something to talk about, but choosing a flattering outfit, blowdrying my hair, and putting on makeup — what am I? A movie star?
As I get older, women I know who were once casual like me are changing the conversation. My friends, who once talked about going gray, retiring their shoes for pair of Birkenstocks, and celebrating their wrinkles as proof of life are now talking about concealing their age.
It seems now that we’re older, we have to choose. Are we going to go gently into our old age or are we going to dig in our heals and stop counting?
One good friend who is a Captain of Industry told me, “I’m 49 from now on. 49 is the last birthday number I’m admitting to.” She gets Botox now. Her facials are weekly. Her diet circles around anti-inflammatories and age-defying vitamins. She swears by liquid collagen. I get it.
She works with these young MBA men. Though a 50-year-old man is in his prime, a 50-year-old woman doesn’t register for them. She’s the boss. She requires respect, not dismissal.
Another friend came home from Spain with tattooed eyebrows. “Once you start showing gray on your pubes and eyebrows,” she said, “you can’t even lie anymore. Even if you don’t have wrinkles, once your small hairs show gray, you’re an old lady.”
I found out three of my friends were Botoxing on the regular. I spotted a tiny $200 dollar eye cream in a friends’ bathroom. Everyone I know is moisturizing like we’ve been teleported into the world’s dryest desert. All my friends carry around gallon water jugs powdered with age-defying supplements.
I’m not sure which direction I’m going yet. But during COVID, when I woke up one day and had aged 20 years, I panicked. I called my Botox friends and asked for a non-medical solution. They sent me to Nordstrom. “Have someone show you concealer,” my tattooed eyebrow friend suggested.
I felt like I was being sent off to war in a foreign land. I always feel like a bag lady at the makeup counter. I used to buy lipstick, but I’ve never put anything on my face except lipstick and occasionally mascara — like when I went to a wedding or was modeling in Paris.
At Nordstrom, I walked straight to the Mac counter. The last makeup I remember buying was Mac lipstick when I was young and hip — that’s how long it’s been. Now, I’m older and closer to needing a new hip.
A young beautiful Asian woman approached me as I pretended to look at the makeup, which overwhelmed me.
She said, “What are you looking for?” This was as awkward as buying condoms or tampons for the first time. I’m just here for the saltines and cough medicine.
“My friend said I need concealer,” I said, looking down, afraid she’d see, from my naked skin, how much of my life I had wasted not prettying myself up.
She nodded, squinting her eyes at my pores.
“What do you want it to look like? Shiny? Matt? Satin?” I was panicking. Oh God. These were paint my bedroom words, not paint my face words.
“I’d like to look like I’m not a cast member of Night of the Living Dead.”
I thought she’d feel sorry for me and walk away. I’d always irritated the pretty makeup ladies in the past. I didn’t take beauty seriously. My self-depreciation humor went against their mission of making women more beautiful. I was a heckler.
Instead of scowling at me and turning her heels, she said, “Before they’re dead or after they’re dead?” A kindred spirit. She understood.
“I’d like to look pre-corpse. ”
“Got it,” she said. She scrutinized my pores with a lighted magnifying glass. “Can you pull down your mask all the way?” she asked.
I heard an audible gasp behind her. A woman wearing so many masks her face looked like a full diaper, turned around and quickly clip-clopped away.
“Sure,” I said, feeling like I was preparing to storm the capital.
“You don’t really need concealer,” she said.
When I looked disappointed, she said, “do you want translucent concealer?” This was like buying a bra when you were flat-chested, I thought. What were those called? Hope bras? Wish bras?
“Yes,” I said. “Will it help?”
“Everything helps,” she said, shrugging. I watched her heavily caked face as she flipped through the concealers with the adeptness of a Vegas dealer. “I don’t have your color in at the moment,” she said, turning.
“I don’t care,” I said. “Just as long as I don’t look crazy.”
At this point, she realized I was what the con-artists call ‘a mark.’ She could have pulled out smurf-colored concealer and convinced me I needed three of them.
She slathered it on me and held up a mirror. Yep, that was my face.
“Do you see the difference?” she said, tilting her head.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Amazing. I don’t look like the undead at all.” She nodded.
“You really don’t,” she said and bagged it.
Now I wear my translucent concealer everywhere. It’s the placebo of makeup and it protects me from becoming the walking dead — if only the one looking back at me from the mirror. It doesn’t make me look any younger, but at least, I’ve picked a side.