Eyes on the prize
“If I like it, it’s gone.”
I grew up listening to my mother recite this: part prediction, part curse. The first time I remember hearing it was in the makeup aisle at a big-box store. In keeping with my recent columns, it’s important to note that my mom is a sophisticated lady — one who religiously wears lipstick.
Oh, the frustration of finding the right shade. One that doesn’t wash you out nor turn you into Elvira; a hue that naturally flatters without imprinting on your coffee cup. When I was getting married, I became obsessed with testing red lipsticks. My list of requirements was long. Chief among them, of course, was finding one that Spencer wouldn’t be forced to wear as well.
I eventually found the perfect color and formula, but probably blew $50 before reaching that decision. Day to day? I have about five minutes to do my hair and makeup — so I’ve become a lip balm girl. Tinted ones are about as wild as I get.
Of the women in my family, I’m undoubtedly the oddball. My mom, sister, aunts and grandmothers always have their hair and faces done, cute tops and sparkly jewelry on. Mom could be — and has been — sick as a dog, and she would still slick on her lipstick.
My sister is similarly chic. I remember taking Katie to get her wisdom teeth removed as a teen; she was wearing a trendy shirt with a long, colorful necklace. To have dental surgery. The first order of business back home was to suggest she change into pajamas. You know: like I now do the second I walk in the door each day.
Mom doesn’t wear ChapStick, and Katie prefers lip gloss. These are the things you learn about your family after many years of prepping for parties, proms and regular ol’ days together.
So my mom, on one of our many Walmart runs growing up, went to purchase a new tube of her favorite Max Factor lipstick . . . only to discover it was being discontinued. The shelves were already picked over. I can still recall her panic at the sight of the clearance stickers.
This was, of course, before online shopping and Amazon. com: digital land of ridiculously specific items all accessible from a handheld device. There was no Max Factor swap group on Facebook; no hues available at a premium on eBay. Waldorf in the early ’90s was a one Walmart town. And if Walmart didn’t have it, who would?
I don’t have particularly strong feelings about lipstick, but I do about eyeliner. It took a little convincing, but I finally wore my parents down enough to let me start wearing it in eighth grade. I’ve been wearing it (almost) daily since I was 13. I started experimenting with eye pencils, imitating a friend with dark-blue swoops.
To their credit, Mom and Dad said little about this look . . . or any of my other beauty trend attempts circa 1999. For example? I thought it would be super cool to braid a lock of hair at my temple, securing it with a neon elastic dental band meant to be worn with my braces.
I wish I were kidding, but there are photos. Lots of photos.
Around the start of high school, I also decided to tweeze my eyebrows — something I knew little about, but probably saw in “Seventeen” magazine — and, as you’d imagine, completely overdid it. As I recall, one eyebrow became terribly skinny . . . so I had to fix the other to match, right? I mean, that would look weird.
I did catch some flak for that mishap. But I deserved it. And anyway, it was the early ‘00s; pencil-thin brows were soon a thing. I was just ahead of my time. A trendsetter, if you will.
When it comes to eyeliner, the only makeup I truly cannot live without, I’ve tried countless brands and formulas: gel eyeliners and liquid eyeliners, pencils and brushes. By lunchtime, everything winds up under my eyebrows or raccoon-like beneath my lids. Or, you know, just magically gone — like it was never there. Where does it go? Questions without answers.
After 18 years of scouring counters and shelves for the perfect eyeliner, I finally found one I adore (Maybelline Lasting Drama waterproof gel pencils, if you’re on a similar hunt). The “lasting” on the packaging was what got me. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good marketing.
Of course, as with everything I try, this product doesn’t truly last all day — but it stays put longer than any eyeliner has before.
Once I realized how awesome this pencil is, I thought of my mom fiendishly hoarding Max Factor lipsticks. Knowing time with her beloved makeup was precious, she put my sister and me — sharp kid eyes — to work picking through whatever remained for any and all tubes of her favorite hue: something like Sedona Sunset. Or Rustic Rose.
I’m sure we found a few. But in the end, a day came in which Mom had to resume her hunt for a new shade. “If I like it, it’s gone,” she’d always say, citing numerous examples of products and TV shows and stores and restaurants she has loved and lost.
I didn’t get that as a kid (or even a twenty-something), but I do now. It’s taken me decades to track down this eyeliner. I can’t go through that again.
The only issue? Buying this eye pencil wasn’t initially noteworthy; I didn’t pay attention to where it came from. And then I couldn’t find more.
After much fruitless searching, I was getting panicky. Was it a seasonal thing? A special edition? I found it from online retailers, but the colors were limited or the mark-up was gross. How desperate was I?
Very — until last weekend, anyway. I struck up a conversation with a woman also looking at makeup in Target.
“Sorry,” she said, pushing her cart to one side. “I don’t know what I’m looking for.”
“I do!” I returned. “Whether it’s here is . . .”
But it was. On a single peg was a Lasting Drama pencil — just one — in black (sorry: “sleek onyx”), which happened to be what I was after. The hooks around it were bare, but my joy at its discovery snuffed out my fears about it now being hard to find.
No clearance stickers, so I’m hoping everyone else has just discovered how awesome it is . . . and Target will restock shortly.
And when they do? I’ll be ready.
This eyeliner and me? Riding off into the Sedona Sunset for sure.