It appears I’m entering that stage of life in which the standard norms that I, and others of my make and model were raised, no longer apply.
“I was at a party the other night and there was a young woman wearing a beautiful dress and combat boots,” my mother, outraged, had spluttered after attending an art opening some 25 years ago. I remembered laughing and trying to explain that no one embracing Grunge or Gothic culture was complete without wearing their Doc Martins.
“But it looked ridiculous!” she went on. “And she was so pretty. Why on earth would a pretty girl deliberately make herself look as clunky as possible? She stomped around like a truck driver, eating all the vol-au-vents. I don’t understand young women today...”
There was another litany I seem to remember that wearing diamonds before the cocktail hour was gauche (pearls only, please), and rhinestones on anything other than a cocktail dress was enough to relegate one to tending bar in the airport Holiday Inn lounge.
Let’s not even mention the Bedazzler...
However, as everyone becomes their mother, including a healthy number of men, I find my own list of grievances is decidedly expanding. And at the top of the list is makeup.
Look, I get it. Since Cleopatra women have worn eye makeup, convinced that men will find blue and green painted eyelids irresistibly attractive. But it didn’t stop there. Cleo painted on thick eyebrows and stained her eyelashes as well. Thankfully, we grew out of looking like Mr. Spock (except when our moms trimmed our bangs) in the early ‘70s.
Our makeup then went through a distinctly glittery phase during the disco age: Sparkly eye shadows, blushes and thick, gooey lip gloss reigned supreme. All you have to do is Google vintage Jerry Hall photographs, or the cover of any Roxy Music album. This oozed all the way through the ‘80s, crowned with big hair and didn’t start to resemble anything natural looking until the mid ‘90s. In fact, while Goth girls paraded in black with matching lipstick, heavy eyeliner and multiple piercings, Grunge scrubbed clean the faces of young women while leaving their hair a tangled mess and a Marlboro hanging out the corner of their mouths.
Nowadays it’s all about grooming one’s brows. This is where I am completely lost. Gone are the days when one might fill in sparse brows with a cheap little pencil bought at Walgreens. No, ma’am, you need micro blade pens in which you can add little flicks of hair all for 25 to 50 bucks. And if you’re still struggling with that ability, you can drop another $20 at a brow bar, where a trained browmeister will wax, thread and define whatever you feel you’re hideous without.
Or you could have saved all that money and binge watched Downton Abbey with two bottles of Prosecco, smoked salmon, an entire cake and stared at women who looked gorgeous without makeup.
My mother is no longer here to verbalize her horror, so I’ll say it for her: Ladies, you’re beginning to look ridiculous. It’s far too much. It’s fine for a glamorous night on the town, but your wooly caterpillar brows, framing your inch-long magnetic eyelashes are overkill, especially at the drive-thru. Or dental office. I once came out of anesthesia, thinking I was still struggling with the last haze of delirium, when a young woman in a surgical mask peered closely at me with what looked to be eyelids sprouting a boxwood hedge. It was ridiculous. She looked like a Droog from “A Clockwork Orange.”
In the end, I suppose everyone is entitled to their own trend, regardless of what Great Aunty Pam thinks. And I certainly embraced some horrors myself. Oh, yes, sisters, oh, yes. I splashed on Jean Nate’ and used Cover Girl’s roll on shimmery blusher. But my introduction to womanhood, my makeup rite of passage can be summed up in two words: Eyelash curler. This archaic contraption (still used today) in which women used — rarely cleaned of its vestiges of mascara, so it’s a wonder more of us didn’t suffer massive eye infections — was applied ever so closely at the very base of the upper eyelid, it’s scissor-like handles squeezed so that one’s eyelashes were, well, not really curled, but bent upwards in a freaky 45 degree angle before being coated with lashings of mascara.
And there’s not a woman alive who hasn’t screamed bloody murder when they mistakenly had a strip of eyelid skin caught between the curling blades when they squeezed the device shut.
No man on the planet can relate to that kind of pain.
Unless they’ve caught more than their underwear in the zipper of their pants.