Pondering the Weapons on Her Vanity Table

Bonfires of the vanity indeed
Bonfires of the vanity indeed
Photo by Taleen Washington

She pulls out the well-used case and lays out her makeup and brushes with the precision of a surgeon – mascara, foundation, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner…no, STOP, no eyeliner. It’s daytime and her appearance has to withstand the harsh glare of direct sunlight. For this she’ll need a steady hand and a subtle touch. She starts with moisturizer. Something with Retin A to help reduce the signs of wrinkles. Something with SPF 15 to protect against the sun damage of new wrinkles.

The magnified makeup mirror she has to use these days to see shows every single one of those wrinkles as she applies the drugstore brand of moisturizer that’s become her staple because she honestly can’t tell the difference between Oil of Olay and the more expensive department store brands she’s tried. She knows it’s a losing battle; all she can do is postpone the inevitable…for as long as she possibly can.

She stopped using liquid foundation a couple of years ago when she noticed that it only seemed to darken the age spots instead of hiding them. It took a little getting used to, but now she actually prefers the powdered foundation. It feels lighter on her skin. Her blush, like her lipstick, is pale pink. Two shades lighter than the dusty rose of her youth. She can still wear the darker shade in the evening, but daylight requires a lighter approach. Something that won’t be exaggerated into a clown’s mask when the hot flashes hit. Her eye shadow is a pale gray, sometimes a soft pink or brown, but always minimal for day wear. A touch of mascara and a quick sweep of clear eyebrow gel and she’s done.

She stares back at the face she sometimes doesn’t even recognize as her own anymore and analyzes it critically, wondering if she should consider cosmetic surgery. The lines around her mouth and sagging jaw line are hard to take…she might decide to do something about that someday…maybe? The crow’s feet around her eyes she actually likes. If she did decide to try cosmetic surgery, it would never be for her eyes. She’s seen the results of too-pulled faces after a full facelift. Scary masks trying to eliminate wrinkles but only succeeding in removing all evidence of life, not age.

Laugh lines. That's a better, more accurate term for the fine lines gathered in the corners of her eyes. Hard-earned wisdom, life’s joys as well as its sorrows are all visible there in her eyes. There’s been plenty of both, but the joys far outweigh the sorrows. A small smile appears, and she nods at her reflection in the vanity mirror. The reflection meets her gaze full on, unflinching, and nods back in agreement.


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