For some of us slow learners, it takes the better part of a lifetime to understand why certain things are ever needed. Even so, I can thing of a few that I still haven’t puzzled out.
Take eyeshadow, for instance. Whether one is buying at a drug store or a high-end department store, the precious powder in the desired shade is invariably offered only as part of an eyeshadow “duo”—a devilish marketing device that makes sure we buy twice as much as we need and half of what we get is a color we didn’t even want.
Even worse are the eyeshadow palettes, which provide six or eight allegedly complimentary colors. Invariably, four of the six and five of the eight will barely get used while the others are all but totally gone, leaving one with the “keep it or trash it” dilemma that usually results in the remainder being pushed into the back of the drawer or under the sink or wherever unused makeup goes to die.
And combs. Not decorative combs or those used for the perfect French twist. I get those. I understand the need for wide-tooth and fine-tooth combs, but I suspect that only one half of those combs with both kinds of teeth get used. My sister, who had enough hair to cover the heads of three women with enough left over to make a Liza-style wig, couldn’t have dragged the fine tooth part of the comb through that mane.
Folks with fine hair, on the other hand, would seemingly gravitate to their end of the comb, and would never need to use the wide-tooth portion except to get a little lift going. Even that assumes they hadn’t already tortured and teased that hair with back-combing, which is done with a fine-tooth comb. (We won’t judge those who back-brush; they have enough to handle.)
Then there is the hand mirror, an essential tool for seeing oneself as others do. Used in conjunction with the mirror over the dressing table, a 360 degree view becomes available. One can check out the left side and then the right side, and go all the way to the back to see if that French twist needs a little adjusting or how the clothes are hanging.
Many hand mirrors come with the regular side and the magnifying side. For years, I never understood why you would subject yourself to looking at your face with that other side of the mirror. There for one to see, and presumably what the rest of the world can see as well, is every blemish, pore, and imperfection blindingly enlarged so as to destroy every bit of one’s self-confidence.
Then fading eyesight trumped my youthful hubris, and it became necessary to bite the bullet as hard as necessary without damaging the dental work, and flip that hand mirror over to use the magnifying side. For me, it was the day I had applied mascara and still couldn’t see my eyelashes. I knew what I had to do, and I somehow knew it wouldn’t be pretty.
Flipping that mirror, I gazed at the enlarged eyelashes and found that only minor adjustments were needed to correct a slight clump or two. But then I noticed that the shadow wasn’t quite balanced, so I fixed that, too. And perhaps a few swipes with the brush would blend the blush better under the cheekbone. Accepting that the magnifying side of the hand mirror is necessary to adult life at this (un)certain age was a rite of passage.
Now, I can look in that mirror at my face, naked except for the layering of softening lotions, serums, and moisturizers that presumably plumb and smooth away the years, at least as many years as Estee Lauder can handle. Relatively late in life, I’ve learned that it never really made much sense to try to correct an imperfection that I wasn’t really willing to look at close up. After all, how can we tone up the lines, sags, and wrinkles if we don’t even admit that they’re there in the first place?
Truth is, the whole process of achieving the desired outcome really is facilitated when we see things more closely and clearly, allowing us to blend and highlight and sometimes even contour the needed corrections to construct the overlay of a flawed foundation.
I understand the need for the magnifying mirror now, and I can even acknowledge that maybe some folks really do use both ends of that comb. But someone (who doesn’t sell cosmetics for a living) is going to need to help me understand why I really need all those eyeshadow duos and palettes.
Oh, and also eyebrow and lip pencils that can’t really be sharpened. Someone can explain those to me while we’re at it.