I came of age way back in the early 1970s. It was a time of newfound freedom for women, in the early days of the Women’s Liberation movement.
I became a woman at a time when we were just beginning to discover our power and our strength. We were just beginning to push back against the pressures of society to be beautiful and silent.
In other words, I came of age at a time when high school girls had thrown out the cashmere sweaters and poodle skirts and had embraced the freedom of jeans and flannel shirts.
Back then we wore our hair long, frizzy and parted straight down the middle. We were proud of our red canvas high top sneakers and our bleached bell bottom jeans.
We did NOT wear makeup.
(Except for cherry flavored, unbearably sticky lip gloss that came in small pink pots. For unknown reasons, we all seemed to be addicted to that stuff. I can still taste it. It reminds me of 8th grade algebra class.)
Not wearing makeup was fine for me in those days. I had big brown eyes, long dark lashes and naturally tanned olive skin. I was cute. It worked for me.
At some point in my 20s, I remember trying to use makeup. I remember purple eye shadow, frosted lipstick, rosy pink cream blush.
I also remember that I looked remarkably like a clown while wearing said make up.
By the time I was in graduate school, and through my 30s when I was a young mother, I had reduced my daily makeup to a few strokes of mascara and a little foundation. It took under two minutes, and there was no big crazy Bozo the Clown looking back at me from my mirror.
But…Being bad at make up had another effect.
I never did learn how to take care of my skin. How to clean it, moisturize it, smooth it out….I was young, I was attractive, I was blessed with nice Italian coloring. I washed with soap and I called it a day. I never really thought about skincare.
When I hit my 40s, I realized that I should probably start to worry about wrinkles. I can remember buying myself a 4 dollar jar of some kind of generic face cream. I bought a makeup remover, too. They both lasted at least a decade before I decided to throw them out because they had become solid masses of grayish white goop. I just never got into the habit of taking care of my skin.
All of this information is to set the stage for my awakening this past winter.
My first clue that I was missing the beauty boat came during a weekend away with my closest women friends. These women are smart, powerful, independent and beautiful. I love them dearly.
But they were all with me in that whole “coming of age when we didn’t pay attention to beauty” thing.
Somehow, they had managed to learn a few things over the decades that eluded clueless Nonni here. They talked about facial and leg hair removal, waxing, skin smoothing, lotions, potions and notions which left my tiny head spinning.
I had never thought about any of those things! I hadn’t even known they existed.
My second clue came while reviewing photos from various Christmas gatherings this past December. Although I had been right there in the middle of the fun at each of them, in all of the photos I looked like a big gray blob standing in the background.
I was gray. All gray.
I have gray hair. Or as I like to tell myself, I have white and black hair. Gleaming white and dark deep black.
In the pictures, though, that hair was just colorless. As was my face. My once dark eyebrows were gray heading toward white. My once olive skin, in the dead of winter in Massachusetts, was as gray as ash. My lips? The same pasty color as my face.
And what the absolute hell was I thinking when I picked out my Christmas clothes? Black sweater? Gray shirt? White vest?
I was a ghost. An old, faded ghost with old faded skin.
Even I could hardly see me standing there with my invisible arms around my glowing, colorful, vibrant family.
So here I am. Just about to turn 62.
I am now the proud owner of one bottle of expensive makeup remover. I have not one but TWO containers of retinol/hyaluronic acid moisturizers. My bathroom shelf now supports two shades of “all day” lip color, one bronzer, one tinted moisturizer and a whole new palate of “mature woman” eye brightening makeup. I have wrinkle remover, wrinkle blender, concealer, eyelid moisturizer and lip cream.
As the owner of a head of hair that has not only lost its color but also its glorious thickness, I am also now in possession of specially formulated thickening shampoo, special conditioner, bamboo fiber thickening and enriching cream, volume enhancing gel and two kinds of scalp treatments.
So I’m sure you want to know: am I looking younger, more vibrant, more dewey and moist?
I don’t know. At my age, the whole looking in the mirror thing isn’t that successful. I think I can see me in there if I squint.
At least I didn’t discover all this beautifying stuff until I had retired. This way I actually have the 45 minutes every morning and night to goop myself up before I have to face the world.
I don’t know if its working, but at least I know that my grandkids see me at my best when I’m scraping poop off their butts. And at least I know that I’m doing my best to support the beauty products industry.