I started using makeup the summer after 7th grade, when I was 13 years old. There was a girl in my neighborhood who I secretly thought was rather plain, but she could get her hair in those lovely Farrah Fawcett curls, and she wore makeup. She looked like the cover model on a teen magazine, but I looked more like this.
In my defense, it was 1978.
I was rescued from being shanghaied by the KISS Army by my older sister when I visited her at her house in Pennsylvania. I saw her as the epitome of class and elegance. Her house had things like valances and a master bathroom and a chair in her bedroom just for reading and drinking coffee. I had a sliding closet door in my room at home which contained a toilet and sink, and the toilet never worked in all the years I lived there. The only use I ever found for it was as a secret beer cooler when I was in high school. Come to think of it, my sister didn’t have a secret beer cooler in her master bedroom, so maybe I actually won that point.
She got me a dark gray Revlon mechanical eyeliner pencil and persuaded me that bright blue eye shadow was not an acceptable alternative. I also learned to tweeze my eyebrows, though that produced mixed results, because I spent much of the next two years looking perpetually surprised.
The late 1970s and early 1980s had high expectations for teen girls. One did not leave the house without proper makeup application and a perfectly coordinated outfit with accessories. I had a royal blue satin jacket with white piping and a matching baseball cap, for crying out loud. They matched the blue and white pom-poms on my roller skates. I weep at the memory.
Oh, wow…I forgot! I also had the shorts. This outfit in royal blue. But I also had the hat and the pom-poms, so I out-1978-ed Chrissy Snow.
Hair was sacred. Every day, without fail, girls were required to wash, dry, curl, style, and hairspray it into submission. Having long nails was also desirable, and I focused intently on growing my nails into uniform perfection. But it never failed–every time I was almost there, one would break, and I’d have to cut them all back and start over.
I adhered to this regimen through much of my adult life. Even when my weight was out of control, I kept it up. Then, sometime in my 40s, I asked myself, “Why the hell are you wasting so much time and effort on this?”
Up until 2010, I worked outside the home, and continued to maintain “out in public” grooming standards. Since then, however, I’ve worked at home, and can honestly stay home for weeks at a time. I prefer it that way. By current cultural standards, I imagine I’ve “let myself go.”
- Meticulous makeup when leaving the house, and even at home if the husband was present.
- Hair washed and styled daily.
- Nails as long as possible, later transitioning to acrylic nails at a salon when it became clear my nails were never going to cooperate. Forced to endure contact and small talk with manicurist, which is one of the lesser circles of hell.
- Clothing as stylish and coordinated as possible. Comfort optional.
See? Cute as hell, but how many hours did I agonize over the perfect hair, makeup, and accessories? I mean, seriously, I even have a stupid red flower in my hair.
- Makeup only when having “a night out,” which occurs only when Tom manages to lure me into the Out with promises of delicious seafood and copious adult beverages. Until recently, I used to also put on makeup if I had to endure some sort of extended interaction with someone, such as the veterinarian or groomer, but now I figure as long as I remember to shave my chin-whiskers and mustache, I’m good.
- Hair…brushed. Usually. Until the last couple of years, I had my hair professionally cut and colored (to cover the pervasive, persistent gray), complete with highlights. But for the past year and a half, I’ve stopped coloring and have been trimming my hair at home. My stylist friends recoil in horror when I mention this, but there are many tutorials on YouTube, and it’s not that hard as long as you have very low standards.
- Ironically, now that I don’t give a rodent’s derriere about my nails, they grow long and thick and I could probably rip open a tin can with them if I had to. Since I spend most of my day keyboarding, I have to cut them back more often than I apply makeup.
- Clothing criteria have shifted from “stylish” to “fits and sort of matches and doesn’t squish my middle.” This includes stretchy shorts and tank tops in the summer, and leggings and weather-appropriate shirts in cooler weather. I feel fancy if my underwear matches my pants. Bras are only for social occasions.
Hair, brushed…mostly. Makeup…none. Lack of makeup disguised by convenient sunglasses. Dogs perfectly groomed and adorable. As it should be.
I’m strangely okay with this. I’m not sure if Tom approves, but if he doesn’t, he’s been smart enough not to say anything about it. This might be slightly unfair, since he is the one who has to look at me, but the dogs have to look at me more, and they don’t mind. In fact, when I get a shower, they sort of look at me like “hey, you were just starting to smell right,” but even I realize they’re not the best judges of personal hygiene.
It’s liberating not to waste so much time and money. I’m baffled by the women I see on HGTV when they’re touring potential new homes and open the gigantic walk-in closet and sigh. “Oh, it’s so small.” (It’s roughly the square footage of the home I grew up in.) “I’ll never get all my things in here. Is there, like, a shoe closet somewhere?”
In October 2016, we attended the Walker Stalker Convention in Atlanta, and I was forced to buy new liquid makeup, blush, mascara, and lipstick, because I was fairly certain my liquid makeup was technically old enough to vote. I haven’t bought any since, and should be good for the next few years. I do still love my eyeliner, and if I wear cosmetics that is one thing I never skip, but I use it so rarely I haven’t run out since Atlanta.
By contrast, the Direwolves are shining examples of fashion and grooming. They have signature style Lupine collars with matching harnesses and leashes, and color-coordinated tags. They are bathed regularly (but not too often, because they are dogs and too much bathing is bad for the skin), their nails are kept trimmed, and Oliver receives a poodle-clip at Jill’s Pet Resort every six weeks.
Most women freak out if their stylist is on vacation when they need a cut and color. Oliver’s groomer was out on medical leave when he needed his most recent appointment, and I almost had a panic attack.
It’s not that I don’t care how I look. I just think it’s not nearly as important in the scheme of things as I’d been led to believe. By not wasting buckets of money on clothes and makeup, I have more for the important things, like yarn and dog toys.
It’s all about priorities.