I always thought my mom was pretty. She always took great pride in her appearance. I think a lot of that was due to her insecurities about her fair skin, her red hair, her blonde eyebrows and eyelashes. She never left the house without a fresh face of make-up on and her hair perfectly put together
(unless it was to pick us up from early morning seminary…in which case she wore her sunglasses). She always looked beautiful and nicely put together.
I remember my mom once telling me, when I was a kid, that she wanted to look good for my dad. I always thought it was sweet that even after years of marriage, mom wanted to look her best for my dad. Of course he loved her whether her make-up was on or off, but I’m sure he appreciated the fact that she made the effort to always look her best for him.
One of my mom’s obsessions now is her looks. However, it’s much more extreme now than it was before the dementia. She hides away from us until she is no longer a “Plain Jane”. She never worried about us seeing her without her make-up on around the house when we were kids. She doesn’t even like my dad to see her without it nowadays. She keeps it on at night (her pillow is orange from the residue of her foundation), washes her face in the morning and immediately puts on a fresh face before she steps foot out of her bedroom. But…she doesn’t quite have the talent she once had in doing her hair and make-up. Those who know her have noticed the change in her abilities.
On Monday, like many other days that I have gone over there, I arrived at my mom’s house and knocked on her bedroom door before she was “put together”. It usually takes several knocks before I get a response of any kind…if I even get a response at all. This time, I had a Mary Kay lip mask and balm that she had ordered from me and has been impatiently waiting for. I used that as bribery for her to open her door for me.
Immediately upon opening the door, mom fidgeted with her bangs and shyly turned her face away from me, stating,
“I didn’t want you to see me like this like a Plain Jane.”
I reassured her that it didn’t matter to me and invited myself in her room. I stood beside her at her bathroom sink and tried to converse with her as I studied her beauty regiment. First, she squirted a half-dollar-sized amount of Mary Kay foundation into the palm of her hand (which is highly pigmented…the size of a dime would be more than enough). She rubbed it onto her face, missing underneath her eyes and not blending into her hairline or jaw line whatsoever. Next, she took the same amount of a dark tan-colored Maybelline foundation and did the same.
“Whoa mom, let’s rub that in a little better,” I remarked, trying to help her blend in the lines. “I think this color is a little too dark for you,” I added.
“No I need to do this darker too cuz I don’t like that I’m such a really white person too. This is really good too and Bud really likes this color on me too,” she said, as she slathered it on.
“I remember this lady in Corona when we lived in Corona and she taught me us how to do these things really good too…” she told me. She submerged her powder puff into a container of powder and, without tapping any of it off, patted her face, re-dipping the powder puff after each pat on the various parts of her face (cheeks, forehead, nose, etc).
“My Aunt and Uncle say I look okay too, even though I feel like I look weird and differently too now in my 50’s but they say I still look okay too thank goodness, and other women at church too say that I still look good too which is so good too,” she continued as she slathered it all on.
She turned off the light in the bathroom and turned on a small light-up mirror which sat on her counter.
“This is such a good thing too. When Joe lived in that different place I had a different kind of mirror thing like this too and I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know if he has it still too,” she said. She swirled her cheek brush in a bright colored pink blush before vigorously rubbing it on her cheeks.
“This is my most favorite color,” mom remarked, as she applied her favorite navy blue eyeliner. “And Bud really likes it too, he really likes me this way too,” she added.
Mom continued to finish up her face: mascara (which she smudged on her eyelid), dark brown eyebrows and dark, pink lipstick. When she was finished with her make-up she turned her attention to her hair. After running the curling iron through her hair, she took not just one, but two cans of hairspray and explained to me that “that girl” who does her hair uses two different kinds of hairspray. She held the first can an inch away from her hair and sprayed, making her way around her head. When she came across a rogue hair, she would comb it down and plaster it with spray! When she was finished, she repeated the process with the second can. To finish up, mom took a bottle of Bath & Body Works spray and gave her hair several close-range squirts as she narrated,
“I tell Bud I put this on my hair too, he likes it too.”
She opened her blouse and put a few squirts down there as well as sprayed her arms and her hair-again.
As I watched my mom throughout this process, my initial reaction was to dive in there and tame down her “look”. But once I realized she wasn’t listening to a word I was saying (as I tried to help smooth out that jaw line) I just stood back and watched on. I admit it was partly amusing but a larger part of it was touching. I saw that innocence in my mom as she happily put her on make-up in an effort to look good for my dad. With every stroke of her brush and comment that “Bud likes it when I do this” I couldn’t help but to smile at the sweetness of it. Before, when I looked at my mom, all I could I see were the dramatic lines and colors that were too way dark for her complexion. Now, I see things a little differently. I see a woman who wants to look good for the man she loves. I see love.