Thursday, May 25, 2006

my mother's unwitting french beauty secret

Like most 12-year old girls I was excited to grow up. I wanted to dress up, wear heels, wear make-up and go to high school and date. Not surprising, except to those who went to high school with me who will recall a granola girl of the early 90's in baggy cut-off jeans, a large striped t-shirt from the Gap and knock-off Birkenstocks with rag wool socks. . . no dresses, skirts or anything frilly, absolutely no heels and not a bit of make-up except for prom and a couple of other dances when my mom did it for me.

Somewhere in junior high I lost interest in it all. Partly due to lazieness. In the morning I would stay in bed until the last possible moment, then I would roll out of bed, brush my hair and teeth in a mad rush and go directly to school without breakfast. To keep the morning rituals to a minimum, I would shower the night before and kept very low-maintenance long, straight hair. I gave up on perms after 8th grade and made it through the late 80's and early 90's with only a year or so of attempting the big curled bangs that never gained the loft that seemed so important in those years. Failing to cooperate, I allowed my bangs to just curl under or lay flat - constantly cursing my hair line for not being attractive enough to allow me to ditch bangs altogether. No spiral 90's perm for me. I wanted the easy route. I liked sleep and wanted to keep my morning routine to somewhere around 15 minutes from the last snooze to walking out the door. Make-up seemed like a frivolous extra step with little utility.

I know this frustrated my mother. She wanted me to try a bit more. She would optimistically give me the free sample bags she got from Clinique bonus days hoping I would experiment. I never did. At the same time my mother always explained that make-up is to compliment your features, not detract from them. She often told me the secret is to apply make-up subtely so as to appear natural.

During my freshman year of college, Wednesday night was the hot night to go dancing at Rocky's, the lone dance club in Cedar City, Utah. My roommates and I would all go which meant 4-6 girls showering and getting ready all at once. Inevitably I showered first and was ready a couple of hours before it was time to go. All I had to do was pull on a pair of jeans, pick out a shirt and brush my hair.

Ready.

My roommates took quite a bit longer than that. The more outfits they tried on, the more make-up they applied and the longer they spent in front of the mirror fussing and primping, the worse I felt about how I looked. I tried to answer questions such as "do these earrings go with this belt?" and "should I tie this shirt around my waist or does it not go with my shoes?" but really I was completely lost. How did I know the answer to such questions? My earrings were three mis-matched dinosaur studs or tiny silver hoops. I owned one belt I wore with everything. I only owned a couple of pairs of jeans and both were much larger than my thin frame (I say longingly!!).

Predictably, I was lured into the primping. I began experimenting ever so slightly. I learned that a little mascara and eye shadow made my eyes stand out. I distinctly remember a guy in my major asking me what I had done differently because he had never noticed my eyes before. It was only one of two compliments I ever received at Rocky's (the other from a half-stoned guy that told me I had "kick-ass hair," I guess because it hung down to my ass). From that point forward I wore make-up - not much of it and not every day, but I wore it.

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a then-boyfriend who didn't think I ever wore make-up. As a result of that and my mother's advice, I have always favored the natural look while recognizing my skin could use the concealing and enhancing benefits provided by make-up.

So imagine the validation I felt reading the Thursday Style article in the New York Times entitled "Sans Makeup, S'il Vous Plait". The article is all about how French women (and men!) favor the no make-up look and indulge more in facial treatments to shrink the pores (a beauty secret I'm desparately searching for and would welcome any tips). My favorite quote from the aritcle: "American girls worship the cult of the 'ideal woman.' No part of the face seems to be forgotten. And when you use too much makeup, it means you are hiding from yourself." I guess I'm only hiding from myself a little bit. . . and not at all at 10 pm when what I applied at 8 this morning has all faded away.

I need to thank my mother for teaching me to use make-up sparingly with the goal of looking as if I am not wearing any at all.

3 comments:

tiff said...

what a great tribute to your mom!

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