The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Avon Calling

Click for Source: Etsy

Click for Source: Etsy

Mom didn’t wear much makeup. She powdered her nose and applied lipstick twice a day. She may have plucked her eyebrows, though I don’t recall her wielding the tweezers. A dried up compact of mascara sat unused in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

When I consider why she didn’t use more makeup, the answer is twofold. Mom  had reasonably good looks and great hair colour genes. When she died in her early sixties, she was still a natural brunette.

More importantly, she couldn’t justify the expense. She was the breadwinner in our house. Dad was the bread loser, I suppose you could say. His TV and radio repair business operated in the red.

But even though money was tight, she welcomed the Avon Lady, a neighbour woman who was testing the promotional claims: make friends AND money! Ten year-old me didn’t pay attention to what the two adults talked about. I was fascinated with the teeny-tiny lipstick samples. You can imagine my delight when Avon let me have one to keep. Mom may have ordered something, just to be kind. Perhaps a fragrant lotion. Remember Rose Geranium? That scent transports me instantly to the kitchen table with mom and the Avon Lady.

A couple of decades later when I lived in London, I was invited to a makeup party. It was at the home of a new acquaintance. I accepted the invitation in spite of reservations. I was extremely shy and socially inhibited. Also, because I had Jean’s genes not to mention her spendthrift habit, I knew I wouldn’t need or want to spend much on the product.

As expected, I was uncomfortable at the party. I sat on the couch, ate veggies and dip and made little contribution to conversation. Thankfully, the show got underway. The sales woman asked for someone to model. Incredibly, I volunteered. In hindsight I expect I accepted so that I could avoid the painful chitchat.

When the sales woman wrapped up her demonstration, I excused myself to use the bathroom. I closed the door, and made my way to the mirror. I love the “reveal” part of makeovers. I couldn’t wait to see the glamorous new me.

The hideous clown face that stared back at me from the mirror made my stomach lurch. I was mortified. I barely resisted the urge to scour the gunk from my face.

Do you want to know what I did then? I showed that makeup lady exactly what I thought of her “beauty” product as well as her technique. I marched out to the living room and ordered the entire suite of product.

What this says about my physiological “makeup” [yes, intended] will remain un-examined. However, just the other day, I had reason to recall this episode of my life. Someone asked the question, “Did you have a bad experience with network marketing?”

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Categories: Personal Growth

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76 replies

  1. Oh how I love this…. Let me count the ways…
    1. Miniatures (I adore them)
    2. The Unexpected (the ending totally was!)
    3. Double entendre (Brilliant)
    4. Memories (elicited a ton about
    5. Rose Geranium (it takes me THERE too!)
    6. Jean’s genes (we have a Gene in the family and constantly say “Gene’s genes!). Do you say Jean’s jeans (as in pants, too?)
    7. Maggie finally posted! (Enough said – I miss you!
    Hugs,
    Steph
    Ps. Come visit me if you like Sound of Music

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I wear no makeup–zero, zilch, none. But I got dragooned into going to a makeup party once because a friend of a friend needed bodies in the room. We all layered the stuff on our faces, then I did the same thing you did: looked at myself in the mirror. She’d had us do a good job of it, but I swear I could’ve been anybody. Everything I recognize that tells me I look like me was covered up. I couldn’t get rid of the stuff fast enough.

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    • This just occurred to me – do men do these network marketing party things? Because I was going to say that if it weren’t for a woman’s empathy/sympathy/dragoonability, these multi-level marketing schemes would have never gotten off the ground. Which, at the risk of offending anyone who enjoys the practice, wouldn’t hurt my feelings in the least.

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  3. A great tale! A bad experience with network marketing and clowns, all in one! You will definitely need more make-up to cover up those scars lol. I have the same feeling about face paint. Once I had my “colours done” at Merle Norman (in my twenties when make up should not be needed), I felt I looked like a racoon when done, but a clown, but that works too. I did not buy the kit, but bought some single token item for the effort which I likely never used. That was still more than I should have spent. Lesson learned. I swore off make-up after that. I just couldn’t get used to it. So what did I do? I became an Avon Lady, of course! LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    • OF COURSE YOU DID!! Oh my word. The penny drops! I now have the answer to a cryptic offline comment! How incredibly FREAKY that I should write this today, then!

      I wish I could say that I learned my lesson about marketing parties after that evening. I attended several more over the years until I finally found the courage to go along with the conviction.

