The Great Coverup

by Jane M. Bailey

First published in The Litchfield Connection, December 2022     

            When I was fourteen, I was allowed to wear pink lipstick. At fifteen, my makeup allowance finally included foundation. I was overjoyed. Now I could slather gooey muck over each of my many freckles. I had suffered years of “freckle face” taunts. Foundation was to be my salvation.

Each morning I dressed my body in clothes and my face in a mask of foundation fluid, with a touch of bubble-gum pink on my lips. Not sure that was any better than a face full of freckles.

Over time, I refined my makeup skills and made sure my boyfriend never saw me without my face mask. By the time we got engaged, I knew he’d be in for a shock when I unveiled my full freckled face. I was very good at cleansing off my makeup each night, but therein lies the problem. When you get to the time when there’s more to do in bed than sleep, there is a big quandary. Do I take off my makeup before or after that other s-word we do in bed?

I think that’s when you know your relationship is on solid ground. When you wipe off the mask and say “Ta-da! Take me or leave me!” and he doesn’t leave.

Do you remember the Lone Ranger? If you don’t, you are too young to be reading this. Back in the day of Cowboy & Indian television shows, this masked law and order stranger on horseback concealed his identity with a simple eye mask. The Lone Ranger’s identity managed to be secret through five seasons of adventures. Who knew an eye mask could be so effective?

The Lone Ranger’s sidekick Tonto often called him “Kemosabe.” There’s a theory floating on the internet that Tonto was calling the Lone Ranger “Idiot” in Apache language. Mmm…sounds to me like Tonto used a mask of language to hide his true feelings about his boss.

Of course, Halloween is the perfect mask-wearing holiday. Wearing one is almost a requirement. Over the years we’ve moved from simple Lone Ranger type of masks to mega-masks that don’t need a costume. A Werewolf mask is so scary, no one can look beyond the hair and full-face mask. Just don’t go to a Halloween party thinking you can flirt or enjoy refreshments. Some masks are designed to just make you sweat.

COVID has turned us all into mask-wearing wonders. First we all looked like medical personnel. Then the fashionistas got hold of things and made masks to match outfits in any color or pattern. This was most appreciated for expanded gift opportunities.

Our family had run out of ideas for my science-teaching husband. We had flooded him with science tee shirts until he ran out of drawer space. We moved on to science socks, science ties, and even science underwear. Don’t ask. Being able to find science themed COVID masks enabled us to stretch his wardrobe.

I recently cleaned my make-up drawer and discovered an eye-gel mask along with a jar of mud masque. Neither had been used for the 100 years they had been in my drawer. I didn’t even know what a mud masque was.

I went to my trusty Google school where I learned mud is not alone in the face masque department. There are also clay, charcoal, and honey masques for repairing, soothing, detoxing, and toning my face. It seems counterintuitive to me that a mud masque absorbs oil and debris. Since when is mud a clarifier? Beats me.

As for eye gels, they can be bought on Amazon for $6.55 or $289.00. Okay, that last figure is for fifty masks for both freezer and microwave so you can either freeze your eyeballs or burn them. Not sure how useful that is. The marketing messaging makes me think I’ve been missing out these last hundred years. Back in the drawer my items went, for the next hundred years.

Each year, I have the joy of attending a girls’ weekend. My friends and I go to a cabin in the woods to hike, eat, and drink a lot of wine. We sit around in pajamas and wear no makeup. No mask. No pretense. What a relief. Just us girls. Until a camera comes out and we run to put on some lipstick. Just a touch, for the picture. Not that we have anything to hide…