Going from tech to teaching has meant learning new skills, but evolving from a work at home mom to a professional with places to go and people to see unexpectedly sent me down a cosmetic-ological rabbit hole I’ve avoided for almost a decade.
That’s right. The scariest thing about learning to teach wasn’t lesson planning or classroom management. It was trying to recall the unspoken rules of workplaces that are more than 10 feet from your fridge.
Oh, there are the obvious rules. Pajamas don’t count as a color coordinated outfit. The good jeans are the ones without paint on them (I had to buy new ones). But there was an unspoken rule I had forgotten, that most women ‘put on their faces’ in the work place.
I don’t have anything against make up. But, my for the last 9 1/2 years all of my female office mates sported whiskers, so the there wasn’t much peer pressure for me to put on anything that wasn’t labeled ‘comfy’, and I fell out of the makeup habit. Then, about a week ago, a student’s (obviously killer) essay about the benefits of wearing makeup inadvertently made me realize that I was the only teacher without it. It was like putting a drug-laced, chocolate cake on the table. Even with out a label, I had to have a nibble.
So I headed to the local superstore. I filled the cart with homework supplies and tube socks for Thing2, and then hunted for the makeup aisle. The glow from the overly lit shelves was easier to see than the ‘Cosmetics’ sign hanging above it. Normally, in dreams or visions, I try to avoid going toward the light, but I had eaten the metaphorical cake (and, just incase, I had some literal cake earlier in the day, too), and it was time to dive in.
Now surrounded by glowing shelves of shrink-wrapped packages that could have been mistaken for candy, I scratched my head a couple times, trying to remember the bare minimum components for constructing a face.
Then I saw a fuzzy wand and remembered putting on mascara once upon a time. There was brown-black, black-black, blue-black, brown-brown and some colors I definitely don’t remember existing in the store or nature the last time I put on the stuff. I picked brown-black, figuring it would cover most of my bases.
Next up, purely by virtue of having been on the next set of racks, was concealer. I remembered what that was. There were too many colors of ivory and ‘nude’ to pick from, however, so I moved down the aisle to look for something that didn’t require a PhD in color therapy to pick out.
Next to the concealer, I found something called primer. I looked around to see if the Candid Camera people were filming. There’s was only the store’s security camera, so then I checked the sign at the end of the aisle to make sure I hadn’t accidentally sidled into the hardware section. Maybe they’d just miscategorized ‘spackle’ as ‘concealer’.
An hour after I wandered in, I rolled my cart out of the white light with the Indiana Jones music playing in my head. There was a mascara tube, a thing of ‘foundation’ whose primary benefit was its SPF and some eyeshadow next to the tube socks. I still had no idea what primer was supposed to do, but I have plenty at home in the paint closet, just in case.
Now it was time to locate the metaphorical bottle that read ‘Drink Me’ and figure out how to put it on without looking like a clown. I decided to do a test run on a non-work day.
I assembled my new collection and took off my glasses to put on the mascara. I moved closer to and then farther from the mirror, trying to see what I was coating. Do they make a version of this for people with bifocals, I wondered? The last time I put on this stuff, my eyes were younger.
Okay, we’ll skip the mascara. I thought. Let’s try the foundation. With my glasses still off, I tried to open the little, round compact that was, apparently, cleverly designed as a mini-puzzle box so you could feel like Indiana Jones trying to open some archeological wonder. I found the magic word (four letters as luck would have it) and it popped open with the foam applicator underneath. I swathed on the powder, hoping it would match my office-dweller pallor.
I put on my glasses and went in for a look. All I needed was some fangs and red lipstick, and the vampire look would be complete. Maybe some eye shadow will help, I thought. I queued up the Indiana Jones music again as I started to open the eye shadow package. It opened more easily but contained no doo-hickeys to apply the war paint (yes, it was a war at this point). But, I’m an artist. I like to improvise, so, glasses off, I scraped a dab or two onto my finger and then smeared it onto my eyelids.
I worked for about 30 minutes trying to remember what color went where and finally ended up with an eyelid covered with a nondescript brown. I put my glasses back on and stepped back to see the overall effect. Dang, I still look like me, only finally old enough to buy calcium supplements without an ID.
And then it hit me. I’d found this new job with a makeup-less face. I’d figured out the goals for our students. All of those goals center around what is going into their heads, not onto their faces. If makeup makes them (or any other person) feel good, they should wear it. For me, it’s just one more thing to do that doesn’t materially add anything to my life. The monochromatic face with the blotchy eyes staring back at me yesterday was a reminder that the most important rule in this line of work is that you can’t encourage others to be themselves without accepting yourself – warts, wrinkles, and all.