In Other Words: Making up with makeup



Neiman Marcus / Neiman Marcus

At the risk of sounding annoyingly trite and vain, I am going to lighten up, and talk about makeup, or the lack of makeup during a pandemic. In other words, why would a woman who is locked down in solitary confinement even have makeup on her mind? Why would a woman, unless she is a complete narcissist, be dabbing a fingertip of blush on her cheeks? Or applying lipstick? Or, OMG, wearing foundation in order to give herself that dewy healthy glow when, in fact, her skin, which has not been out in the sunlight for three and a half months, looks as dry as a triple-gin martini? What’s the point? I have the answer, which defies all logic, and which has little to do with beauty per se, and more to do with staying sane.

It started with the mirror, the one I accidentally glanced at on my way to the bathroom one morning. The mirror, which caused me, for a mere moment, to lose my composure and emit a slight gasp. The mirror that tells it like it is. And what it told me wasn’t pretty.

When we were asked to practice social distancing, and shelter-in-place, the realization occurred to me that since I am solely sequestered, why would I bother with makeup at all? Suddenly, I could shed all outward pretenses and treat each day as a come-as-you-are affair. I could finally be the real unadulterated version on myself — and face life au naturel. The thought was appealing — for about a month — until I checked myself out in that mirror and realized, who was I kidding? Even a hermit is supposed to look at least presentable.

That’s when I changed my pandemic protocol, and started to dress for stress. What had started out as a nice reprieve from my normal life suddenly became abnormal. And that’s when makeup came into play and saved me from myself.

Around mid-May I began carefully scrutinizing my face. Or the old face that had become my new face. In other words, I needed an entirely full-frontal face job. This included cheek blush, eyeliner, mascara, lip liner, and lipstick. While all of this sounds utterly ridiculous considering the circumstances under which I was now living, it provided me with a sense of normalcy — a reality check, a routine I could follow to make me realize that there was still some order to my life. Wearing makeup was my answer to a kind of civility in the face of an adversity where passing my time in style was a prerequisite to staying mentally intact, even if my only company was the company of one.

Years ago, after my husband had died, a therapist told me, “do whatever it is that makes you feel better to get over the hump.” At that time, very little made me feel better. I had lost the love of my life, and nothing I did was going to bring him back. But I did discover that in small ways I could nurture myself by doing what made me feel uplifted rather than down-trodden.

And so, as it is now, after months of self-isolation, I could benefit from some “home improvement.” So, out came the cosmetics and a feeling of renewal began taking place. And … I started to feel better.

That is, until the other day when I chipped a lower front tooth on a bagel. I held the piece of enamel in my hand and called my dentist.

“I’m seeing patients for emergencies,” he said. “So I’ll need you to come in.”

“I don’t go out,” I said, “so I can’t come in.”

We bantered back and forth on the subject until he told me that when I was ready to leave the house, to call him. “In the meantime,” he said, “try not to smile.”

“Who’s smiling?” I said.

So, now, I’m walking around looking like a cartoon character. Also, my hair has become a bush, and I haven’t exercised for days.

But each morning, after my shower (I do take showers) on goes the makeup.

Hey, what’s a girl to do? Bring on the blush!

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at or at