By Andrea Simantov
When I first designed the class “Makeup Made Easy” as an adjunct service to my regular hair and cosmetic business, I envisioned fielding the majority of calls from young married women, matchmakers who wished to refer clients, recent divorcées who wanted to spruce up their spirits and corporate management types who needed to add polish to their company profiles. The posted syllabus for both the private, semi-private and group classes promised to cut out the mystery, save money and simplify the process. At the end of the three hour seminar, all participants would receive a valuable gift.
I never imagined that nearly all of the inquiries would come from women who were in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. And – I kid you not – a few in their 80’s! I asked a few of my female friends why I wasn’t hearing en masse from younger gals and the consensus was that some women feel that the ‘appearance package’ is forced upon them and that participating in ‘makeup culture’ means giving in to an unnatural concept of femininity.
I vividly recall one assignment from makeup school that alerted me to the shocking practice of ‘objectifying’ of older women. We were asked to bring in a ‘grandma’ for the purpose of practicing respective techniques on older skin. At least that is how I understood the assignment. Well, all of the participating grandmas were in their middle-50’s, with dyed hair and permanent eyeliner. I was the only one who brought an 84 year old – a lovely lady named Edith – from my building. There were snickers all around as I moisturized her skin and took great pains to match the foundation color. Someone callously muttered, “Just give her blue eyeshadow and red lipstick; she’ll be happy.” Did they think she was deaf as well? I felt ashamed that Edith was viewed as a two-dimensional ‘thing,’ an ungainly third person who had out-lasted her – what? Usefulness? Femininity? Viability? Another figurative light bulb went off when I realized that, because I was thirty-years older than the next oldest student in the class, it was likely that I was also not considered a serious contender. For anything.
Because my husband and I were the oldest contestants (to date) in Israel’s “Amazing Race,” we were interviewed for various print and electronic outlets. Almost all of the discussions revolved around our late-in-life meeting, subsequent romance and uniquely’ young’ attitudes. Even when one blogger referred to us as “long in the teeth,” it was nestled amidst compliments about our energy.
We spent a lot of time scratching our heads and wondering if we are, indeed, unusual. For a moment or three, we almost believed the hype! But once we got grounded we realized that the only “extraordinary” aspect to the publicity was the “take” of the young reporters and readers. If they had bothered to trail us for a month, they would meet our friends and associates who, like us, are embracing life to it’s robust fullest despite arthritic knees, memory lapses, bulging waistlines and foot molds. They’d have a hard time keeping up with our day tours, concert going, tennis games, ski trips, Scrabble club and charity work.
Which brings me back to the delightful discovery that women “of a certain age” may, indeed, care deeply about appearances. And no one, despite the often-unwelcome biological changes that are part and parcel of aging, wants to be seen as letting herself go or having given up. Finally free to “know less,” they willingly ready themselves for new experiences and avenues of thought. My “Makeup Made Easy” ladies are passionate, bawdy, wise-beyond-words, and 100 percent women, even while enduring the contempt of short-sighted individuals who cannot envision a day when they, too, will become invisible to a culture addicted to and obsessed with youth.