Haven 4:00 a.m. — My Face

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I was lying in bed last night at 4:00 a.m. thinking about my face.  I’d woken with a start from a dream inspired by the look I gave myself in the mirror before I went to bed—ghost of Christmas past.  Bruise-like circles along the insides of my eye sockets, puffy pillows underneath them, a little wobble under my chin, new slack in my jaw, random lines on my neck that cross like airplane wake outside of O’Hare, and land in the boggy décolletage that once held up pretty pert, albeit ample, bosom.  I’m not sure where those went.  I only know that when I sit in bed, they rest on my stomach.  And they sweat.  So sometimes I hike my shirt underneath them to cool off.  Nightmare material, for sure.

I lay there letting the beauty tips I never took reel through my mind. “Don’t forget about your decolletage,” I read in some magazine in my twenties.  Hah.  I’ll defy age by welcoming it, I remember thinking.  I’ll be one of those leathery salt-encrusted cranky Yankee long-grey-haired dowagers.  I’ll tout every age spot.  I’ll wear alligator skin like a Gucci purse.  Only I won’t carry a purse.  I’ll just carry a little old backpack from some place cool where I’ve just been on pilgrimage, like Santiago.  Or Honduras.  Or Botswana.

Thoughts from a girl who dabbled in modeling, and dressed intentionally like a bag to be taken seriously in her twenties.

And now it’s all gone to hell.  And I’m not so sure I want to be that leather lady, after all.

“You have to use what you’ve got, girl,” said the make-up artist on Good Morning America as she stabbed me with her mascara wand.  And she tsk-tsked the way the Korean lady at the express nail salon does when she looks at my hands.

I’ve been lucky.  I never really had acne.  I tan easily.  I didn’t really have any wrinkles until I hit fifty.  But even if I did, I truly believe that I wouldn’t see a plastic surgeon unless I was horribly disfigured.  Not that twenty-five years in cold dry Montana has been exceptionally helpful in the skin department.  Even so, I’ve always been more concerned with what’s going on inside of me, rather than on the outside.

But then it was Thanksgiving, and I was in Chicago visiting family, and I happened upon my old lover, Barneys, and the pull to the lower level found me asking an innocent question, “Can you suggest a good face crème?” to a man wearing make-up, sporting an orange silk scarf.  Before I knew it, I was sitting on a stool, obeying his “look up” “look down” like my life depended on it.  His name was Simon.  Of course it was.  He was sort of British, or maybe sort of Peoria-an.  His real name was probably Doug.  But I fell for him.  Hard.  “Dear, what have you been doing to yourself?  You have to take care of your face.  Look up.”  Before I knew it I was fully facially lubed, powdered, eye-lined, mascara-ed and lip-sticked.

“Look how gorgeous,” he said, and I’m pretty sure he meant his make-over artistry, not my actual face, but I went for it.  A girl needs a compliment from a dolled-up guy named Simon every so often.  And they don’t really make ‘em like that in Montana.

“Thank you,” I said, looking in the mirror, feeling like a woman who is just plain trying too hard to defy her age.  But maybe this was the new me.  Maybe I was going to have to start looking like this painted version of myself.  I started to drink the Kool-aid.  “But all I really need is some good lotion.”

He produced a sleek frosty glass tube and a snug little jar and said, “Face oil.  Firming lotion.  I have women buying these in droves.  These products will absolutely change your life.”

“I’ll take them both.”  I didn’t ask how much.  I just knew I needed them like I needed to have a happy Thanksgiving.  And as I signed the credit card slip, I gasped.  “Two hundred and forty dollars?!  What is it made out of?  Gold and bone marrow and stem cells?  And all of Paris?”

“It’s a fabulous product.  And you only use a little dab at a time.”  And then the old line that estheticians and sellers of multi-level-marketing love to use:  “You know…your skin is your largest organ.”  So now I’m going to go into renal failure if I don’t take out a second mortgage for it?  But it was that “medical emergency” which kept me out of the guilt doghouse as I made my way out of the store, down Michigan Avenue, through Thanksgiving, all the way back to my bed-side table, where my little $240 organ-transplant-preventer now lives.

