Tiny Sun Goddess Faces Brush-Off

I wasn’t aware of impending maxed-out debit-card-itis when I blithely entered ULTA, an exclusive, fun, one-stop-make-up shopping venue. I walked straight in, through the sleek glass and chrome doors, made a sharp right toward Bare Minerals, Smashbox, Laura Gellar, Tarte, Urban Decay, Benefit, Too Faced, Trance, and others I’d never heard of.

Something happens to me when I shop in Hunt Valley, an exclusive Baltimore suburb, sporting upscale boutiques and salons. I feel prosperous and self-indugent, and spend more money than I should. It would behoove me to limit my time there. In my defense, since my hair stylist moved to a salon in this location, I have no choice but to frequent Hunt Valley every six weeks or so. The problem is, after a long, luxuriant shampoo, head massage, cut and blow-dry; my very core screams for high-end cosmetics. Screams.

On this occasion, however; I made the lethal mistake of saying ‘yes’ to The. Dreaded. Makeover. Deep within the throes of The Dreaded Makeover, where makeup is removed in public and every pore, wrinkle, undereye shadow and unfortunately-placed facial hair is laid bare; one is as emotionally vulnerable as one gets. If one is a woman, that is.

The chirpy, bright and perfectly-made-up cosmetician made a few inquiries, matched my skin tone, told me I had beautiful skin, and why did I ever think I should wear the totally heavy and inappropriate makeup that I had on when I came in? Whatever possessed me to assume – who lied to me – to assess my skin as deserving such a heavy blanket of makeup that (gasp) actually covers it?

I am thinking, isn’t that what makeup is supposed to do? No? When did things change?

By the time she finishes talking, I am convinced, perched uncomfortably on the high, black-and-chrome stool in front of a large mirror; that I should never wear makeup again, and if I do, it should be transparent.

“Oh my goodness!” she gushes when my makeup is removed. “I prefer this face to the one you had on when you walked in! I really do!” I am vulnerable, naked-faced, uncertain. So I mumble something asinine like, “You really think so?”

Who is she kidding, and what has possessed me to believe her?

Her hands blur as she chooses various brands of makeup, whisks the lids off, plucks a brush (synthetic, she whispers…you must have a synthetic brush for this makeup) off her counter. I resist looking in the mirror, because, no matter what she says, there remains a pesky and unavoidable detail that smacks me in the face when I look at my reflection: reality. Somehow my image sans makeup and her rhapsodic compliments do not jive. I shrug and tell myself we are always our worst critics.

This is the power of The Dreaded Makeover. Geared to lure the unsuspecting – the aged, the plain, the pimpled, the makeup-impaired – into a gossamer unreality filled with airbrushed images, synthetic brushes and skin that glows with model-esque radiance. When one is under the influence of a silver-tongued, synthetic-brush-wielding cosmetician; trapped on the stool, dependent upon her makeup choices and end result (because, after all, one has to walk out and face the music afterwards); one is seduced into believing that her overpriced makeup is the answer to one’s quest for fulfillment in life. A blessing from above that has turned once-sallow skin tone to a healthy, bronzed summer day. How can I ever hope to survive without it? Well, the answer, from my enlightened perspective on the black-and-chrome stool, is very clear. I cannot, of course.

And, I have to admit, when she hands me the mirror after dibbing and dabbing me with multiple brushes; I do look pretty good. We spend several minutes appreciating her efforts, my face, and various makeup products.

By this time, I am in such a dither over the compliments and attention, I purchase one of everything plus the brushes. I even hug her and tease that I feel so encouraged I should do a makeover ever week! I feel feminine and radiant as I walk to the counter to pay, like a tiny sun goddess has graced my face and her golden radiance blesses everyone that has the good fortune to look upon my countenance.

After I see the bill, the golden rays slip behind the clouds of my darkening expression. The total reflects what the savvy cosmetician has been trained to do…use gushing flattery to sell the most expensive products available. I bet she got an incredible commission.

As I leave ULTA, everyone waves a cheery good-bye. They are acting like my new best friends. And they should, after I spent that much money on makeup!

My new face and I, after sticker shock recedes, have an intense chat on the way home and decide it was worth it.


Redeeming Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day, and this theme was eloquently addressed in the church sermon this morning, after all the dads, granddads, and great-granddads were acknowledged and applauded.

Absolutely perfect nuclear family. I bet all his kids, and his wife, got him cards and gifts; and made him a pot roast to boot.

Father’s Day always leaves me a bit bemused, because I am supposed to get a card for my husband, but – news flash – he is NOT my father. My dad has been gone fifteen years, so I no longer partipate in the loving, dutiful daughter ritual of buying a card and a gift and making the obligatory phone call. Now I participate in the loving, dutiful mother and grandmother scenario of receiving the cards and gifts and the obligatory phone call. Different stage of life.

My husband and I tried unsuccessfully to stifle snorts and giggles of amusement as this morning’s speaker shared an interesting anecdote about appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. He offered the suggestion that we might actually appear, hand-in-hand, through shadowy mist and mutual, delighted smiles before Christ in family groups. Took me about thirty seconds to visualize this, overlay the visual on my personal life experience, and glance at my husband, who had apparently arrived at the same conclusion.

