It’s about the eyeliner, but it’s not about the eyeliner

Stitch Fix modeling

Stitch Fix modeling

Every morning, I put on the same dull eyeliner and think: Why am I doing this?

I’d already found a different brand I love. Purchased faithfully for years, I finally used up the last of my beloved black eyeliner pencil — but rather than replace it, I decided to make do what what I already had.

That’s a very sensible idea, of course — in theory. Thanks to years of Birchbox subscriptions, I had a serious backlog of makeup samples. When the clutter got bad enough, I decided to sort through them a few months back (a modified KonMari, if you will). I purged what was open and old, then passed along new samples to coworkers. If I haven’t tried out a blush in three years, do I really need it? (No. The answer, I told myself repeatedly, is no.)

So I threw out my beloved Mally eyeliner pencil, the one worn down to the nub, and tried to get by with one of the random “waterproof” pencils wedged in my makeup drawer.

It seemed silly — and wasteful — to buy another $22 eyeliner duo . . . especially now with a baby (and his associated costs). I have all these products here just gathering dust, and they’re already paid for!

I’ve followed the same basic makeup routine — concealer, blush, Chapstick, eyeliner, mascara — since middle school, and have been on the hunt for the “perfect” products since earning my first paycheck. Once I was making my cool $6.75 an hour as a Michael’s cashier, I had some cash to blow on my makeup experiments.

And experiment I did. I spent years trying to find the right eyeliner. A complementary color for my olive skin tone, something dark but not too dark. A product that looks as fresh at 6 p.m. as it did at 6 a.m., and hopefully doesn’t cost a fortune. Something that my oily skin will not destroy in no time — a product that never winds up smudged beneath my eyes.

And I found it: Mally eyeliner. But I talked myself out of replenishing it, thinking that money would be better spent on incidentals for the family.

I talked myself out of thinking it mattered, this relatively small purchase that actually makes a big impact on my day. In wanting to be resourceful with my heart in the right place, I made a choice — daily — to apply makeup that I did not like, that didn’t work well, because I didn’t think it mattered.

But this morning, I was done. After an extremely stressful month at work, one filled with lay-offs and huge changes and more anxiety than I’ve felt in years, I was tiredly getting ready for another work week and thought: I can do better than this.

I can do better than a few rushed minutes to myself each morning, stolen before Oliver wakes up.

I can do better than treating myself like an afterthought: someone wearing frumpy clothes with tangled hair, a woman hiding behind her new mom identity to rationalize her sloppiness.

I can do better than this eyeliner that will quickly fade, doing nothing to make me feel happy and confident.

And it goes even deeper, of course. Post-pregnancy, I’ve struggled with buying new clothes — again. Between an almost 40-pound weight loss, pregnancy (and purchasing maternity wear), and adjusting to the 30 extra pounds I’m now carrying after birth, I feel guilty and frustrated rebuilding my closet . . . again.

But what’s the byproduct of that refusal? Every day I feel unpolished, either squeezing into clothes that feel too tight or wearing the same few “larger” tops over and over. Pair that with my makeup situation, and frankly? It ain’t good.

Having a baby is lovely (and amazing), but also quite strange. Your life changes in every possible way — right down to how you look and feel about yourself. Though I’ve never obsessed over appearances, I can recognize I haven’t been taking care of myself over the last six months. Like: at all.

And it’s time to change that, I think. We’re all familiar with maternal guilt, and this sense that we have to give it all — every bit of our energy, time, money — to our children. But there must be a way to reserve a little for yourself? If only to be the happy person — the strong, capable parent — you know you can be?

I need to get back on solid footing. I need to start caring for myself again. That’s something the nurses discussed in the NICU — “self-care” — but it was totally irrelevant to me back then, this idea that I would need to look after myself the way we had to look after our vulnerable baby.

But Oliver is no longer so vulnerable. He’s a hulk, actually — and I have to stop using that preemie parent identity as my defense. It serves no one. And since he’s sleeping through the night, I can’t blame exhaustion for why I’m not making strides to feel better.

It’s time to do that for myself.

With a few clicks, my favorite eyeliner is back on its way to me. I’ll head to the clearance racks at Kohl’s and get creative with my budget, investing in a few new pieces of clothing to switch up through fall and winter. And I’ll check out Goodwill, too, as I’m dropping off bags of the belongings that no longer serve me. I have lots of them.

I’m going to place all my favorite “small” clothes in bins, labelled for when I’m ready to pull them out again. But in the meantime, I don’t need those sizes taunting me. My closet shouldn’t be three-quarters full of items I cannot wear. Just seeing them daily — a harsh compare-and-contrast as I stand before my full-length mirror — is depressing.

I will get back to a good place. It’s going to take time and dedication — but I can make small steps to feel good each day. I may never again wear a size six, but I will get stronger. It could take months (or years), but I want to be healthy: for my husband, my son. Myself.