I lay there at 4:00 a.m. this morning, getting real with myself.  A woman of a certain age, especially with the holiday blues, will do just about anything for the Simons of the world.  I mean, do you think that anyone really buys stupidly expensive skin care products because of the organ angle?  I mean, would you spend $240 on a tube of crème from France for your gall bladder?  Of course not.  That’s just what makes people feel good about all those lotions and potions in our medicine cabinet.  I think we all know that it’s not that we care about our biggest organ.  It’s because it’s the only organ you can actually SEE, and it’s the very one that you get judged for, gain power from, use to attract the potential father of your unborn children.  Saggy neck, crows feet, smile lines…  Would you spend $240 on dandelion and milk thistle tinctures that are supposed to help your liver functions?  Maybe if your liver lived on your face you would.  Let’s “face” it—we want to look young.  The world wants us to look young.  But I’m of my mother’s thinking.  Don’t wash your face with soap.  Lubriderm is just fine, thank you very much, but then again, Santa used to bring us toothpaste and dental floss in our Christmas stocking.  She’s a no frills kind of gal.  I always thought I was too.

In any case, each morning and at bed-time, I pump out a few drops of this liquid gold onto my finger tip, and dab, yes dab, it on my face organ.  And then spread a few dabs of the crème over it.  Is my face any more fabulous?  Apparently not, since it’s showing up in nightmares and waking me up at 4:00 a.m. with my heart racing.  But I think of Simon and his silk scarf and plucked eyebrows and perfect face.  He probably exfoliates.  He probably works at Barneys just so he can get a discount on the liquid gold.  And suddenly, I wish I’d bought the exfoliator too.  “Dear, you have to take care of yourself.”

I’m half way through the infusion, and a third of the way through the lotion, which I’m rationing like potable water.

And at 4:00 a.m., with a still-thick oil slick on my face, in the dark of a Montana winter, I can say, with confidence, “Mr. DeMille.  I’m ready for my close up.”  We’ll see how I feel when it runs out…  I have a feeling it’s back to Lubriderm.


Filed under My Posts

14 Responses to Haven 4:00 a.m. — My Face

  1. Anne Arthur

    LAURA, you have me in stitches. Yes, girl, I second all you’ve said, including the Simons and pots-of-supposed-to-be-miracle-working creams worth our hard earned gold. I just heard my fancy, well-stocked dermatologist lecturing me that I have to take CARE and not put my white-skin-blue-eyed self into ANY Caribbean sun… and buy the pots of… LOL

  2. Jennifer Parsons

    That’s freaking hilarious: you had me at gold and bone marrow and stem cells…

  3. CIndy Pitre

    Too funny Laura, I do not know your age but your skins looks well hydrated to me :) It is not easy to age…

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this…and if I’d had $240 on me, I would have whipped it out on the counter faster than Simon could cock one of his perfectly arched brows. Alas, a splurge for me is the Oil of Olay that’s NOT on sale. This was real! And you look freakin’ amazing regardless…

  5. Well this will not make you feel better but my 99 year old Mother still sits diligently in the mirror every freaking day with her hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of bank breaking Sisley products trying to defy age. I however, feel her pain as I realize that with each passing day it takes just a little more mascara, eye shadow, and lipstick to leave the house in human form. And even worse the dreaded product known as “foundation” has recently been added to my arsenal. I sneered at the thought of it and now apply Clinque CC – just a touch and miraculously look better. I do hope at 99 I will give up and just cover all the mirrors exhausted from all this.

  6. Ani Bell

    Thank you for the laugh, & for being so real about what women go through, internally & externally, especially in the superficial world (of botox & collagen injections & boob/eye jobs) we’ve somehow created these last 20-30 years. I’ve said it more than once: I long for the days when it was OK to look whatever age you were, when women’s bodies were expected to be fuller & rounder — & were even flattered with words like ‘voluptuous’ & ‘bombshell’ b/c of those extra curves. I don’t recall my Mom EVER stressing over her skin or her weight, & she’s still gorgeous to me, no matter how many wrinkles or age spots show up. I try to devote that same loving kindness to my own face. Your words today helped me do that, & I even gained a few laugh lines in the process. Thank you. :)

