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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The little zipper bag

Fall is, as they say, drawing on apace, and the orb-weaver spiders have moved into the tomato patch.

I'm at war with the mirror, lately, because the hospital stay robbed me of a good half of the gains I made on two years' HRT. The icon at upper right is about as good as my looks ever got. I'm a bit of a tired harridan right now, and not at all cheerful about it.

This is forcing me to work hard at the makeup.

Beloved, of course, uses none at all, nor do many of my friends. I, on the other hand, curl up and die when I discover I've left the little zipper bag at home.

It adds an extra half hour to my morning to mess with this stuff, but the results lead me to believe I can face the day, and that's reason enough to pursue this art.

Whenever I played at gender crossing, I would dash on a bit of lipstick, too red, and that feeling of being able to, say, leave lipstick on a glass, along with wearing the blouse, skirt, and shoes, seemed to fill a need -- as I've said before, more a yearning than getting a buzz. It was easily wiped off, and my secret world was fairly secure.

Now that I'm safely installed in womanhood, I have the opposite set of problems -- how to keep the lip color, etc. -- and so, I'm beginning to discover a complex and mysterious world, full of pitfalls because the merchants of beauty promise so much and deliver so little. If, like me, you're on a fairly strict budget, you won't find out what's really good, perhaps, but you can do a lot with a little if you try.

When I rise, the first order of business is HRT. The little blue pill isn't swallowed but held beneath the tongue until, like a tiny lozenge, it fades away. The taste is pleasant to me. I check the night's disasters in the mirror, then wash briefly -- too much soap adds to the trouble -- and towel off briskly, then apply, then and there, a fairly liberal mask, almost, of lanolin. This is allowed to soak in, while I run hot water and get out the razor. It's a pricey brand but nothing else I have tried works as well so far. And I have to have a good razor.

In spite of 18 months of electrology, I'm shaving quite a bit. Most of the hair visible most of the time, on my chin, cheeks and neck, is white, because my operator is going after all the black hairs first. A girl with a white beard can be kind of weird looking, though, so I apply a tiny bit of gel, with hot water, and take the "trees" off at "ground" level. Afterwards I clean and dry the razor, using the blowdryer if necessary. This gets me many more shaves.

This will last all day, but if I'm going somewhere in the evening and can't come back to the house, I have another razor with me for emergency touch-ups. That pink soap in the dispenser in the ladies' room will do for this. I'm shy, so I do this in the disabled access stall if there is one, which often has its own mirror.

Electro Day is Friday, and I tend to avoid meeting new people or going to power lunches on Friday with a day-old grizzle all over my chin.

After the shave, I may use a second layer of lanolin. Excess I rub into my arms and hands.

My next move is to even out the tone of my face a bit by going after age spots and other blemishes with concealer. This comes in a tube like lipstick, and works best if it's tapped lightly against the blotch rather than rubbed across it. This has to match one's overall skin tone well, and if you tan you might consider getting one color for summer and one for winter. If you can afford it, get your color matching done by a cosmetologist or at least a really experienced saleslady. I do my own -- but it's work. I'm getting by reasonably well on one tube of Medium.

Next, apply a thin coating of foundation but only where required. I'm using an inexpensive but, for me, effective product. Its name stretches the truth a bit, but I have seen worse. I work around and on the nose, under the eyes, along the cheek bones where I have sun damage, and a few age spots. Oh, and the chin. What I'm doing is taking out red and brown zones to get the same pink all over that I have in the better places. This, too, is not smeared on but patted into place, using a fluttering motion of the fingers.

Now I reach for lipliner, a major tool for me. I've run out of my better stuff, and have the only thing I could get on short notice. I've been unhappy with almost everything I've tried from this company, notably nail polish, but the lipliner is ... acceptable. The idea is to draw the mouth you want, adding more bow on the upper lip, for a fuller mouth that is a bit "closer" to your nose. I fill in toward the real lips until it's all blended.

Instead of lipstick, currently I'm using their lipcolor, again because it was what I could get, and, again, it works reasonably well. My color seems to be between pink and coral, and different every day.

My eye shadow, which I do next, is a good brand. As in costly. Anything less slides off before morning break.

Everyone seems to think you need foam wedges or little foam brushes to work with eye shadow, but I don't know -- I dip my middle finger in the shadow and once -- twice -- on each upper eyelid, and it looks just right to me. If I have to take some off, I may use a cotton swab with a hint of lanolin on it, which is great for cleaning up mascara from lower eyelids, too.

I may use a grey eyeliner above the lashes on my lower eyelids. The brand I have on hand is okay, but it seems a bit hard-surfaced. I've learned that you can fix that by putting it in the microwave for three or four seconds. [Warning -- more seconds than that and it will explode all over the inside of the oven!]

The blush from the compact is the only one I have ever tried. I use the brush, a generous size, that came with the compact, and make a softly blended triangle from below each ear to a point about halfway across the cheekbone toward my nose. It's a good color for me. One of my students gave me this kit --- with Night and Day lotions and mascara -- for my birthday because her mom is a company rep, and they consulted together from a photo of me and the mom did a good job, I think.

The mascara is either brown or black and, different strokes ... I do the lower lashes first. just downwards from above, then the uppers first from above and then below, sweeping outwards. The effect is very pleasing and it can be powerful -- the difference sometimes between being "read" or "clocked" and not read, in a crunch.

Hot weather is hard on all this, as it's not exactly premium. You can help it a bit by "setting" your face with a decent finishing powder. I'm using an old favorite, still made after all these years. I like their perfume too, even though it marks me as an oldtimer, but we have a sensitive sniffer at work so I don't wear any. But the lightly scented powder apparently passes. The powder puff that comes with these things is absolutely unmanageable for me, so I splurged on a really nice powder brush. The bristles are extra fine and wispy, and fan out about three-and-a-half inches. I take the puff, tap it on the inside of the lid to dislodge enough powder, and then whisk it up with the brush, as when one stirs Japanese green tea. Now there is a light dusting of the powder all across the brush. This I whisk onto my face pretty evenly everywhere, including my lips. If the result looks a little too dull, there's a tube of coral lipstick in the compact, with a little bit of gloss, that matches lipcolor well enough and can highlight it a little.

Done!

Oh, and if I've worn curlers all night, I take them out now, shake down my hair, brush it lightly and I'm off to get dressed, put in earrings and the like.

Hair care for me is not fancy -- yet. I shampoo twice a week and rinse every other day with conditioner -- don't get the shampoo with conditioner in it, except maybe in a tiny bottle for travel -- brush forward, blow dry until almost dry, and flip back.

Late! And I forgot breakfast -- again! I grab a can of "nutirional drink"on the way out the door. It's not ladylike to drink this stuff and drive, but at least my face is done.

It must be working, because I've taken a friend from the library to lunch, who offered, "The rest of us drag in, in our sweatshirts, with bags under our eyes, and you always dress sharp and look great. How do you do it?"

Ah, music to a girl's ears ... I know I don't look quite "great," but there seems to be no substitute, in this department, for effort. Hopefully it's paying off.

-- risa b

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