And while I battle my way back? Well, at least my eyeliner will look awesome.

Bespectacled and makeup-less — or, how I got through a Friday

Lip products

On Friday, I swept into work without makeup . . .

. . . and in my glasses.

A decade ago, friends, this would have been unfathomable. Atrocious. Awful. Embarrassing. To be blunt, if I couldn’t wear concealer and Chapstick at a bare minimum, I might have called in sick. Wish I were joking.

But let’s back up.

Though far from a beauty maven, I’ve worn some combination of cosmetics daily since I was the awkward 10-year-old try to mask her first acne break-out. I lived in fear that my fellow fifth-graders would notice the spots, so Mom took pity on me and bought me my first bottle of liquid concealer. I tried dismissing the marks as “mosquito bites” on my chin and cheeks, but . . . eh, you know no one bought that nonsense.

Indoctrinated into the world of makeup, I became reliant on its life-changing abilities. It became a way of life.

From my early dalliances with concealer to a new love affair with blush, I eventually begged my mom to buy me my first tube of mascara after seeing friends experiment with full lashes at a sleepover. On a related note, who didn’t learn the rites of womanhood from giggling with classmates at 3 a.m.? Everything I learned about being a girly girl probably stems from those early parties — and coveting Seventeen‘s how-to articles as a teen.

But I digress.

Once I started wearing eyeliner, there was really no going back. I don’t go thick — a thin black line around the upper and lower lid is all I need — but I do, without fail, wear it. Daily. But it’s subtle, I think. I’m all about a natural look and, though I take care with my face and have perfected my beauty routines, I don’t think it’s too much.

For proof of this, a coworker recently asked me why I don’t wear makeup. And I was like, ????

To be fair, my beauty routine is pretty minimal. My oily skin means most of my “daring” eye products are pooled on my cheeks by lunchtime, so it’s not really worth the bother. Once I’m showered, doing my face can take less than five minutes. On goes my concealer, followed by blush; then I move on to dark brown eyeliner and a swipe of sheer shadow across the eyelids. Some sort of lip product (usually a butter), mascara and — poof! Instant Meg. Just add coffee.

When I woke up Friday, I went about my routine like any other day. Before Spence was off, I went to put in my contacts and dig around for something business-casual. Unlike every other morning, however, my right eyeball suddenly erupted as though dissolved by dragon’s breath. It felt like a hive of bees had descended on my cornea, and I was left cursing and flailing and weeping crocodile tears from the injured organ.

It sucked.

I’ve worn contacts since I was 15 and have never, ever had pain like that. Once I pried my lens from the eye (harder than it sounds), I couldn’t believe how much it burned. After cracking a lid open and finding no eyelash or hellspawn or detectable grit, I thoroughly rinsed the contact to try again and . . . NOPE.

For only the second time in my adult life (the first being when I had pink eye — glergh), I wore my glasses to work.

And for the first time in my adult life, I just shunned makeup completely.

It felt weird at first . . . and uncomfortable. Not wanting to be late for work but not yet resigned to wearing my glasses all day, I toyed with the idea of packing my contacts or rinsing my eye again or doing something — anything! — to avoid having to go to work looking like a bedraggled, one-eyed monster, but there was nothing to do.

I saw an eye doctor on my lunch break and was informed my eye was “perfect,” just irritated, so no serious damage done . . . probably just the result of not thoroughly rinsing all the soap from my hands before I touched my eye, or something torn on the contact. No big. But walking around makeup-less and bespectacled, well . . . it was what it was.

And you know what?

It didn’t matter.

If anyone was looking at my mascara-less lashes, I didn’t notice. Or really care. Not just because my eye felt like a flaming orb from a devil-controlled volcano . . . I just, meh. Because I’m a married lady now, maybe? And I’m just not really out to impress anyone? It’s not that I don’t like looking and feeling good . . . I do, of course. But on this particular Friday, with nothing to do but put my head down and work on a series of sections at work, I was just . . . whatever.

It was kind of great.

Thirteen-year-old me — she of the blue eyeliner and pink lipstick, mind — would have been horrified by my plain appearance, but 28-year-old me was content to look a little crazy for one day of her life.

And I did powder my nose, at least.

Red lip contrast


I like the idea of being the woman in red lipstick.

Perhaps more than actually being the woman in red lipstick.

It takes courage to wear red. Real, tangible, serious confidence. I wouldn’t have had it a year ago, when I was heavier and downtrodden and uncertain about life in general. But 2013, for as tough as it’s been, has also provided opportunities to grow and change and act a little wild.

I walked in from my lunch break yesterday wearing a bright, bright, really really bright red shade. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect kiss-proof shade for the last few days, knowing I want to rock a red lip for the wedding but decidedly do not want my soon-to-be husband to do the same.