      The conversation with the “someone” who asked about a bad network marketing experience gave me clarity. There is enough need in the world. I cannot support a practice that creates MORE need. I especially cannot support selling an anti-aging product by preying on a woman’s self-esteem. If a group of women are going to gather, I’d rather the purpose be enrichment of self and community, not the enrichment of the snake-oil salesman (or woman, as the case may be.)

      Liked by 4 people

      • I was a hypocritical Avon Lady. I didn’t wear or buy the make-up, except for maybe nail polish. I signed up to get the discount on the clothes. I know that sounds like saying someone buys Playboy for the articles but I preferred the American sizing and poly-cotton fabrics. I didn’t flog the books, just left them out in the lunch room or such and occasionally made a sale. It was definitely not a money-making proposition but then I didn’t intend it to be. And I agree, chapstick doesn’t count 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Our mothers were probably of the same generation. Mine was so conservative about these things it is almost unbelieveable in hindsight. Makeup and jewelry were vulgar. Skirts had to be a certain length. And colourful clothes were for whores. It was like growing up in Victorian England except I was in Alberta in the 1970s. Worse, a lot of those ideas rubbed off! haha I never wear jewelry and rarely wear makeup.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Debra – same vintage, but different pew, if you don’t mind a mashed up metaphor. Mom would have adorned herself more if she could afford to, I think. She made sure that I was as fashionable as possible and sewed my wardrobe up until I graduated high school. I wore love beads and hot pants and bell-bottomed hip-hugging jeans. She refused, however, to allow me to pierce my ears, now that I think back. That, I think, she equated with vulgarity. She was vehemently against it. Again, maybe it was the expense, because she offered her clip on earrings instead. Funny eh?

      But just like you, today I wear no jewelry and sometimes I slap on the eyeliner. Lip balm of course. I’m addicted to that stuff. But that’s not cosmetic, in my books, if it is colourless. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m not a fan of make up. My skin is too sensitive and afflicted with Rosacea to tolerate anything beyond eyes and lips, so I remain quite Plain Jane. Actually, I don’t think any of the women in my family are big make-up wearers. My cousin almost lost credits in cosmetology school for not wearing enough make up, although she said she felt like a whore, lol
    We’re into nail polish tho…
    My other cousin, an older boy one, had this boyfriend who worked at the Lancome counter, and he gave me a makeover one day when I was in college. When he was done, I looked fantastic, but I didn’t recognize myself, and I felt really weird, physically and mentally. I told him I’d just stick to my perfume, which was a huge disappointment to him. It took me half an hour to get all that make up off. Reminded me of stage make up!
    Generally, I hate those parties, regardless of product. I prefer a catalog and a phone number, all by myself.
    Good genes go a long way! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I felt really weird, physically and mentally.” Exactly! Kinda like hearing your voice on a tape recorder. You know that your supposed to recognize the image, but something woo-woo is goin’ on.

      Stage makeup is apt. In more ways than one. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  6. My mom had regular visits from the Avon lady when I was growing up – I remember the tiny tubes of sample lipstick, and getting to smell all the perfumes. There was one perfume in particular where I was allowed to keep the bottle long after the contents were used. I can’t remember the name, but the bottle was like a square-ish hourglass.

    Mom never bought much makeup, but stuck to the perfumes and lotions and such.

    I had my clown face phase in high-school, but by the time I’d graduated, I’d pretty much decided to be plain and bare to the world – too much work to smear the stuff on in the morning, touch it up all day long, and then scrape it off at night.

    Chapstick is pretty much the only thing I wear nowadays.

    I got stuck in the networking trap with jewelry sales.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love my make-up. It covers my blotchy, uneven complexion. Don’t make me give it up. Please … I beg you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I am Avon’s nightmare (and other’s as well). I use make-up only when we go out. I use soap and water, but I have to say I am blessed with a crystal clear complexion and I love freckles :-). My daily routine is Mascara and lipgloss and I am done. As long as we don’t talk about hairstyles and hair colors I am good 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Haha, I think we’ve all caved and purchased far more than we should at home parties. I don’t go to them anymore, but I’ve been to some Mary Kay ones in the past and Pampered Chef. Pampered Chef is my weakness. Love their products.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Maggie, sounds as if you have the “kindness” gene buying the whole product kit & kaboodle. Seems my Mom was of the same thought about make-up. She used cold cream to cleanse, a little lipstick, and not much else. Loved your account of the make-up party, the story twist was perfect! You were the “star” in the end.
    Christine