“I wonder if the speaker realizes that probably over 50% of us have been divorced at least once, and that a nuclear family unit skipping hand-in-hand before the judgment seat may be – a thing of the past – ?” I whispered.

My husband nods. “Yeah, I was thinking in our case it would probably be a crowd of around 100 people.”

Overcome by laughter immediately; we attempted to keep the mirth under wraps, but our red faces and tears streaking down our cheeks gave us away. We whispered to each through huge grins that perhaps this speaker might be out of touch a little.

Forget listening to the rest of the message. All I could think about was skipping merrily through the mist, toward a towering, white, marble podium (angelic guards on each side in white robes adorned with lovely sashes, possibly flanked by greyhounds) and gazing up at the King of Kings (who, in my imagination somehow carries a gavel – beautifully carved, all wood – dark wood, probably mahogany…with 18-karat gold inserts); holding hands with family and step-families past and present. We all stand in a frothy, cloud-like fog up to our knees. The Lord looks confused. (This is crap, of course, the Lord could never be confused. This was just a teensy-weensy imagination fart.)

My husband has been divorced once, and I have been divorced @@%%%&!!!? times (I feel a lady should never announce how many times she has been divorced), but between our kids and stepkids and grandkids, plus ex-spouses; we could probably bring an entire town before the judgment seat of Christ.

Blended families on Father’s Day (or Mother’s Day, for that matter) experience the bittersweet irony of what might have been juxtaposed beside what is to be. It is a sad reality that over half of Americans in the United States have experienced divorce. What are the kids supposed to do on these holidays? Card and phone call to both parent and step-parent? Who gets a gift? Does everybody get a gift? How to alleviate the  sadness  the holiday creates in the hearts of parents, step-parents, and kids?

What a mess. Complicated.

Depressing state of affairs.

However, this morning, the speaker completely redeemed this blended family’s Father’s Day. Actually made us laugh so hard we nearly disrupted the service.

Best Father’s Day we’ve had in a long time.

All’s Fair in Love and Canasta

My husband has introduced me to canasta, a card game with as many nuances and cagey subtleties as Hillary Clinton at a press conference.

It has taken me forever to learn the game, but even longer to figure out the nuances, and longer still to craft a few of my own.

This Saturday, I finally figured it out. The planets aligned, lightning flashed within my mental synapses, angels sang, and I played like a pro.

My husband, on a rank of one to 10, ranks as a firm nine-and-a-half canasta player. His grandmother taught him how to play this game when he was five, and they played on her front porch for years. How do I compete with that? I’ll tell you how. Long hours of arduous, mind-bending, torturous losses.

However, each loss brought new insights, and I hung in there. Persistence always wins in the end.

“NEVER, NEVER give up!” has always been my rallying cry. I am not sure if this is an inherited trait, a survival technique, or a character defect, but like bulldogs (or sharks), I simply hang on until the victim gives up. When I fail at something, I bolster my attitude with one of my favorite quotes, which is “Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not just measured by what you do. So many times it’s not about how many times you fall down but more about how many times you get back up.” Bill Cowher, CBS Sports analyst.

After 1,342 games, my husband began to give me a “look” when I asked to play canasta, as if to say “Why do you want to completely humiliate yourself…again?” and hesitated before answering in the affirmative, hoping that I would somehow regain my sanity and brush aside the request as ridiculous.

My husband likes to wear down his opponents with canasta trash talk: “You’ll never pick up that pile.” After a hoot of derision, he continues, “You know, the one who picks up the pile, wins. Period. You are going to GIVE me what I need to win. That’s right, lay down your discard…THAT’S the card I need!” Then he eyes me with what he hopes comes across as intimidating confidence.

This strategy does not work with me at all. Instead of becoming demoralized, I try harder to win. He has not yet figured this out, because I have developed an excellent canasta face. A canasta face takes more effort than a poker face, due to the built-in futility of the game. The burning desire to mutter death threats and hurl unflattering comments at a canasta opponent is overwhelming.

This past Saturday, as a cunning ploy, I asked him to remind me of the rules of the game, looking as helpless and as feminine as possible. As play progressed, and he droned on and on, my carefully arranged canasta face revealed nothing. Underneath, I was chuckling as I knew all along I remembered how to play. This was my very own subtle canasta nuance, and I was rather proud of my strategy attempt. Of course he became ultra-complacent, thinking his dopey wife had forgotten how to play.

(Tacky side note: Men are so easy sometimes, aren’t they ladies?)

Oh, how sweet to subdue the unsuspecting! I love to quietly kick out the supports propping up the complacent arrogance of one who feels his achievements are unassailable, then tiptoe into a corner and giggle my head off.

At several points in our game, I noticed his face pucker with worry. My husband is very competitive, and does not like to lose at anything. I masterfully blocked his attempts to pick up the canasta pile again and again. I began to hear faint whisperings of the “Hallelujah Chorus” underscoring each tiny triumph.

Persistence. It always pays off. When I was losing every single canasta game by ridiculous margins, I reached deep into my arsenal of never-give-up homilies and persevered

On that dreary, rainy March Saturday, our relationship was affected forever. From henceforth, when I ask him to play canasta with me, the “look” will change from head-shaking pity to grudging respect.

Sometimes the small victories make all the difference.