A trip to Ulta yielded a sample of a Stila color, but it had flaked and kissed off on my diet soda by mid-afternoon. When Spence and I met to grocery shop in the evening, I “tested” it with a smooch — and, um, yeah. My guy looked freshly kissed, all right. Kind of cute in a romance-novel way, but definitely not going to work before 150 of our nearest and dearest in a few weeks.

A coworker is lovely and quite knowledgeable about all things makeup — and she was impressed with my choice. Though I never leave the house without something on my face, I rarely rock bold shades. I spend way too much time drinking and eating on the job to worry about mussing up my looks and, to be honest, I’m just not that fussy.

But she liked the red lip. With my fair skin, super-dark hair and brown eyes, the red really pops. “You’re high contrast,” she said. “Has anyone ever told you that?”

They hadn’t. But I like it.

Though I feel like a vampy vixen in red lipstick, I also feel a little self-conscious in the shade — almost like I’ve worn a too-revealing dress, you know? Lipstick is reserved for special occasions. And as we draw closer to W-Day, I’ve had to get serious about finding one. I’m having a professional do my makeup that morning, but she recommended getting my own lipstick so I can easily reapply throughout the day. I agreed easily, not too concerned, but I really should have been.

I should have been.

Because finding the perfect no-smudge, gorgeous red lip color ever for my wedding?


Like always, I’ve turned to the trusty Internet for help with this life-altering decision — and found several lists of recommendations. I imagine I’ll be off to the drugstore on my lunch break for a little research. I’m leaning toward the Revlon or Maybelline products because, well, they’re in my budget. But if anyone has a favorite or some advice, please feel free to share!

I know I’ll find something — and hopefully something my fiance won’t have to wear, too.

And either way, I like the idea of being high contrast . . . a measure in extremes.

I want “bold” to suit me.

Red sunglasses

Yes, Meg, there is a Nail Polish Claus (and he likes pink)

Something really exciting happened to me this week.

No, I haven’t yet found “The One” — or even “the one” of the moment. As of this posting, friends, I haven’t gotten to a third date with any of the gentlemen with whom I’ve been seeing recently. Casually. In a casual way.

I haven’t won the lottery or gotten a raise. And while I’m at it, I haven’t made great strides in finishing my fourth novel or returning to the infamous querying process in order to find someone who will value (and promote) my snark-tastic musings. I did win a heaping pile of books from The Book Studio — more on that later — but I’m so stressed and busy, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to crack the spine on any of them. Yes, things are insane — in a good way — and I’m feeling overwhelmed, but . . .

I found the perfect shade of
pink nail polish.

I’ve pranced around the planet for almost 25 years and polished up these pretty fingers more times than I can count. In terms of obsessions, I’m a bit of a nail polish junkie — and it doesn’t help that I frequent some fabulous fashion blogs which make me want to whip out the ol’ credit card and order everything in sight. If I’m strolling through Target, I have to detour into the makeup aisle — just to get a glimpse at all the tiny, pretty bottles, all perfectly lined up and promising I’ll become sassy or saucy or sexy while wearing these shades.

I’m pretty saucy on a daily basis — or try to be, anyway — but there’s something about those clear bottles promising me a mini-makeover that I find utterly irresistible.

But up until this week, I’d never been able to find the right shade of pink.

Because on top of being sassy and saucy, I’m very particular. My sister’s room is full of the pink cast-offs I’ve purchased over the years, trying to find the right color, only to decide that while it’s pretty or cute or whatevs, it’s not The One.

But it’s a brand-new day.

It’s called “Party In My Cabana” and is made by none other than OPI, that most fabulous (and, er, costly) of nail companies. Since I cycle through so many bottles of polish on a regular basis, I usually can’t see paying $8 or $10 a bottle for something I’ll probably wear once and then shove in a bin, but let me say this: I’d pay every cent of that $8 for this hue (and did), and I think you’ll see why. Glance to the very top.

It’s dark. It’s a fun, dark pink. It’s not bubblegum, but it’s not salmon. It’s bold and bright and fun, while still being sophisticated and work-appropriate.

Basically, it’s Heaven In A Tiny, Black-Capped Bottle.

I was about to stop believing, but my faith in cosmetics has been restored. Yes, Meg, there is a Nail Polish Claus — available on the OPI site — and it knew what I wanted even before I did. Once there, click “Try On This Color” and, you know, spend a few minutes (er, hours?) finding the shade that works best for you. Then head over to Amazon or your favorite retailer, find it cheap and go for it. Paint those nails. Or, in my case, come have a “party in my cabana”!

Not sure that sounds right. But, ladies, you know what I mean.

