My tween asked me that while getting ready for a school dance – and I realized that I get to do this thing, that I am invited to participate in a special moment of a twelve-year old, that I am privileged to take part in what she called “the biggest dance of the year.” Her older sister used to fill this role. Her older sister is off to college now, and I get to step in and help choose clothes and instruct in an off-handed, sideways sort of manner on the hows and whys of being a girly girl.
“Just stand still. Relax. Relax your eyes,” I said as I applied a light layer of mineral powder. No need for makeup yet for her peachy skin. Relaxing her eyes was a trick yet not mastered, though. She scrunched her lids with every touch of the eyeliner at first, over and over, until I showed her the difference on my own eye. We laughed.
“I don’t want the gel eyeshadows, they smudge,” she said.
“They won’t. Lets apply the powder base first… ” and the silvery shimmer stayed on her lids just right. Not too much and not too little. “I don’t have a mascara for you – you don’t want my eye germs in your eyes.” And I don’t want you to have to take it all off with a Brillo pad, I thought, but I kept that to myself. Then there was a lip liner and a moisturizer and one of those 24-hours lipsticks that don’t rub off, all with my ongoing instructions.
“But, my eyebrows,” she said.
“Yes, you have lovely and natural eyebrows, and we are not going to pluck them right now,” I said. “However, I have this thing…” she watched me rummage in a bin. “Aha! This, my dear, is called an eyebrow brush. And it has a little comb…” and we combed and brushed her eyebrows – but the hair had a mind of their own.
“I don’t know,” she said, pouting at her reflection in the mirror.
“We’ll glue’em in place,” I decided. “Here, this is a hair gel and you need just a little bit…” And the eyebrows were wrangled into submission, and my tween daughter had a new, quick, and painless technique in her beauty arsenal.
“Your hair is a bit frizzy,” I commented. Isn’t it ever, what with central heat and dry air and freezing air outside? I reached for a little spray bottle. “Check the label. ‘ANTI-FRIZZ.'” Few pushes on the nozzle, few brush strokes, air scented by spun sugar and organosilicates – and the hair was tamed, too, and my tween suddenly looked five years older. Yeesh! I was so glad to draw a line at the mascara. She stood there in her LandsEnd velvet dress and my pantyhose, with her first-ever high heels clicking on the bathroom tile. Because, you know, it’s hard to get low-heel shoes that still look formal and fancy.
“Put your fuzzy boots on and carry your shoes,” I said. “You can change when you get there. Your feet will hurt later anyway.”
“No, seriously. It’s freezing outside. There will be ice in the parking lot. You can hide your boots under your coat, once you’re inside.”
I could almost see the logistical calculations go on behind her eyes. “Yeah, okay, I guess that would work.”
Then her father came home and I roped him into driving her – as soon as we pick the right jewelry. Not those pearls, not these. But the black ones – not too long, and fancy enough.
“Have a good time!” I kissed her hair and smiled. She looked like a young lady for about fifteen seconds. Then she gave me her familiar grin, the one that goes all the way to her eyes and makes her glasses sit crooked on her nose. The same grin she flashed my way when she accidentally hit me with a ball during racquetball.
“Yeah, thanks Mom, I will!”
I followed her with my eyes all the way to the car. She didn’t really need my help with the makeup. She doesn’t really need my help making her bento lunches for school almost every day, either. She chooses to invite me into her life, tell me about the books she is reading, she makes sure I still have a job to do.
I won’t let her know I caught onto her scam.
I like doing her makeup.