Finally, the bitter cold eased enough so I could leave the farm. After a long lunch with a friend, I decided to go to Ulta, a woman’s toy store full of beauty products. I walked in and a well coiffed woman asked how she could help. I must have looked dazed. A woman’s toy store full of beauty products is not my comfort zone, unlike the local feed store. “I need a blow dryer because ours is glowing red inside.”
She pointed me to the back of the store. Drat. I can’t just breeze in, pick out a blow dryer, pay, and ease out. Nope. Now I have to walk even deeper into this wilderness of beauty. Perfumes and make up reached out like so many tree branches, pulling me toward them. I’d already gone to Macy’s for mascara and lipstick and came away with a beauty box and a gift. What am I as a retired person, whose favorite clothes are Carhart jeans and hoodies going to do with all that make up and skin care? I swear they want you hooked so you come back for more. And it takes time to put it on when I barely get out the door as it is. And when I wash my face to take it off, water pours down my arm.
I had given up on make up after I retired and stopped going to writer’s conferences. Those writer’s conferences brought me close to the dream of being published by a traditional publisher. An agent asked to see my novel, which was like being given the final rose. I felt like I’d come home. I hoped that Mr. Literary Agent would shop my book around, set up an auction, and everything would come right in my life. I could thumb my nose at the fancy literary writers in the English department. But alas, Mr. Literary Agent reminded me of a bad date who said he’d call in a week but never called. My life turned out far better than if that dream had come true.
Of course, I was drawn to one of the most expensive blow dryers because my beautician uses it. Well, over $300 was a little steep for me, though I very much like how hers sounds and feels. Brigette came by and helped me choose a well-made brand. I told her my story about going to Macy’s and mentioned I wanted to open up my beady eyes and look nice for Bruce. I’ve started to wake up, feel good again.
Brigette took me over to a make up counter and suggested I try a tinted foundation. It’s full of moisturizer she said. It’ll add a little color. And then she suggested I try a concealer to lighten the tired darkness around my eyes. Then I wanted a lip gloss. Though when I got home I found a few lip glosses where I was sure I looked before! Then as I checked out, I said I wanted some hand cream, so came away with something that is healing the cracks in my fingers and soothing my skin after so many days walking out in bitter cold. It looks like a richer version of Udder Balm.
There’s something very human, very old about being pampered by another woman. I am reminded of the horses grooming each other in an I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine stance. It’s like the quiet I get when I take time with my horse currying her, brushing her, combing out her tail. (Right now she’s shedding like crazy.) It’s a gift finding someone who can match your skin color to the product, and who is respectful of someone pretty ordinary who would like to look a little nicer. (Those beady eyes.) Rubbing these expensive creams on my body, adding scents is a sort of sacrament to honor our bodies, how we step into the world.
I’d forgotten how putting on my face is like putting on beautiful shoes, whose very feel makes you walk taller, more confidently. I go for subtle because my mother encouraged the tailored natural look. When I wanted to try make up as a girl, she said wait till I grew up because I’d enjoy it more. I wasn’t interested until years later.
Also I’d been talking to Charlyne about beauty products, and how much fun it was to pamper ourselves with smooth creams, and lovely fragrances that smelled like spring. She says she likes to put on foundation to protect against pollutants in the air because it traps them and she can wash them off at night. She also says, “It builds confidence when we feel that we look our best regardless of where we go or what we do. I feel more my powerful self with my makeup and hair done. It says, ‘Here I am and I take care of me.’”
I also think how some saints get bathed in uncreated light because of their devotion to God, their purity. I have felt that joy at times, lifting me up. I remember how God dressed Adam and Eve in animal skins because they knew they were naked. He covered their shame so they could talk.
We glory in the clothes we could pull off the rack at our favorite clothing store and wrap around our bodies, so we can tell the world this is my taste, this is how I want you to see me. We’ve lost the loveliness of finding clothes that express who we are, with the help of clerks finding clothes that look right, while we waited at the dressing room, while we try them on, making sure they look right. It’s that pampering thing again. I miss CJ Banks, a store with teacher clothes that were downright joyous and modest. I still run into the woman who helped me find clothes there. We both miss the store.
As far as putting on Jesus, our spiritual dressing room, is our baptism, where we put off the old man, the rough stuff in human nature like greed, gossip, jealousy and angry outbursts, and put on the new man, put on Jesus like a new set of elegant clothes that look like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
I can think I put on Jesus but that doesn’t stop me from being awkward at parties, from setting my drink down at the first chair I came to, clinging to a woman who’d been my friend. Of course that’s the head table of one of the most beautiful baby showers I’d ever been to. Thank goodness nobody asked me to move like in the Jesus parable where he says you’re better off taking a table in back and being invited to go to the head table.
I wonder how I’ll ever deal with the great wedding feast if I freeze at a party where I know some people. What’s more with that party, we’ll get to sit in the presence of our enemies, which I take to mean we might do well to make as much peace as we can here in this life, because once the kingdom comes in, we’ll be table partners. I saw how deeply loved and honored three generations of women were—mother, mother to be and daughter on the way. It was a joyous celebration of hope for a child being born into a large and loving community. And I was glad for the mascara and tint and lipstick, and Christmas sweater from Bruce, that helped me join in the party.
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