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Love Affair with Cosmetics

Updated on August 6, 2014

I am not sure when my love affair with cosmetics began. What I do remember is at 13 begging my mother to buy me Tangee lipstick. This lipstick was invented so young teens could fool themselves into believing they were wearing lipstick. Tangee which was light orange in the tube looked like Vaseline with a hint of orange when applied. But then I discovered Seventeen magazine with tips on skin care, make-up and hair styles. A model Carol Lynley was often on the cover, a Nordic blonde with ice blue eyes, stick straight hair and not a blemish in sight. What do you know about airbrushing when you are a teenager? I was slightly plump, with pimples that began to erupt around 14 “when you know what” started. The marketers had me hooked early. If I only wore the foundation, lipstick and mascara featured on the editorial and ad pages I could look like Carol Lynley. Before I had a job my entire allowance went to buy Seventeen magazine, at least one make-up product and Photoplay magazine. The latter was my way of looking into the world that I was sure that I would one day inhabit as an actress. At 14 I landed a job in the sportswear department of the only department store in Rutland, Vermont. Most of my paycheck went to sweaters (long standing addiction with them as well) and cosmetics. . And then I discovered doe eyes. This Cleopatra like eye liner didn’t come on the scene until I was a teenager in college. Elisabeth Taylor and all the stars wore it. It involved taking a very soft black pencil and drawing a line along the lash line and then extending it beyond the eyelid up and towards the temple. God help me I think there were times when I actually drew it all the way to my hairline. My father was horrified. According to him my heavy makeup and crinoline petticoats had turned his daughter into a bottom heavy tart. Of course, there were many chapters in my make-up history. Several decades later I would have my hair and makeup done every day by a professional and paid for by the TV stations that employed me. In the past few decades I have succumbed as many woman “of a certain age” have to the anti aging products. All those before and after pictures of women who if they had followed a certain beauty regimen would look years younger than their calendar age. Regardless of price, I have yet to see the product that can accomplish that. I follow all the beauty and make-up columns in the women’s magazines and despite drawers full of make-up there is always some new one designed to make me alluring. Being a woman in her 70’s does not protect me from self delusion. I have even allowed my addiction to go so far as to by Allure magazine. Allure magazine’s target demographic is a twenty something. Just the other day I saw an ad for a lipstick on a 20 something young woman. There was a close up of full shiny lips with a beautiful shade of something called Nude Allure. I confess I came close to putting it on my to buy list. Then I realized if I looked closely at those lips they were covered with the same Tangee I bought at 13. I’ll save my money until the fall colors hit the magazine pages.

As a teen ager I wanted to look older, sophisticated. Where to start? There was Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick and nail polish, pan cake make-up by Max Factor which when applied with a wet sponge hardened like a mask. Of course, all the make-up had to cover up those dreaded pimples. In the 50’s there were a couple of remedies: Noxzema and Clearasil. There were problems with each. Noxzema left my skin with a milky white covering with flakes that had to be removed before I could apply the make-up. Clearasil applied directly to the offending pimples simply left them with a layer of --cement under the make-up. While I was trying to buy make up so I could look like Carol Lynley, my mother lectured me that the only way to cure acne was to give up sweets and use linen towels to blot my face dry after washing. Believe it or not the color we put on cheeks was not blush. That financial windfall for the cosmetic companies came later. No, it was rouge that came in a small round case and which we applied dry with a small round applicator. Rouge was not subtle. It was very easy to wind up with clown cheeks on top of the layers of acne cement and pancake makeup. It was impossible to spread it evenly on the cheeks. Once applied rouge sat there; the secret was to use very little and in a light color. The Burgundy Rose I bought was a big mistake. And then there was Ponds make=up remover. Until the week she died at 97 my mother still use Ponds cleanser. I chose not to buy any. I washed my face with Ivory Soap (99% purse) and a wash cloth which if used with a wash cloth exfoliated my skin (of course, we never used terms like exfoliated then). We simply thought of it as a way to vigorously scrub away the pimples

. And then I discovered doe eyes. This Cleopatra like eye liner didn’t come on the scene until I was a teenager in college. Elisabeth Taylor and all the stars wore it. It involved taking a very soft black pencil and drawing a line along the lash line and then extending it beyond the eyelid up and towards the temple. God help me I think there were times when I actually drew it all the way to my hairline. My father was horrified. According to him my heavy makeup and crinoline petticoats had turned his daughter into a bottom heavy tart. Of course, there were many chapters in my make-up history. Several decades later I would have my hair and makeup done every day by a professional and paid for by the TV stations that employed me. In the past few decades I have succumbed as many woman “of a certain age” have to the anti aging products. All those before and after pictures of women who if they had followed a certain beauty regimen would look years younger than their calendar age. Regardless of price, I have yet to see the product that can accomplish that. I follow all the beauty and make-up columns in the women’s magazines and despite drawers full of make-up there is always some new one designed to make me alluring. Being a woman in her 70’s does not protect me from self delusion. I have even allowed my addiction to go so far as to buy Allure magazine. Allure magazine’s target demographic is a twenty something. Just the other day I saw an ad for a lipstick on a 20 something young woman. There was a close up of full shiny lips with a beautiful shade of something called Nude Allure. I confess I came close to putting it on my to buy list. Then I realized if I looked closely at those lips they were covered with the same Tangee I bought at 13. I’ll save my money until the fall colors hit the magazine pages.

My addiction has not been to drugs or alcohol but make-up. During the decades since I purchased my first lipstick I have succumbed to promises for every kind of make-up from foundation to eyeliner. I can trace my life story with a list of the products that I have bought. That the effect that the make-up achieved was far removed from reality is similar to the alcoholic who swears his two six packs a day doesn’t make him an alcoholic. Some of the products are no longer on the drug store shelves but they are in my memory of ways I tried to look beautiful in sixty four years.

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