Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gilding the Lilly

By Melanie Lynne Hauser

It’s funny. Back when my husband and I were young parents (which was just a year ago; as soon as our oldest went off to college we became old parents, it seems), we used to plan date nights fairly often. It was a big deal, a special event, just the two of us; precious alone time.

Now, over the years, we’ve both come to work more or less at home (when he’s not traveling), and so we see each other fairly often. Sometimes, too fairly often. So now that we don’t have to plan for a babysitter, now that we have pretty much every night open to do whatever we want just the too of us — we don’t. Do. Anything.

We stay at home in our sweatpants and sweatshirts, week nights, weekends; we hide out here, and we watch TV, and we eat casseroles and grunt at each other, and suddenly, we’re in danger of becoming Archie and Edith Bunker.

Why is it, I wonder, that when it’s a huge effort to find the time and money to go out, you do it far more often than when you have loads of time, loads of options?

Well, this past weekend, we roused ourselves with a great effort and made reservations for Saturday night. I even put makeup on, and I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d done this until my husband asked me what on earth I’d done to my eyes? Mascara, I replied, and realized it had been months since I’d put mascara on.

Again — a conundrum: Why, when you’re young and pretty and don’t really need it, you spend so much darn time on makeup and hair and stuff, but when you could really use the help of a good concealer and lipstick, you just can’t be bothered? I dunno. I only know that I used to put makeup on, every day, even when I wasn’t going anywhere, and when my husband was about to come home I’d run upstairs and freshen it up a bit, fluff my hair. Now, though, he’s home all the time and I’m running around in sweats and nothing on my face, not caring at all. (And it's not just me; let me just say, it would be nice if the man showered before dinner most days.)

So all of this is just to say — boy, it’s been a long time since either of us have really tried to, well — dress up, do something special together, make an effort. Lately my hair’s an unkempt mess — I haven’t had a cute haircut in ages; I’ve started buying my clothes at Kohl’s and Target instead of Ann Taylor and J.Jill, I’m using drugstore makeup instead of driving all the way to the mall to go to the MAC store….in other words, I’m in a rut. I’m becoming the kind of tired, slightly deflated woman I see in the grocery store at 3:00 PM (the time when all of us older women shop because all the young women with babies are busy picking up their kids from school), pushing her half-empty cart, clad in sweats and sneakers with her gray roots showing, hair pulled back from her face with a plastic barrette. Buying both bran cereal and packaged underwear, because she doesn’t want to make an extra stop.

So it was nice, Saturday night. Nice to put on a pair of jeans instead of sweats, high heels instead of sneakers, an underwire bra instead of a sports bra. Nice to spend a lot of time in the bathroom on my hair and makeup, trying to get it just right. Nice to appreciate my reflection in the mirror; nice to appreciate my reflection in my husband’s eyes when I descended the stairs like Norma Desmond. Nice, too, to imagine, anyway, that men in the restaurant might have looked at me twice.

It’s good to shake things up, I guess. It’s good to plan a special night out even though we see each other all the time, there’s no lack of “quality time” between the two of us.

And even though, at a certain age, I think it’s normal to be tired out from decades of expensive, expansive upkeep, somehow, we must rouse ourselves. We must not give in to the temptation to buy packaged underwear at the grocery store. We should spend some time and effort and money on feeling pretty, feeling special, feeling prized.

After all, we’re worth it. More importantly — we’ve earned it by now. And really, back when we were young and firm and obsessed with this kind of thing, we hadn't. But now, we have.

I need to remember that, from time to time.

1 comment:

Amy Nathan said...

It's a good reminder - even for us single moms without Saturday night dates!

I know I hold my head higher when I have on a little eyeliner!