Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When Life Bites, Buy a Lipstick

Life hasn't been going the way I'd like lately. Among the frustrations, I've begun to despair that my beloved homestead will not get her long-deserved facelift anytime soon, and even if it does happen, the plans may be drastically altered. Not something I want!

Until about two months ago, my tantrum might take the form of binge eating. Now, I've found another way to channel any anger...

Revenge beauty!

Because of some potentially serious health concerns, I've been in consultation with my primary care doctor for symptom relief. He has been the first doctor to frankly confront me about my excess body mass, and its connection to my aches and pains. I got on board with his recommendations, and I'm almost 20 pounds lighter as a result (and more to go before I reach my goal weight). Even my face has lots its chubby-chipmunk contours already. Cue the West Side Story song, "I feel pretty...".

Today, I felt particularly grumpy; not a good frame of mind for the business I'm in. During a much-needed break, I was in Magnolia Boulevard's "Burbank Village" cluster of antique shops, not to empty my wallet, but to window shop for ideas for the house. I'm a woman who couldn't care less about shoes (gender traitor!), but stores with "old stuff" just beckon and reel me in. Unfortunately, the store I'd specifically driven over to visit was closed for the day due to redecorating. Now what?

Standing at Magnolia and Avon, I almost headed back to the car, until I saw a high-placed neon sign in the next block down, with the word "Besame." What was this? Why not find out while I was there?

Opening the front door, I felt as if I'd stepped into a parlor set in the early 1920s. There were chairs almost identical to some of the furniture I have in my living room, dark hardwood floors, posters of lovely ladies of the Silver Screen era, and matching paneling on the walls. A slender, dark-haired woman named Gabrielle was presiding over the counter, featuring displays of antique cosmetic packaging in the case below. They all looked exactly like some of the lipstick tubes and compacts I grew up seeing on my mother's and grandmother's dressing tables. They had always tantalized me as a child, if for no other reason than I was forbidden to touch any of them. But Mom's and Grandmother's sitting in front of their mirrors seemed like such a serious ritual, and I wanted to be part of that so badly. I wanted admission to this mysterious sisterhood of full-on femininity. Mom used to watch the Loretta Young Show in the afternoons. I always longed to be like that lady, floating toward the camera in her yards and yards of gauzy chiffon... Never mind that I didn't like little girls' sewing projects, regularly got my Sunday School dress dirty playing in our basement coal bin, or had three rowdy neighborhood boys as my best pals...I wanted to feel beautiful.

Gabrielle allowed me to try on a bit of American Beauty red lipstick. Red? Timid soul that I am, I'd always stuck with purchasing mauves, deep pinks, and brownish hues. But this was different. With such a brief, simple act, I felt Loretta Young-glamorous. My day turned around at that moment. I got it; a simple bit of primping did work wonders. Sold!

We chatted some more, Gabrielle and I, and then I felt I had the wherewithal to get back to my day.

So, I've been converted. I'm now a red-lipstick girl. Never mind this current trend toward "nude" make-up. That reminds me too much of the whitish lip gloss of seventh grade. Besides, I don't want to look anemic.

I've read at various times that during difficult times in history--the Depression, immediate post-911, the recent recession--cosmetic sales, particularly lipstick, have actually increased. With my own sweet experience this afternoon, I can see why. To discover (or be reminded) of one's own beauty is such a transformative, deeply personal moment.

I promised Gabrielle I would post about my experience. And no, of course, I will not gain anything by it, save for the enjoyment of sharing it with others. Visit www.besamecosmetics.com.

The lipstick is still on, and I'm almost reluctant to wash my face tonight. But I will enjoy this American Beauty as much as I did my first lipstick, a frosted pink tube from Yardley, a gift for my 13th birthday in 1967. Such sweet memories.

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