I work from a home office so my usual morning routine involves splashing some water on my face, brushing my teeth, and deciding what colour elastic to pull my hair back with (spoiler alert: I almost always choose black). If a social excursion lands on my calendar I spruce up with a little eye shadow, a liner, mascara and a lip gloss, all purchased at the pharmacy beside my grocery store. I know it’s a low-maintenance look but I think it suffices most of the time and I can usually pass the Old Boyfriend Test:
If an old boyfriend was approaching at this moment would I ______________.
(a) Stop to talk?
(b) Smile and try and pass him quickly?
(c) Throw myself down an embankment if necessary to avoid visual contact?
I can usually answer with a solid (a) or (b), depending on whether it’s a good hair day or a bad hair day.
So when I decided to have some new corporate photos taken I knew I might have to add a few items to my existing cosmetics collection, but I was thinking along the lines of a blush and maybe a real lipstick (one that isn’t berry-flavoured, made of bees wax, and/or SPF 30). In my naiveté I chose to “treat myself” and go to one of those stores in the mall where the staff look like back up dancers from that old Robert Palmer video, “Addicted to Love”.
An unnaturally large lipped girl approached me immediately and offered help. Upon hearing that I was having professional photos taken, she became exceptionally enthusiastic and began asking questions… many questions… questions that included unfamiliar nouns and verbs.
Did I need a primer? A bronzer? An illuminator? Was I familiar with contouring? If so, did I possess a contour stick? Was I interested in the newest collection of brushes and small tools? When I admitted to possessing only “blush and a blush brush” she looked at me with the sort of pity one normally reserves for the homeless, the terminally ill, and those without HD cable packages.
“Maybe you could help me find a lipstick,” I suggested. She was beginning to look a bit overwhelmed by my lack of enthusiasm about being primed/bronzed/illuminated/contoured and I thought a lipstick hunt might calm us both. Unfortunately, it led only to more questions…
Did I want to be plumped? Stained? Semi-permanently lined? Would I prefer matte lips with a high gloss overcoat or high gloss lips with a matte undercoat? I am seldom flummoxed but I must admit that I was at a loss. Plumping, staining and lining all sounded potentially painful, and I was not encouraged when she-of-the-giant-fish-lips confessed that she was “addicted to plumping” and had a “drawer full of stains” at home.
Eventually both she and I were exhausted by our efforts to communicate across what was clearly an enormous cultural divide. To be honest, she seemed more distraught than I was; horrified by my reluctance to deal with my t-zone pores and sincerely worried that my skimpy lower-lid lashes might be immortalized in photographs. To appease her, I purchased a ridiculously overpriced lip stain called “sugar plum” that was the colour of dried blood and came in a phallic-shaped container covered in Xs and Os; a baby penis covered in kisses; very odd. (Made me curious about the conversations that must have been held at the marketing meeting where this packaging was first unveiled).
The lip stain turned out to be a rather useful purchase. It matches well with the pretending-to-be-real-wood colour of my office desk and I have used it to spot-fill the little nicks and chips. Sticks way better than the stuff I picked up awhile back at Home Depot!
My corporate photos turned out fine. On my way home from the mall, I popped into the drugstore and grabbed a blush and a lipstick. Since it was a 3 for $20 deal, I picked up a fresh mascara at the same time (because fish-lips was right about my skimpy lashes). And the photographer told me not to worry about my pores and fixed everything after-the-fact with a liberal dose of Photoshop.
And I think the Fancy Make-up Place girl survived our ordeal because I am pretty sure I saw her at the grocery store yesterday. She had on a pair of Roots sweatpants and her hair was up in a ponytail. If it hadn’t been for those balloon-inspired lips I wouldn’t have recognized her because she wasn’t wearing any make up at all… and she was beautiful.