I spent the last years of my educational career in Austin working as director for a law/humanities magnet school on Congress Avenue. While there, I met a whole crew of interesting people on staff, including a former attorney who taught, among other things, a popular course entitled Street Law. Another gem, Ms. G, taught beginning and advanced journalism and secured the help of a former teacher friend, Ms. Sarah L, who volunteered to help her in the classroom every so often. I’d see Ms. Sarah hobble into the hallway with her walker, an elderly escort helping to get her settled. (Sarah L., it turns out, will be the new school’s namesake—so perfect!)
One day, I don’t recall what brought it up, but Ms. G and I were talking. My office was directly across the hall from her classroom. She told me that as she was about to be married, her mother said to her, “Morgan, unfortunately you’re a very plain looking young woman. Therefore you will need to leave your make up applied when you go to bed each night. When your husband falls asleep, only then should you get up and wash it all off. Of course, you’ll need to get up early to re-apply before he awakens.”
I was floored. Maybe it’s because I’m also a very plain looking young woman. Maybe it’s because I never knew I was supposed to do this! Maybe my mother was remiss in suggesting it before my wedding day. Maybe she knew I’d never go for it because neither did she! I was shocked to hear this from Ms. G because she’s a bigger than life personality. Gold, silver, and bronze stars lined the entry to her classroom: awards for outstanding journalistic submissions to competitions by her students! The idea that she would need to “fudge” anything to please anyone just broke my heart.
We’ve been watching The Marvelous Ms. Maisel series lately. The series is loosely based on the life of Joan Rivers, who had a tough time breaking into the man’s world of comedy in the fifties and sixties. Viewers don’t know why she does it, but the young, newly married Ms. Maisel is shown going to bed with base, liner, shadow, mascara—full facial makeup. As soon as her husband falls asleep, she gets up, washes it away and lies back down quietly. When her alarm sounds in the early morning hours, she gets up, reapplies all of it and lies back in bed as if still asleep. This, then, was exactly what Ms. G described to me! I checked to see if this was a cultural tradition of certain groups of women of the fifties and sixties or not. As far as I can tell, it came about purely as a marketing department’s dream. No one group subscribed to it, but somehow women talked about it, (probably at the beauty salon) and word spread. This would be the ticket to keeping your man! After all, it was a man’s world!
Now my sisters and I performed quite a lot of makeup applications—it was a perfect winter activity when we could either shovel snow with friends, or watch Gunsmoke with the family. So I am no stranger to cosmetics, however, the idea of mucking up a perfectly good pillowcase for no reason trying to look like Sophia Loren or the new curvey model for Revlon, Ashley Graham, seems ridiculous! I throw a hissy fit anytime I accidentally fall asleep with my makeup on, and immediately take my pillowcase off and throw it in the laundry. I take one look at myself, red-eyed and headachy from contacts that never got removed, goopy eyed, and sometimes I tell myself I’m just too old to be doing any of this any more. I just want to revert back to the simple, plain look instead of the simple, plain, made up look that takes so much more time and effort to achieve!
After all, no one really cares….. except me.