I don’t know where they get it from, these chocolate little girl pies with their affinity for baby pink fingernail polish and glossy lips and butterfly necklaces and cute shoes. It’s certainly not from their mother. Most afternoons when Mari and Lila tumble off the school bus and up the front stoop giggling, twists flying, pink fingernails slicing through the air, I greet them in shorts and oversized t-shirts, hair barely combed, lips crackling, finger nails chipped and in serious need of a manicurist’s intervention. Some days, Lila pulls out her strawberry lemon lip balm (she calls it her lipstick) and gently pushes it in my face as I lean in for a “welcome home” smooch. Apparently, the 7-year-old’s got a problem with chapped lips.
Whatever. Clearly, getting red-carpet ready for the after school rush of homework, activities, and dinner isn’t really on my radar. It’s not a priority, either, when I’m running errands, or meeting friends for coffee or doing something outside of the house that doesn’t require high heels and a cute dress.
It is what it is, okay? I am Bettye Millner’s child, and no child of Bettye’s was going to hit the streets with a face full of make-up if she could help it. In her world, a bare face was the best face — clean and acne free, pure and unadulterated. It was the only way for good girls to be, she’d tell me as she blotted her maroonish-red lipstick on a tissue and applied a little mascara and a swipe or two of blush — the only make-up she ever wore. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure she was just trying to stave off the day her daughter would look way more grown than she needed to look. But these things are neither her nor there; like a good daughter, I simply followed her rules.
Still do. Unless I’m doing a major presentation, facing a television camera, or trying to look super cute on a date with my husband, Nick, my vast collection of Aveda, Bobbi Brown, and M.A.C products remains tucked in a make-up bag in the far corner beneath my bathroom sink. It’s just how I do.
Now, I’ve always been quick to say this to anyone who asks, but I made the mistake of making my bare-is-best proclamation to one of the world’s most glamorous women — actress Diahann Carroll. And she kinda let me have it, as I recounted in a MyBrownBaby post about our raucous make-up convo earlier this year.
Still, despite Ms. Carroll admonishments, I’m really happy the way I look, with or without make-up, and I make no apologies for it.
So then I’m not really clear where my girls get all this “get girly” stuff from. I mean, they’re downright ferocious out on the soccer field, and can give their cousins Miles and Cole — two roughians who are seriously all boy — a run for their pennies when it comes to making their way around a yard or playing with bugs or climbing trees or doing the stuff that little boys do. But Mari and Lila also love getting gussied up. Mari is obsessed with her nails — clears them of dirt and files them incessantly, and paints them nearly every night. Lila? Well she loves looking fancy. Say the word “shopping,” and girlfriend will book to her room and pack a purse with lip balm, put barrettes in her hair, and pull on a skirt and sparkly t-shirt and start oiling me up for a new pair of shoes — for her.
I suppose it would be best if I just make the girls tamp down all of the sparkles and lip balm. Who needs her 7-year-old changing clothes and greasing up her lips so she looks fancy at the mall? Like, who does she think is going to be watching?
Still, I think there’s some validity to what Diahann Carroll told me — that it’s okay to look good for you, if looking good makes you feel good. This is true, too, even for chocolate girl pies who like enjoy getting fancy.
And every now and then, I follow my girls’ lead and borrow a little of their strawberry lemonade lip balm, and take an extra look in the mirror to make sure my hair isn’t a total mess — happy that I like what I see, no matter what.
I pray that this is what my fancy girls decide, too, when they have children of their own, and they find the time to actually look in the mirror. A bare face is fine, but it’s the confidence that’ll stick.