Eyes on the prize

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

“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.

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