“Here, put on some eyeliner. Eyeliner makes everything better,” Heather told me once. I don’t remember what we were doing or why I needed to feel better, but I know that she pulled a black pencil out of her purse and handed it to me. This would have been a few years ago, when we hadn’t been friends for very long yet and certain dead-serious things she did and said still struck me with all the comedic poignancy of realizing yet another fundamental difference between us. But I took the pencil. I went into the bathroom. I put it first on my top lid, then, boldly, applied it to my bottom lid as well. In my present-tense reenactment of this scene, I am wearing a red Lacoste polo shirt and a pair of ripped up jeans, the sort of outfit that does not lend itself to glamorous makeup. I turn my face from side to side in the mirror, checking for some sort of improvement. Then I start laughing at both Heather and myself for believing that eyeliner made anything better, much less everything. And suddenly, I do feel better.
I remembered her advice this morning, or rather, this afternoon when I finally got myself out of the pajamas it feels like I’ve been wearing all week. After much deliberation, I situated myself in front of the bathroom mirror. “I’ll just put a little foundation on so I don’t feel like a leper in case I go out,” I told myself. The foundation led to blusher which led to eyebrow gel and mascara which led to finding myself strangely reluctant to put on the eyeliner that would finish off my routine. The reasoning went something like this: “Unemployed, unloved, undistinguished people with no friends and no resources and no personality with which to get them who aren’t going to do anything with their lives anyway do not deserve eyeliner. Besides, I might cry.” Then I realized that if I did cry, no one would be around to see it anyway, so I might as well just put the eyeliner on. I did. It looked pretty. If I have learned nothing else in this life, I have learned that being pretty never hurts. Even if it’s just for your computer.
There’s this haunting scene in Rebecca Wells’ popular book “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” where the school-aged protagonist, Sidda, opens the house to a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman, Lizzie Mitchell. Sidda‘s mother, Vivi, is upstairs in the throes of a long depression. When Sidda goes upstairs and wakes Vivi up, Vivi unsurprisingly instructs Sidda to turn Lizzie away. Sidda says that she can’t. When Vivi asks why not, Sidda says, “Because, she’s got on the wrong color lipstick.” This is a crisis that Vivi understands. She goes downstairs in her bathrobe to meet Lizzie and the two women fix each other up with the help of the elite Beautiere line of cosmetics. This is both the beginning of Vivi’s recovery and Lizzie’s formerly stunted career. It also made me bawl my face off when I read it. There is something so undeniably true about the idea that your surface and your inner life exist in symbiosis. And that when you truly need to fix yourself up, it’s best to start small. A little look in the mirror, a little eyeliner, a little effort.
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