Remember to pink before you leap

I’m certainly not the first woman in the world to declare her love for sparkly things — and I know there will never be a time when legions of other lovely ladies will join me! My ex-boyfriend once cleverly provided a graph similar to this one for the LOLs. Please pay special attention to the “shiny things and diamonds olfactory” on the frontal lobe:


(FYI: Don’t Google Image search “woman’s brain.”
What has been seen cannot be unseen. Ick.)

And while the graph above is, you know, sexist and all, I can still see the humor in most of it (except for the bit about men being better drivers than women! Please.) At least where shiny things are concerned, it’s true. Women often flock to shiny, sparkly and pretty things like the famished to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. I’m certainly a classically pink-loving, silly and often ridiculously girly girl: I start most of my mornings by pouring over my favorites list at Etsy just for the eye candy. All those pink, pretty and shimmery things — all available for purchase? I can buy them quickly and easily with a few clicks on my mouse and they arrive at my door? It’s dangerous, I tell you . . . scary dangerous! And yes, I’ve been misbehaving — buying way more than I should be. And loving every minute of it.

opi_colorsI have all sorts of sparkly things, you see. Shirts, book covers, photo frames, handbags . . . and, of course, jewelry. (Earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets . . . ah, sparkly things!) But my latest sparkly obsession? Nail polish! Well, specifically OPI nail polish. Each petite bottle (yes, women also think “tiny” things are adorable) is packed with loveliness and, in several cases, shimmer and glitter.

And they have ridiculously awesome names. The polish I slathered on last night is called “Pink Before You Leap.” I found an incredibly helpful chart with many of the shades and their respective, cute titles, and I’m now in love with “Mimosas For Mr. & Mrs.” and “Privacy Please” from the soft shades collection! Other awesome titles include “Nice Color, Eh?” from the Canadian Collection, “My Daddy’s The King,” “Cozu-Melted In The Sun” and “Blushingham Palace” from the British Collection (yeah, you know I’m loving that!). Rebecca likes “I’m Not Really A Waitress” (a very vibrant red) and I’m partial to “20 Candles On My Cake.” (It’ll be 24 this summer, but no mind.) There are just so many choices!

strawberry_margaritaIt’s fun to change nail color, too. I went through the blue-and-green nail polish phase, then the black nail polish phase, but I’m happy to report I’ve now come into an era where I wear . . . whatever sort of nail polish suits my mood! I usually stick with the pinks and reds, but tend to be a little more daring in the summertime. I haven’t had my nails professionally done in a while — a tad expensive, plus false nails usually annoy me — so I’ve been doing all the labor myself. This suits me just fine — I like to change the colors often! I’ll let “Pink Before You Leap” set for a bit, and then I’m moving on to . . . “Kyoto Pearl.”

Juice Gems — a few of my favorite things

mark_lipglossLike many women, I’m on a constant quest to find a new makeup product that will somehow change my life. I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about it before, but I’m totally obsessed with . . . lip balm. I’d say Chapstick, but I’m pretty sure that’s a brand — and I’m not obsessed with the brand, just the product! I can’t stand having chapped lips. Few people actually enjoy having chapped lips, I’m sure, but I mean it really drives me crazy. To the point that I actually carry around about five different lip products in my purse, ranging in color and texture for the look and feel I’ll need at any given moment.

There’s one big problem with lip products, though — some of them are . . . gross. They don’t taste good. And they wear off easily, or they’re sticky, or they’re too glossy or flat or strange. Okay, that’s actually a string of problems with lip gloss!

But I’ve found one that has made me insanely excited — Juice Gems from Mark, the Avon-based company. We have an incredibly sweet Avon representative, Corinne, and it breaks my heart not to place an order with her, ah, every week . . . so, you know, I’m constantly stocking up on Avon products. Just to help her out, see. There’s nothing really in it for me . . . besides tons of lipstick, eye shadow and affordable jewelry!

So in my never-ending attempts to help Corinne, I picked up a set of the Juice Gems in holiday flavors. Once I saw gingerbread listed, I was sold. Honestly, I’d sort of purchased them with the intention of giving them to my mom for Christmas . . . but found an alternate product for her that I think she’ll love (no, Mom, it’s a secret — you’re going to have to wait until Dec. 25 for all to be revealed). In addition to the gingerbread flavor, we also have candy cane, apple cobbler and iced cookie. They all taste nice — not that I’m licking them or anything, but you know what I mean! — and the color is really pretty without being over-the-top. And — most importantly — they’re not sticky! I can’t stand sticky lip gloss — the kind where you’re constantly pulling your lips apart, they’re so weighted down with goop. Gross.

So my great lipgloss search is, for now, temporarily suspended! When I find a product I like, I usually stock up for fear that my town will become flooded, the stores will close and I’ll never be able to find that perfect shade of mascara or eyeshadow again. Unlimited supply of gingerbread lipgloss, here I come!