The best advice I ever got was from my aunt. "Never leave the house without lipstick," she said. I took it to heart. I rarely do go out without lipstick – and make-up of some sort – and if I do, I always wish I hadn't. I never gave it a second thought, until recently a friend of mine mentioned knowing "a very cool mom." She qualified it by saying, "She doesn’t wear make-up."
Am I not cool in the eyes of other moms because I do wear make-up? I admit it -- I succumb to the trappings of conventional beauty. But are women who choose not to cover their zits or even-out their skin tone and the dark circles under their eyes more admirable than those of us who do?
A little lip gloss never hurt anyone. Nor do pencils and shadows and blushes (remember when it was called rouge?) and foundation and powders and the blessed concealer, be they browns and greys (it’s never grAy in makeup) or blues and greens or mauves or peaches and purples, for light skin or dark. From Cover Girl to Chanel, there is always something fun to try that might work better than something else in the ultimate quest to help me look, you guessed it -- natural.
While accentuating the positive and minimizing the negative, I strive to strike a balance. Not too much, but enough. I don’t think I look made up all the time, like I did in my mall-chick, big-hair days of the 80s. But, to me, I do look better than I’d look without it. My kids tease me every morning when we get into the car and back out of the garage. I always stop mid-driveway, pull down the visor, pop up the mirror cover and touch up in the southern exposure. I keep one extra liner and three extra glosses in the car -- and my kids know – one is for winter, one is for summer and the other is clear (very casual). Part of that is for effect, as it cracks them up, but for the most part it's true. They're for emergencies, we joke, but who's joking? Was it not an emergency when at my friend's husband's 40th birthday party she forgot to put on mascara? She was annoyed at herself for forgetting and at me for not mentioning it until the end of the evening. Frankly, I was just glad it wasn't me. Since then I never leave the house for an event without a free "tester" size black in my purse.
I’m not a Hollywood starlight masquerading as a suburban mom. I’m not a narcissist. It’s just how I feel most comfortable, but is that backwards? When my daughter pokes fun because I'm putting on make-up when I'm off to teach preschool, I remind her I do it for me and not for the 17 three-year olds that fill my mornings. She laughs and walks away. She's too young to realize that it doesn't matter where I'm going – it's THAT I'm going -- and that no one has to care how I look, but me.
I’m at the place in my life where doing what makes me comfortable is what I do – nothing more and nothing less. Whether I'm in jeans or sweats, hair wavy or straight, at work or the grocery store that usually that means a couple of coats of dark brown and my pink mousse blush.
So what's the hubbub? Time constraints? My everyday makeup takes five minutes -- max. The way it feels? Makeup today is so light that you don’t feel it. Unlike the bygone days of heavy liquids and cakey powders, today’s cosmetics barons only want us to feel like we do not have their $4 or $40 powder on our faces.
I will admit that maybe there are women who simply do not want to wear makeup for one or a dozen reasons. I don't get it, but I don't have to. It’s their choice, just like it is mine to do so. I guess what makes us really grown-up is doing what is right for us, if it includes lip pencil and eyebrow gel or not – although in general I do recommend covering those dark circles, no matter your preference for eye shadow or lip gloss.
Whether I'm cool or not because I wear make-up doesn't matter, I'm not going to stop wearing it – even to preschool.
I think my next best advice to myself would be this: just blot, and move on.
Amy Sue Nathanís debut novel, The Glass Wives, will be published by St. Martinís Press in Spring 2013. In addition to The Imperfect Parent, Amyís stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times online, The Washington Post online, The Huffington Post, Chicago Parent, Grey Sparrow Journal, Rose and Thorn Journal, Scribblers On The Roof, The Verb, Hospital Drive Journal and The Stone Hobo. She is also a freelance fiction editor, a reader for literary agents, and Secretary of the RWA-WF Chapter. In 2011 Amy launched Womenís Fiction Writers, a blog focusing on the authors, business and craft of traditionally published womenís fiction.
Amy lives near Chicago and is the mom of a son in college, a daughter in high school, and two rambunctious rescued dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @AmySueNathan where she tweets about writing, books, parenting, and chocolate.
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