Please have my back at work tomorrow. I’ve just had my first ever spray tan and look like an African tribeswoman. The guys will crucify me.
Don’t worry – I’ll tell them you’ve had your teeth whitened.
That evening, on returning home sticky, grubby and humiliated from the beauty salon, where I’d stood in a pod as an apparently pubescent beautician knelt at eye-level with my pasty, bare bottom, Drew asked if he could take some photos of me for when he might need cheering up.
My male work-mates were more subtle the next morning. They just looked puzzled at each other whenever I spoke and when one passed my desk to go to lunch, he slowly and deliberately enunciated: “Would…you…like…to…try…some…of…our…local…food?”
And I only realised after I’d stormed into the boss’s office barking: “I need a decision right now!” she was probably trying to remember when she’d recruited a mud-wrestler.
Since passing 50, I have become resigned to needing a little more help from the beauty industry unless I want to look a fright. I’m not unfeminine, but I’ve never had much interest in cosmetic upkeep and I’m baffled by the procedures and products.
No more so than on a recent European hotel and spa holiday where the salon staff spoke very little English. Probably thinking he’d hit on what any woman would want, Drew generously arranged for me to choose a ‘treatment’. I declined to have my feet nibbled by fish (after very little consideration) and instead opted for a type of manicure I didn’t understand. The options were ‘regular’ which I presumed was a file and polish I could’ve managed myself; ‘permanent’ which seemed like too much of a commitment and a mid-priced one I didn’t quite catch the name of, but which sounded the safest nonetheless. Fortunately, being on holiday, I had no need for typing skills, but when I returned, it was evident the nails had to come off – somehow. After a period of frustration, my daughter came to the rescue before I slammed my fingers in the door.
I never leave the house without mascara – people might think I’d been crying.
The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup, I say a little prayer: “Please let this go well and without me smudging a ruinous blob of mascara on my nose in the final moments.” I never leave the house without mascara – people might think I’d been crying, but it’s not enough anymore. There are literally dozens of things you should be putting on your mug in the morning if cosmetics companies are to be believed.
Makeup primer for example, is pretty pricey for a tiny amount of something you may have thought belongs in the shed with the undercoat and gloss. I asked a friend if she knew of such a thing and was told hers had lasted a couple of years. I took this as a good sign until she admitted never using it because she was unsure what it did.
I felt sure spritzer was a white wine drink. I’ve learned it’s some sort of spray to set my makeup. As it turns out, a shot of hairspray works just as well according to a male friend who also suggested using haemorrhoid ointment instead of lashing out on extortionately priced unctions to control the bags under my eyes.
Apart from the nails and reckless respray, eyebrow tinting is another salon treatment I was pressured to try when my own started to turn grey. Over 50s must resist plucking random, grey eyebrow hairs or we end up looking like ancient Japanese aristocrats as our eyebrows don’t regrow. Don’t throw away your tweezers though – you’ll need them for your chin.
Eyebrow mascara, according to one red-blooded work colleague, is a less expensive alternative to tinting and he wouldn’t be seen without his. This nugget was passed to me in such a conspiratorial manner, I began to wonder if women aren’t being taken for fools here as there must surely be a think tank somewhere hatching pointless practices and merchandise with the purpose of defrauding women who are hopelessly trying to look youthful or worry about being found with only lip balm, sunscreen and mouth fresheners in their makeup bags.
Much as I welcome tips from men, daughters are the best for guiding the mature mum through the maze of makeup and accessories on the market as well as letting us know when we’ve got it wrong. You’re not kidding my look needs updating – have you tried applying liner to loose-fitting eyelids wearing reading glasses? But it was helpful to have clarification regarding the brushes. The biggest type is for agitating my foundation – was I supposed to be doing that? I now have two of those for when one’s in the dishwasher – does anyone else do that? Another brush is for contouring – what even is that?
Although I’m slightly suspicious cosmeticians are collectively taking advantage of our insecurities by intimidation, I’m not suggesting starting a movement to reclaim our right to be preservative free. I know I’d be left hanging. But it now takes such effort and a chunk of time every day to look this natural and I really can’t get up any earlier than I already do. And now when I tell him I’m nipping upstairs to do my ‘colouring in’ for an evening out, Drew is unsure whether to start the car or stick the kettle on.
He is patience personified however and completely understanding after a recent remark made by his little granddaughter. Lying on his chest early one morning, she gently stroked his skin and asked: “Grandpa – why is your face cracked?”