Project: Fill the Cracks
I’m approaching fifty, the age when, according to some, I become unlovable.
As I apply my make-up, painting over my age-earned imperfections with concealer (think about that word), I realise my face has become a never-ending refurbishment project. I’m trying to make-good the cracks in the plasterwork which reveal the number of years since my birth. I don’t want to conceal my maturity, but I do want to my face to ‘show well’.
I’ve been involved in a few property renovations, and, I now realise, the process for making-up my forty-something face, and developing a tired property, are disturbingly similar. Whilst it’s possible to live in a house with flaking paint-work and pitted walls, I, like most people, would prefer not to.
I imagine those who find older women unattractive live in new-builds, with blinding white, smooth walls and a gleaming chrome kitchen. I favour an older property, one with character and charm, with a history and the scars to prove it. But, my goodness, those properties need work to look presentable. The same could be said of my facade.
Any facial surveyor would tell you I have some structural issues. Where a building might have bowing window frames, I have wilting eyelids. A medical friend gave a name to the flappy skin threatening to droop so low it will render me sightless: Ptosis.
I pointed out my ptosis to my eldest daughter and seconds later she turned her phone screen towards me with a ‘ta-dah’. She’d found half-moon-shaped, transparent stickers, popular in Asian cosmetics, which, when applied to the lid, make it more pronounced. Two clicks later, they were mine.
When making up, I start with those, then, I go on to the stuff my Mum gave to me to tighten my eye bags. (Yes, both my daughter and mother are onboard with the renovations…I choose not to think too hard about this). I suspect the eye stuff is expensively packaged haemorrhoid cream, but it does the trick, like bubbles being smoothed from lining paper.
Following minor reconstruction, it’s on to filling cracks in the plasterwork. My husband bought me a magical product (Oh my God, there’s a familial conspiracy!) which is smeared on with a velour pad and it really is like Polyfilla for the pores. When I’ve finished, my nose is as soft and smooth as the inside of a new-born’s wrist.
There’s no pretence about the next phase, it’s called primer for walls and it’s called primer for the face. I slather it on, hoping that it will even out the surface of my skin and make the foundation stick.
The choice of finishing coat is always a tricky one. The pigment needs to be mixed carefully according to seasonal skin colour changes (who am I kidding? It depends on how much my false tan has faded), thicker for evening wear, just a thin coat for the school run. I sometimes combine three different foundations to get the perfect tone, like those fancy machines in DIY stores, which promise to match any colour you desire.
I like to think I’m respectful to the original period features. I try to sympathetically modernise, rather than make my face look like a characterless newbuild. Gone are the days of bright, shimmery or garish paint. Now my palate is neutral, tasteful and in keeping with the maturity of the structure.
In a project of this age, unexpected leaks are not uncommon, so it’s best to mitigate with high quality, waterproof products. You don’t want to have just finished your feature eyeliner, to find it dripping down your nose during a hot flush.
Accents are important in all renovation enterprises. A highlighted cheekbone (if you can still find one) is attractive to a prospective viewer, and the right lip colour is as important as the perfect front door.
As I stand back from the mirror, my refurbishment complete, I can always see something else that could be improved, a little crack in the plasterwork already starting to show through. But, as with any body of work, you have to know when to stop, push the door closed and say, ‘That’s good enough.’
But what’s good enough for me, will never be good enough for someone who only loves new and shiny things. If a person can’t appreciate the history in a structure and the stories that lie within, then let them live out their shallow mortality without us wise, imperfect establishments in it.
Next time you see me out and about with my face on, be aware of how much effort has gone into building it. It represents my age, and my refusal to be cowed by those who judge me for it. Keep your polite kiss on the cheek for the fresh-faced youths. I want a round of applause.