  7. So good, so funny. You had me at tucking a shirt under your décolletage to cool them. I had my second baby 5 months ago and have been shocked how different my weight is after this second child. The first post-partum set of pounds just melted away. This set is stubbornly sticking around. It’s like my adorably large baby and I are supposed to look alike and both be made of pure milk-fat (or something?). It’s been hard for my ego to reconcile how I feel with how I look in the mirror. I feel strong and healthy but appear increasingly dowdy and mommish. But I was just thinking, today, what’s the rush? And who do I need to look so good for? I basically play with my kids and make food and art all day, and that’s what I WANT to be doing. So what, I’m not runway ready! It’s only the belief that I’m supposed to be that’s causing me to feel like a failure. When I objectively see my body for what it’s doing right now – surviving an incredibly tough Michigan winter, getting over the grueling holidays, and being the mom to two littles – then I feel normal, if not beautiful and powerful too. I did buy myself some nice face cream over the thanksgiving holiday, when I was in my hometown too! Maybe it’s the memories of youth that beckon us to those counters. Nothing makes me feel so good as a soak in a tub or a yoga class, though, or working on my creative projects. I’m turning 40 this year and have always thought the same about alligator skin. Will the next decade humble my exuberant blindness to beauty columns? We shall see! I can’t see you in person but I believe every one of those commenters. I know you look amazing.

  8. Michelle Roberts

    “I’m pretty sure he meant his make-over artistry, not my actual face” Lol. Loved this. Thanks for sharing from 4 am. Everything seems truer then. Happy New Year!

  9. Katherine Cox Stevenson

    Loved every single word Laura! So fabulous and wonderfully funny. And real for so many of us. And you are gorgeous. My wish for you is to honor beautiful you inside and out. We have earned wrinkles and how about we let society’s’ value of only youth fly out the window.

    Your descriptors are SO rich!! Especially Simon and our largest organ. Hahaha

  10. Laura – so well and humorously said. I’m on the fence a few years along in the number of times Earth has circled the sun than you – some days I soak in the Beautiful Rose bath salts my DIL gave me for Christmas with the newest product Mary Kay makes–bio cellulose Korean moisture treatment on my face (luckily not multiples of 100s ) and others hang around outdoors wishing I remember what it’s like to be 7. Then my grandmother’s admonitions creep in – “you shouldn’t tan, Carolyn, you’ll look like a field hand” (Nana was from the south and this was over 60 years ago, f.y.i.) So I tanned and then began to slather on sun block. Crinkles here, gray hairs and a body heading back to earth there.
    You smile, my dear, is what lights up the world around you. You’re I am who I am with arms akimbo gives others permission to do the same. Leaving out the liver for the moment, enjoy the indulgence and the Simon thing (I LOVE the orange scarf). Crank up some Andrea Bocelli “Romanza” some evening and toast the possibilities for the New Year.
    Thank you So Much for all you do in the creative world!!

  11. Barbara

    Hey, I totally understand this. Been there done that until I finally came to the conclusion it’s the people looking at me who have the problem, not me. I came to the conclusion that you do what you can with what you have and forget it. Makeup is like you said, a painted version of yourself and I don’t have time for it. The $240 creams don’t do much better than the $14 stuff from Walmart. So….if I can’t change nature, I change my outlook on it and let those looking at me have the problem.
    Loved the musings though…they were funny with a lot of the angst we have to endure as women, thanks to societal expectations.

  12. Jan Myhre

    Oh, Laura, I find it so difficult to write funny and you do it with such aplomb. I’m sure your writing created a few more smile lines while I read this piece…dare I say, of reality. My sainted mother, always plagued by dry skin, invested her hard earned dollars in Charles of the Ritz at age 40. At 75, when she died, she had the face of a 55 year old. My only wish for a face lift would be to delete the frown lines my father willed to me. Without it, though, I’m forced to put a pleasant look on my face and apply only Oil of Delay, some lips and a bit of cheek color. You, on the other hand, are lovely with or without makeup. =0]

  13. Oh, I did so love and I do so live your Post!
    Many a time I too have found myself sitting on that make-up artist chair, begging for a re-do and magic eraser lotion!
    Great post, thank you!

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