A day or two after I moved to Utah, I noticed them. Their cheeks shimmered with an artificial rosy glow. Their chemically enhanced lips glistened in peach and mauve. Their eyelids glittered with iridescence natural only to a peacock's plumes. They sparkled down the streets and through the malls, blinding everyone in their paths.
The sugar-frosted women of Utah.At 18, I had only a nodding acquaintance with makeup. I have since developed a theory to explain my ignorance. To be a beauty, you only have to look better than your surroundings. I had grown up in Illinois and New Jersey. Stand me next to pigs and a silo of soybeans and I'm pretty darn cute. Prop me up next to an oil refinery and I'm gorgeous.
But these women had grown up with the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, calm blue skies and nightly sunsets to make a French impressionist weep. Their standards for beauty were a little different.
I had some catching up to do.
I wandered into a department store and walked up to the most shimmery woman at the makeup counter. I could almost smell the chemical dye fumes from her face.
"Can I help you?" she asked, as if she doubted it herself. I told her I needed everything, and she said we would start with base.
"Healthy people don't have skin your color," she said. "Why don't you go to a tanning booth?"
I explained my aversion to skin cancer, and she rolled her eyes.
"Well, don't expect miracles. Let's see. `Cafe-au-lait?' Much too dark. `Peaches and cream?' Too many peaches. Too bad we don't sell straight cream." She began to giggle.
"`Clown white?' No, just kidding, we don't stock that." She began to laugh. "How about `Casper the Friendly Ghost?' I think we do have one more bottle of `thawing halibut fillet.'" She started gasping for air between laughs. "Nope, sorry. Would you settle for `scared albino?'"
By now she was convulsed with laughter and braying like a donkey. Customers were concerned for her health. I decided to sneak out.
"How about `polar bear in a snow storm?'" she gasped after me, before collapsing over the counter.
These sugar-frosted women aren't as sweet as they look.
After a cooling-down period of about five years, I decided to try for beauty again. This time, I went to have my color analyzed.
"Oh," said the startled woman who opened the door. "I mean, `Oh, won't you come in?'"
I sunk into her couch. She pursed her frosted lips and surveyed me with her imitation-soulful Maybelline eyes.
"You must stop dying your hair immediately."
"I don't dye my hair."
She Sumo-wrestled me to the floor and frantically checked my roots, then released me and stepped back.
"You must start dying your hair immediately."
Turns out my face has blue undertones and my hair has golden ones. I clash with myself.
"You could dye your hair a true blond or brunette, or start wearing redhead makeup. Or wear lots of hats. "She began to snicker. "Or wear a bag over your head. Or comb your hair over your face. Or stay home a lot."
Some women were never meant to shimmer.
She sold me some makeup for my blue face and sent me on my way. I never did dye my hair, and most days I go without makeup. It's hard to fight my heritage. It's probably hard for the sugar-frosted women to fight theirs, too.
My next strategy is "If you can't join 'em, beat it." I'm saving my money to move someplace with beauty standards lower than the ones I grew up with. I haven't made the final decision. It's between Death Valley and the La-Brea Tar Pits.