Having worked all my life with women (early childhood education attracts few men), one thing that always needed cleaning was the office phone. It wasn't the germs we were removing. It was our makeup.
After a certain age, women accept that they will never be a size 3 again (if they ever were). They accept many things that come with entering and even exiting middle age. But, like Nora Ephron in her hilarious book I Feel Bad About My Neck, I have spent too much time with my female colleagues and friends playing fantasy plastic surgery.
For me, it's the dark circles under my eyes. I hate them. That's all I can see in photos and I'm sick of people thinking I'm tired when I'm just getting old. Even though I've had them for most of my adult life, they have become more pronounced and harder to cover.
For my friends, it may be age spots, wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, or any evidence of being older and less than perfect. We support a huge cosmetics industry. We are always searching for the next, best product to restore our youthful faces. I remember when almost the entire staff at my school ran out to buy StriVectin. Amazingly, we still looked the same.
Cartoon by Marcia Liss
Then there's FaceTime and Skype. My friends and I agree these are the worst, because we have to look at ourselves in that little square. So we see how others see us. That means even when video chatting with my 4-year-old grandson, I have to at least comb my hair and freshen up. Don't want to scare the child.
One of my earliest memories is watching my mother apply her makeup. If I was lucky, she let me try some. She called it "putting on my face." What a perfect description of what so many of us feel compelled to do every morning.
Thus, the make up on the phone at work. Even though we are working with kids and other women, even when we go to the grocery store, we put on that daily mask to hide our flaws. I know I always have done this, even when the flaw were minimal and I looked fine without make up.
Shakespeare said, "God has given you one face, and you make yourself another." But what did he know? For some mysterious reason, guys don't feel compelled to put on their faces every morning.
In looking for answers, I turn instead to the late, great Nora Ephron who really understood how much maintenance is involved in feeling it is acceptable to leave the house or face chat with someone. Some of my favorites:
"Maintenance is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won't have to hide behind a stack of canned food."
"I look as young as a person can look given how old I am."
"I checked out the mirror to see if I looked older, or sadder, or wiser. I didn't; I just looked tired."
So if you know about a product to cure or hide my dark circles, by all means tell me. In the meantime, I have to stop writing so I can put on my face. Then I can go fill up my car with gas. Never know whom I might see there.