Western North Carolina Woman

by lavinia plonka

Vain (L. vanus - empty, void, idle, etc.)
1. Devoid of real value, worth, or significance; idle, unprofitable, useless, of no effect, force or power; fruitless, futile, unavailing.
2. Given to, or indulging in personal vanity; having an excessively high opinion of one’s personal appearance, attainments, qualities, possessions, etc; delighting in or desirous of attracting the admiration of others; conceited. (Oxford Dictionary)

My youngest sister Krysia, her characteristic hunched shoulders notwithstanding, had transformed herself into Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Her unruly locks had been shaped and ironed into a sleek helmet that framed her ruby lips and perfect eyebrows. I couldn’t stop staring, thinking of my virtually non-existent, painted on pretenders. I asked her how she had achieved such eyebrow perfection. “I just had them done today,” she flashed me her movie star smile. How had I lived to such a ripe old age without having a clue what it meant to have one’s eyebrows “done?” Sitting in that trendy Pasadena restaurant, I became suddenly aware of my sagging cheeks, age spots, red nose and of course my bleeding lipstick oozing down my newly discovered lip wrinkles. (Smile! Just smile a lot!) “Wow. How long does it last?” I ask in admiration. She looks at me with that experienced younger sister smile, “About a month.” Oh for goodness’ sake, who has the time for that! She squints professionally at my eyebrows. “Hmmm, your eyebrows need a little…” “Oh, no, I’m not getting them done!” “No, no! But we could get you some nice stuff….” “And maybe you could get her some base,” pipes in my other sister. “I don’t need base,” I protest, “I just need some tinted moisturizer, you know, to even the skin tone out.” “You need base,” they say in unison. “Maybe if I get back to standing on my head daily,” I demur. “You need base.” “Acupressure?” They purse their liplinered, non-runny, 8 hour lipsticked lips.

The next day Krysia is on a mission. The mall? Sephora? Rexall? We pull into the drug store parking lot. I know she is choosing this because she’s afraid I might faint at the Chanel counter. I discover that there is a mascara for touching up the roots of your hair. Krysia expertly runs up and down the counter smearing various lipsticks on her hand, squinting her eyes as she looks from her hand to my face. She insists on powdering my face. “No! No! You don’t understand!” I cry. I feel like David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell to Earth” after they fused his humanoid contacts to his alien eyes. The look on his face as he said, “Now they’ll never come off.” How can I explain to my little sister, still in the bloom of peachy skin that powder merely settles in the crevices of my ample naso-labial folds, expanding my crow’s feet, entrenching itself in the furrows of my brow making me look like Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest? She stares at the result. “Oh,” is her only comment, “I see what you mean.”

Face raw from towelette rubbing, I follow dumbly. Krysia has been struck with inspiration. She drags me across Hollywood Boulevard to a mall. A 7 story mall. She actually knows what floor to go to for my magic transformation. We get off at the sixth floor and enter a make up emporium that shall remain nameless. Everything is done in black and pink. Loud techno blasts through the speakers. Dozens of make up artists flit about as they attend to bridesmaids, rock star wannabes and serious make up shoppers. “See, I usually use a liquid liner. But it doesn’t give me that soft, smudge effect. You know, kind of smoky,” says a middle aged woman to a gaunt, pale employee with tattoos down her arms, her dyed black hair in 7 pig tails sticking out all over her head, a ring through her nose and dayglo green eyeshadow.

The staff is all dressed in black. Torn fishnets, black tank tops held together with elastic bands, bustiers and low, low riders are the norm - no matter body shape or size. Everyone is wearing make-up, including the men. No, not just make up. Designs are painted in their faces. Beauty marks painted on. Black lip liner. I start backing up. Krysia looks at me in surprise and disappointment. “Come on, Veen, don’t tell me you’re freaked out! I remember when I was a little girl you looked just like this. Except your hair was green.” Oh, right. What DID I do with my black lipstick? My spiked leather choker? MY FISHNETS! I recalled Ecclesiastes, (my Catholic School education leaps up at me at the most inopportune moments) “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, "See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” Suddenly it occurs to me that while I wasn’t looking, I was possessed by adulthood!

Gripping the arms of the director’s chair Krysia has put me in, I subject myself to the scrutiny of a young woman in torn pants, a pony tail sticking out of the top of her head and pink eyeshadow accented by a swirling curve of black polka dots. “Hmmmm. Well, you know my makeover fee is $45.” “I don’t want a make over!” My voice is a lot louder than I planned. Like E F Hutton, the heads in the room turn to stare at me. Krysia pats my hand. “It’s OK, Sis. No one’s going to make you over.”

45 minutes and $75 later, I tremblingly leave the store. I have no idea what I have ended up with. Krysia and the salesgirl had conferred and suggested, “No, I don’t think she’s ever gonna wear the lip liner, she can’t draw a straight line….” I had weakly protested, saying that I had been a professional performer. I had done all kinds of characters, worn all kinds of make up. “That was on stage,” Krysia smiled. “You’ll never wear the lip liner, right?” She is right.

For two weeks the bag sat on my bathroom sink. Then I tried the eyebrow stuff. Huh. Look at that. It looks 100 times better than my old eye shadow. I grabbed the all day lipstick stuff with the separate compartment containing special lip conditioner to “refresh” my look.

My lips didn’t bleed. After eating, my lips did not look like Dracula after a particularly good bite. I finally tried the base. (“I swear Lavinia, it’s so light, it doesn’t look like you’re wearing anything! Try it!”) and went out. Within minutes at a function, a friend said, “WOW! You look great!” I thanked him demurely, wondering to myself whether one reason for presbyopia in middle age is to keep us appreciating our friends’ good points……

So I’m not about to get a face lift. But I’ve decided to go along with a saying a colleague of mine. Once we were dressing for a performance and someone was upset about a huge zit. Alan suggested painting a star around it. “If you can’t hide it, decorate it!” he pronounced. Although Ecclesiastes says it so much better, “…..vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

When not standing on her head in her vain attempts to defy gravity, Lavinia teaches others to stand on their heads, leap, walk and run as if they were young using the The Feldenkrais Method® and a sense of humor.

Western North Carolina Woman Magazine
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