I remember when I was a wee tad, I’d watch Mom do what she called ‘putting on her war paint’. The procedure began with her applying this beige-brown goop all over her face. Ladies call it ‘foundation’ now but back then, I think they called it ‘spackle’.
After laying the base, Mom would put some lipstick on, then apply a dab to her cheekbones and rub it in to get a rosy complexion. I don’t recall her ever applying eye shadow or mascara but she still ended up looking like the most beautiful woman in the world, at least until I met Cupcake. (Slick, eh?)
I was always mystified why women would want to laboriously apply makeup. Is it some secret women’s code, (like the man’s code but doesn’t get paid as much)? Is it because they enjoy admiring themselves in the mirror as they slather on product? Women spend about $2 billion on makeup annually in North America, despite the reality if they stopped wearing makeup, men would still want to be around them.
I was thinking about makeup recently because of the role I am playing in the Calmar Prairie Players annual spring production. This year we are doing another world premier of a locally written play, “The Crimson Cap Ladies Catch a Con”. It is a sequel of last year’s well-received laugher, “The Crimson Cap Ladies Save the Day.”
I am playing a woman named Eunice in this production and I must say it’s been the most emotionally difficult role I’ve ever taken on. In order to get into character I start by being hyper-critical of my looks, then I become filled with self-doubt and turn on the seat warmer in the car on the way to rehearsal, to simulate hot flashes.
Cupcake is the director of the show and is far more critical of me than my cast-mates. I do everything wrong, from how I walk to how I hold a purse. I had no idea being a woman was this complicated. I thought it consisted mostly of snapping fingers and having males do your bidding, plus never having to buy another drink in a bar again. Apparently there’s more to it.
Our makeup lady for the play, Kelsey, who is also our stage manager, wanted to practice making me look female before the show. Last Friday was selected for the experiment. I was startled by the size of bag Kelsey felt she needed to haul all the concoctions and equipment needed to make me pretty. Well, pretty is a bit of a stretch. Actually, so is handsome. I certainly know which Dove door I will be selecting to walk through. It’s sad I aspire just to be average.
The first potion Kelsey applied was this stuff that all she needed was a dab smaller than a pea, which managed to cover my entire face, including my enormous, crevasse-like laugh lines. It made the other makeup stick better or some such, I think she said. Then came the foundation goop just like mother used to cake. Kelsey kneaded it in like my face was made of dough. I must have big pores. Then she opened a whole palette of powders that were to do the work of mom’s slash of lipstick on her cheek.
Throughout the ordeal, Kelsey explained what she was doing as if thinking I will apply it myself one day. I listened politely, having nothing else to do.
“You use the lightest shades at the top, just under your eyebrow and then work it steadily darker downward, except right close to your eye where we need to shade it really light to make your eyes look bigger,” she instructed. I suspect she’d given this same speech to young girls who were trying to learn the basics.
A giant soft brush was hauled out to add a layer of powder to the look. As she worked her magic, she seemed quite amused at her handiwork and a couple times I am sure I caught her stifling laughter with an unconvincing cough. I began to dread the outcome.
Finally, grinning with glee, she proclaimed me done. I went to inspect the result in our bathroom, (in private, in case I decided I needed a bit of a cry). I looked like the ugliest drag-queen I’d ever seen. I sighed mightily as I absorbed the image and cosmetic chemicals. I’d make a lousy woman.
(Please go to calmardramasociety.com for tickets to see the result in person.)