A red for everybody

The TV anchors were mourning the loss of Ronald Reagan, and I was sitting in a random Tex-Mex restaurant in metro Atlanta, wondering if I, too, had lost my bloody mind. My brain was having trouble processing everything going on at once: Brian telling stories, chipper music from the radio station, Maggie Thatcher eulogizing Reagan, the utter tastiness of the quesadilla I was eating.

I could bow out of this at any time, of course. I had the number. I could call, fake a plausible excuse, and find some sunny green spot in a park somewhere in metro Atlanta and call it a day—and very few people would be the wiser. But see, I know myself better than some of my friends give me credit for, and I'd taken two steps that would virtually guarantee that I'd go through with my plan:

  1. Instead of the simpler, no-cost walkthrough, I'd requested an hourlong appointment with a cosmetologist, which would cost $40 and required accountability.
  2. I'd actually told friends of my plans. "If it's crap, I'll just wash it off afterwards."

Not only was I financially committed, Brian, Suzan, and Jeff would all know something was up if I showed up for the Lewis Black performance with an unpainted face. Therefore, I had to go through with it.

I wandered, early, through Perimeter Mall, once again proving that, given an unknown mall, I am genetically incapable of parking on the side of the mall I need to be on, and eventually found a small sunny area just past the store. I sat down and asked myself just what the hell I thought I was doing. Not those small, toe-nibbling doubts you get before you sleep at night, but the large, dwarves-wielding-axes-coming-for-your-ass-right-now-baby kind of doubts:

(Shut up, brain. You're not helping here.)

I decided to feign utter nonchalance and wander into the store. See if the woman I had an appointment with was available early. Get this over with. Fear and hope mingled as I wandered through the cosmetics; I was so obviously the plainest person in the store. Fear that I'd always still be the plainest person in the room. Hope that, with a little bit of help, maybe that wouldn't be the case any more.

"I'm a little early—traffic was lighter than I expected. I'm Samantha's two o'clock. Is there any way we could start a little early?"

The woman with green streaks in her hair shrugged. "Sorry. Samantha's scheduled her lunch break until right before your appointment. Maybe hang out in the atrium for a little while, or poke around and play with some of the stuff?"

I looked at the peacock colors and thought, No, not yet. I'd been brave enough to come in, but I'd already knocked over three different tubes in the five minutes since coming in the store. The only way I could more clearly demonstrate my nervousness would have been to actually start chewing on the lipstick, and I didn't think I could afford to pay for the damage.

"Yeah, I think I'll just wait in the atrium…"— and silently puke in the fake gardenias if that's okay with you, my mind added. I went outside and opted not to puke in the gardenias, as they were dusty. I sent text messages to a few friends and contemplated how excruciatingly funny this was going to be someday.

At two o'clock, I marched my chubby ass back in the store and found her. She had to be Samantha; she was the only woman working in the store who hadn't been there thirty minutes before—

—and with the kind of sudden sinking feeling you get when Fate stands up, smacks you around, and reminds you that you've been her bitch all along, I realized that I was going to be okay. My nemesis was probably half-Chinese, with half-finished angel-wing tattoos that spanned her back; she had more piercings than I could politely count, and neon-orange hair.

She made neon-orange hair look good, too.

"Hi. I'm Sam. You Amy?"

* * * * *

"I keep forgetting it's been so long since you wore makeup. So, let me see." She tilted my chin up and stared. "Well, people kill for skin this light and clear. Except for your dragon*con look, which should be heavier and more dramatic, you should be shot if you put a lot on this skin."

"Um, ok. That works. I'm pretty good at not putting on makeup."

"Oh, hush."

"Well, you're right on the line of being strawberry blonde, so what I'm going to do with your face is going to have a lot in common with what I'd do for a full redhead. Since full foundation's going to look really fake against your skin, because it's so pink, we're just going to use a tinted sunblock instead of foundation. It's all you really need, anyway."

Time passed.

"So tell me what you'd like to have happen with your eyelashes. Do you want them thicker? Longer? A bit of both?"

"Well, I don't really know. How about we start with 'not blonde' for starters?"

"Smartass." She paused. "But you do have a point."

She took periodic photos of the look as it developed. She demonstrated how to take the 'basic' look (which, I might add, takes much less time than I envisioned) and add additional color to darken and dramatize it for 'con.

"You know, this works really well for dragon*con, but there's something missing. Hrm." She stood there for a moment, pondering, before a crafty little smile appeared on her face. "I know what's missing."

She returned with a different color of lipstick. "Let's take this everyday lipstick off, and try something that works a little better against those eyes, since they've got more color in them. Ever worn red lipstick?"


"Pity. There's a red for everybody. This one's yours." She applied the lip liner and the lipstick, then showed me the mirror. Funny, she was right. I'd never thought much about my mouth, much less anything positive, but I looked in that mirror and when I smiled, it was genuine. I liked what I saw.

She took a photo, then removed the red—"it's not right for daytime wear"—and put the more muted daytime color back on. She asked if I wanted to leave the makeup on or wash it off, and my lunchtime conversation with Brian ("if it's terrible, I'll just wash it off and no one will be the wiser") flashed back through my head.

"No," I said. "Leave it on. I like it."

She wrote out what she suggested I use, and drew a little diagram on her card. I paid her for the appointment and walked out of the store a little more colorful than when I'd walked in. I had more time to kill before I was supposed to meet up with Brian and the gang for the Lewis Black show, so I took my time walking through the mall.

On the way out, I passed an Orange Julius. I'd looked at it longingly on the way in, wondering what it was like. I remembered stories told from a random friend, stories indicating that what they sold was tasty. I'd always wondered what their drinks tasted like, but just had never gotten around to trying one out. It might've been a national day of mourning for everyone else, but for me it was a day of bravery; what was one more tiny stab at the world after what I'd just done? Right: nothing.

Blackberry smoothie? Sure. I bought one, and when I put it down, the straw had little lipstick prints on it. The janitor next to me must have wondered why I laughed into my smoothie, but there was no need to explain.

None at all.

Photos of me, before and after.


Everyone looks better with a little eyeliner ... :). I like the makeup, and the accompanying tale.

WOW! Pretty make-up work :) I like how you still look natural with the make up on :)