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Consuming Beauty

For two years, I was proud to be a contributor at A Deeper Story. I wrote alongside many amazing authors, writers, and poets, often wondering how on earth I got so lucky. I often felt unworthy. They were the Alice Coopers to my Wayne.

Nish Wiseth, the founder and chief editor, has decided the time has come to move on, so she is closing up shop. I’ve decided to re-post my work from there here. Every Saturday, a new-to-Lifenut post I wrote for A Deeper Story will appear here (with Nish’s blessing and encouragement). These posts often focus on issues of faith, culture, church, and how they intersect through story. I am very fond of these posts and don’t want them disappearing. Folding them into Lifenut is like folding chocolate chips into cookie dough.

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Consuming Beauty
(originally published on June 10, 2014)

A few days before my oldest daughter started high school, I told her she had my permission to wear makeup. I happily anticipated the ensuing conversation. The two of us would conspire to shop a whole Saturday away. I’d take her on a tour of beautifying wonders like mascara, lip gloss, shimmering powders. Once home with our haul, we’d stand side by side at the bathroom mirror as I’d teach her techniques and tricks. She’d listen to my advice regarding tarantula eyelashes and eyebrow shape theories, taking them to heart. Gosh, I was such a good mom.

“Ugh. I don’t want to wear makeup,” she moaned.

What? You don’t want to what?

“I don’t want to wear makeup!”

Why? It never occurred to me she’d turn down the opportunity. She was a fourteen-year-old girl living in a suburb of a major American city. Clearly, Barbie and I failed somewhere along the way. I had to know the reason she didn’t want to spackle herself silly.

She explained how when she was about ten she read an alarming article in a fashion magazine that showed up at our house, thanks to an unscrupulous salon who subscribed me without my permission. According to the article, the average woman eats about 12 pounds of makeup in her life. I’m not sure of the veracity of her memory or the magazine’s math, but that was the reason my daughter provided for shunning makeup. She didn’t want a bowling ball of L’Orealbelinegirlmay lying in repose in her gut until death do them part.

I let the subject drop with wonder and a little incredulity, telling myself to revisit the subject in a few months. She happily went off to school every day with a fresh face, chemical and color-free. I was glad she had enough confidence to buck pressure. I was also glad her morning routine was so relaxing. When your face isn’t a canvas, it can spend more time sleeping and eating. Who needs lipstick when you have ruby red lingonberry jam to spread on frozen waffles?

But still, I felt a little let down. It bothered me that I felt disappointed because who was I? Tammy Faye? A Steel Magnolia? Miss Venezuela? Cindy Crawford? A Playboy Bunny? Barbie? No. I was just an average-looking woman who considered herself in the mirror and tried to enhance what God wrought. I used powders placed just so and goo flicked on and up my lashes. My daughter wanted nothing to do with what had come to be a ritual. When rituals are rejected, even rituals that seem shallow, it stings.

consumingbeauty

One night, I was helping her curl her hair before a choir concert at her school. It looked beautiful. On an impulse, I asked, “Do you want to put on a little mascara?” She shocked me when she said she had been thinking about it. I told her she could use mine, which is a huge don’t but we did. I expected the editor of Glamour to barge in waving a manicured finger in our faces. My daughter asked me to do it for her. We stood eye to eye. I grabbed the red and gold tube, twisted the applicator lid off, and swept brown-black sticky paint onto her lashes. They had never borne anything heavier than tears.

They grew dark and long. Her whole face changed. She was older. She was harder. She stood taller.

Just then, my seven-year-old daughter and only other girl wandered into the bathroom. She looked at her big sister and gasped, “You look creepy!” then ran off.

We laughed at her lack of tact and abundance of brutal honesty. My older daughter did not look creepy. I thought she looked stunning and I told her so. She shrugged.

“I don’t like it. At all.”

I began to explain she simply wasn’t used to seeing herself like that. If she kept it up, it would get less shocking.

“I will never like it.”

I regarded her in the mirror as she regarded herself. I had no right to insert myself in the reflection, to come between what she saw and what the mirror whispered back as she blinked. I stepped out of the bathroom leaving the two of them alone.

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