Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Face Forward

Today’s essay has nothing to do with either of the Scintilla prompts. I’m tossing Friday confetti and writing rogue.

As we approach National Poetry Month, I feel it necessary to pay homage to Billy Collins.

I was watching Billy Collins’ TED talk earlier today,

and his mention of cereal boxes ignited a string of childhood memories at the breakfast table, studying the back of the Grape Nuts or Cheerios boxes (my mom rarely bought us the good stuff like Trix and Sugar Frosted Flakes), sick days watching cartoons and black and white reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I also enjoyed watching my mother "Put on her face" each day.

My mother was so adept at applying lipstick she could do it in the dark while riding in a car with no mirror. Mom had an army of lipsticks; some platoons in the red family, others orange. Season dictated her hue. Pinks and peach for summer, red and burgundy shades for fall and winter. The color varied, but the application always went like this: She stretched her lip over her bottom teeth, making her appear as if she was going to sing, and swiped the color across in one stroke. She repeated the motion with the top lip. She pressed a Kleenex between her lips to absorb excess color, applied another coat, and pressed again. If she didn’t like that shade, she would erase it with cold cream and start over.

She applied the rest of makeup with the same painstaking care. Once her face was done, she took a lift comb and inserted it into her hairstyle to round out the teasing in the back of her hair. Her hair was naturally ash blonde, but she dyed it blue black, which created a striking contrast with her pale pink toned skin.

She checked her reflection in the glass, corrected any errors, and always asked, “How do I look?”
Even as a kid, I wondered, why aren’t we good enough without all the paint?

Here is a bonus TED talk by Andrew Satonton on story. Watch it, then write a great story

Happy Writing.


  1. Thank you so much for the Billy Collins link. I'd forgotten how funny poetry can be.

  2. You're welcome. I was lucky enough to meet him before he was poet laureate at the (now defunct) James Wright Poetry Festival. He was lovely and funny.