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  • Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

    The Makeup Drawer

    by Maggie Van Ostrand
    Maggie Van Ostrand
    Now that it's already August, I've decided to start my spring cleaning. Since procrastination is my middle name, maybe I'll start with just one long-ignored job: my make-up drawer.
    "Drawer," in this case, refers to a now-massive box of cosmetics that hasn't been investigated in many years, not even when I dump the makeup from one old box into a bigger one, which happens every time we move.

    About five years ago, I went through at least the top couple of feet but for the most part, nothing beneath that layer has been seen in years. Did I really think keeping an ancient bottle of my father's Fitch Shampoo was in memory of him or was I trying to wear my inner child on the outside? I'm grown up now and will finally throw it out. But I'll keep his shaving brush because it smells like him.
    Fitch's Shampoo
    There was a plastic container near the bottom of the drawer containing dehydrated dark brown stuff which appears to have once been a Clairol match to my natural color before my husband walked out and I turned blonde from grief. And I found a bottle of Mane and Tail Hoofmaker, which is weird because I never owned a horse. I also found a long, dark brown "fall," sort of like hair extensions only in one hirsute chunk. After all this time stuffed in the bottom of my makeup box, it looks like roadkill. I bought that fall because of peer pressure, same as girlfriends have to wear the same shade of lipstick to look connected.

    Most of the thousand tubes of lipstick I found were of uncertain vintage, like Chen-Yu which my mom used because it came in a pretty carved tube with a slim band on the side and, when you removed the lid, the band made the lipstick rise up. Sort of like Viagra for your mouth. It was a glorious color which must've been her favorite because the stub was well below the rim of the tube and you could see brush marks from scraping out the last possible bit. That has to go into the trash along with the Fitch.

    I found lipstick shades that never looked good on me, which were still either in their original boxes or entombed in clear plastic even harder to open than a new CD. One shade was a ghastly grayish-white that makes you look as though you donated one too many pints of blood. Worst of all is that these things mean mom was correct when she used to ask me the hated question, "Are you going out like that?"

    There were unopened boxes of Frownies, little stickers to paste between your eyebrows to get rid of the frown lines that look like the number 11; however, I found several identical boxes because I failed to remember I already had bought some. I also found Frownies brand, "Facelift in a Bag". It might've worked, had it only contained a plastic surgeon.

    Wish there was a surgeon who could transplant eyelashes. There are a million types of mascara in the stores but not one that doesn't flake off if you leave it in a box for 10 years. I tried a new type that's supposed to make your lashes thick; after a couple of hours, I ended up with little hairy cheeks from the fallout. Some of them stuck in the cheek creases around my mouth so it looks like everything I say is in parenthesis.

    Those parenthesis are technically called nasolabial grooves, if you've Googled as many websites or phoned as many doctors' office receptionists as I have. We're all in the know now. Also uncovered was a tube of Retin A, so old it had more wrinkles than I do. Fat chance it's usable now that I need it. I'm told you can't use Botox in that location or it will inhibit speech. There are many who would be grateful if I had a shot or two of the stuff on a daily basis.

    I started getting little wrinkles above my lips and, when I heard they were called "smoker's kiss," I quit smoking on the spot. Not kissing, just smoking. A dermatologist's collagen injections didn't make them go away. Neither did Restylane. I was desperate, until a dermatologist recommended a chemical peel as the only remaining alternative. But, besides the pain of having your face ripped away, scabs eventually falling off and into your soup, there was the "No more going out in the sun" rule that's somewhat discouraging when you live in Southern California. "Er, I don't think so, doc. Thanks just the same." The very thought of tearing my face off and replacing it with scabs was even worse than looking in the mirror.

    I feel like an archeologist digging up all this old stuff. I could have saved a small fortune just by going to the hardware store and filling my wrinkles with spackle, lifting my face with duct tape, and lighting the house with 5-watt bulbs.

    A successful Spring Cleaner at last, I was able to throw out the makeup drawer's contents. The euphoria that comes with victory lasted about half an hour before I retrieved everything from the garbage pail where it all lay under green cottage cheese, limp lettuce, and hairy salsa.

    Maybe one day I'll sell it all on eBay.


    © Maggie Van Ostrand,
    August 6, 2012 column
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