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Letter From America  

By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell  

O'Donnell Irish EyesO'Donnell Irish EyesIf I live to be 103, nobody will ever convince me that God does not thoroughly understand women, right down to knowing not only exactly what they need as they age but also what they most desire.  For example, as we all know, a woman’s visual acuity decreases at about the same time that her hair starts to gray.  In His infinite wisdom and mercy, I believe that God allows this diminution in eyesight to occur so that when a woman of a certain age looks into a mirror, she doesn’t scare the stuffing right out of herself. 

The upside of this, at least in my case, is that I fail to notice the latest wrinkle or spot on my face.  The downside is that, following the application of makeup, I often bear a striking resemblance to Bette Davis in her role of the elderly vaudeville performer in the movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).  I noticed the transformation of my ordinary middle-aged self into Baby Jane recently after peering closely at photographic evidence.  Wondering how I could have allowed this to happen, I retraced my steps, so to speak, by thoroughly examining my own typical “beautification” regimen, performed, of necessity, without the aid of corrective lenses.

As I meticulously smooth a creamy foundation on my face with a tool I picked up on sale at The Home Depot, I count the layers carefully, allowing each to “set” before again dipping my trowel into the gallon container of goop.  Upon application of Layer #4 (at which point a younger woman would undoubtedly say to herself, “Enough’s enough!”), the reflection in my lighted mirror informs me in no uncertain terms that I have only one more layer to go before I am ready to proceed to the blusher/bronzer step in the process.

A little background here: 
You should understand that I have been using a blush brush since the age of 14.  In September of that year, my gifted and talented classmate, Jackie Mitchell, ushered a group of earnest young ladies into the second-floor lavatory of our school, where she instructed us in the proper use of blushers and every other kind of cosmetic you can imagine. Back then, the merest hint of color was all that we required; indeed, the merest hint was all that most of us were permitted (by our mothers and our school administrators).

Bette DavisBette DavisThus, a blush brush about the size of a cotton ball sufficed.  This itty-bitty brush nestled neatly in the storage compartment of a petite plastic compact.  The compact also contained both a Pepto-Bismol-pink pressed powder—yes, so inexperienced were we that we all used the same shade of blush, no matter what our natural skin tones happened to be—and a built-in mirror, used for discreet makeup repairs at any time and wherever we were. 

Naturally, and despite the fact that we really needed no blush at all, we whipped out our compacts to “freshen” our rosy cheeks approximately every nine minutes. In a similar fashion, Jackie gave lessons in mascara and eyeliner application.  With our compact mirrors ever at the ready for blush reapplication, we girls multi-tasked, tending to our cheeks and eyelashes more often during a typical school day than most women do in a month.  As you might imagine, by the end of each school day, many of my classmates and I looked like a herd of parochial-school-uniformed Kewpie dolls, but we viewed ourselves as the most glamorous gals on Planet Earth.

Back to my current makeup routine: 
Forty-eight years after mastering the Mitchell Method, in order to achieve that same all-over glow, I need a blush brush the size of a Swiffer® duster. While I don’t refresh my blush and mascara every time I blink nowadays, I slap on coats of the war paint until I can see evidence of it in the mirror.  In 10 minutes, I can achieve the same Kewpie-doll look that required an entire school day to achieve back in 1964.   You might say that, at age 14, I sometimes overdid the makeup because I didn’t know what I was doing; I guess I occasionally overdo it now because I can’t see what I am doing.

altaltThat, however, will not be the case for much longer. 
You see, I went to my eye doctor just last week because my left eye was giving me some trouble.  In his office, I discovered that, over the past month or so, my vision had become increasingly blurred not because my eyesight had deteriorated but rather because my near-sightedness had improved! The contact lenses I had been wearing were “over correcting” my myopia.  In other words, my lens prescriptions were too strong.  The doctor told me that many near-sighted individuals become far-sighted as they age.  Conversely, far-sighted folks are inclined to become more near-sighted.  Does this mean, I asked the doctor hopefully, that when I am 103 years old I will have 20/20 vision?  Unfortunately, his answer was no.

Wearing a nice new pair of contact lenses, I returned home from my appointment, pleased that I could read every single street sign so clearly along the way.  The clouds in the sky were so distinctly delineated to my “new” eyes that I imagined them to be giant mounds of spun-sugar candy laid out on an expanse of blue.  I was able to identify several species of birds that were perched on the branches of a winter-naked bush outside my front door.  Still dreamily contemplating the beauty of God’s creations, I opened the front door. 

Then, upon entering the house, I happened to glance in the hall mirror.  Big mistake.  I could see myself more clearly than I had seen myself in a couple of years.  Baby Jane was back in the house!  Yes, God surely does know what He is doing.  Maybe I should have skipped that eye doctor appointment altogether.  On second thought, I have a better idea.  Now equipped again with the eyes of my 14-year-old self, I think I’ll call Jackie in the next week or so.  We have been meaning to get together for coffee anyway.  Surely she will have some new and improved makeup tricks to share with me.

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