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  11. Brilliant! Way to show that makeup lady who’s boss, Maggie! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I bought so many things as a token of friendship…Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, and my favorite…Longaberger Baskets. I finally took myself out of the “circuit”and never looked back. Dad told us 4 daughters that only ugly women wore makeup, the scrubbed face was the goal. Of course, we’d sneak it a bit, but we must have bought into it. My daughter pointed out that no girl in my wedding photos was wearing make-up. I never noticed. Love your surprise ending, Maggie. ☺ Van

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I can’t believe I’d totally forgotten those little lipstick samples! What fun those were. My middle sister is a cosmetics fanatic. The concept of “less is more” has never occured to her. She worked for years behind the Estee and Chanel counters and finally talked me into a makeover. I wear makeup but not enough for her. Anyway, when she was finished, I looked like a hooker – as proven when I appeared in front of my husband and he burst out laughing. LOL!

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  14. I can’t add much about makeup. I wear none and my wife wears very little. Avon ladies, oh God. So many of my older female cousins tried that job that we had them practicing their schtick at of kitchen table often. My mother always bought something.

    On the other hand, my mother was addicted to Tupperware. She hosted Tupperware parties just to get the free stuff the host got if sales were high enough. I liked those because she served snacks and candy we normally wouldn’t have in the house. By the time I was nine, I was sure you could build houses out of Tupperware.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mom didn’t get out and I know that she didn’t host a party, but even so, we had several Tupperware items in the house. Ubiquitous stuff. I remember learning how to “burp” the seal.

      Yeah, what to do with all those plastic tubs and things. That’s one of the issues, even today, yes? You need an entire storage system to store the storage containers!

      Liked by 3 people

  15. G’day Maggie,
    What a fun story, but I need to know why you bought it hahahaha,, Bring raised along with 2 brothers by a father and no Mum insight for the informative years, I don’t wear the stuff unless a special occasion arises

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    • First things first. I haven’t been reading your works because my reader hasn’t been displaying them! [grumble]. Terribly sorry for being silent!

      Now, as to “why?”… peer pressure, defiance, denial comes to mind as a good candidate… it was all part of the learning.

      Nice to hear from you. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This was a delightful, evocative post, Maggie. Takes me right back to the early ’70s when I was briefly an Avon lady in my teens. I admit I only did it to get the nifty miniature samples.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Maggie–this was such a fun read–both the post and all the comments. We have all been there, haven’t we? Soon as I saw those little lipstick samples, I could not wait to read. We had a very lovely Avon lady when I was growing up (I can still remember how she said ‘pink lipstick–she really stuck those ‘k’s). Many years later, we got a new Avon lady–an older (read: ancient) old gal with long, stringy hair, baggy pants, T-shirt and sneakers. She looked up at my mother and I and said “Avon calling.” She didn’t make it in the house. She wasn’t even wearing lipstick, for gosh sakes!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. For years I didn’t wear makeup, or do anything with my hair, and I wore baggy, very casual clothes – and then someone assumed I was much, much older than I really was and that changed everything for me. I dyed my hair, grew it out, started wearing make-up (for me, this means mascara and powder – and occasionally eye shadow or lipstick), and lost some weight and started wearing clothes that were more professional and actually fit. It changed my life – literally. The newfound confidence I felt inspired me to start working on other issues in my life, as I had enough regard for myself that I knew I didn’t deserve to be so unhappy. That led to all sorts of changes, as you know.

    BTW – those tiny lipsticks? That brought back such memories for me. My grandmother always had loads of those and whenever she would visit, I would get 3-4 as my very own. I remember being in the bathroom with grandma as she was putting on her makeup and I’d watch her very closely, and then use my little lipstick to mirror what she did. I still remember her smiling down at me and feeling so loved. Thanks for bringing that memory back today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your wonderful comment, Jana! I know exactly what you mean about feeling the confidence that comes from wearing clothing and cosmetics that make you feel attractive. I schlep around in old baggy clothing most of the time because I work from home. Sometimes I am reluctant to answer the door for deliveries because I feel ashamed.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Oh, Maggie ! – you were brave, and foolish too, eh ?
    Those Avon ladies: who taught them that they could apply makeup ?
    There are some smells I remember, but that’s about all.
    Never have been a woman for makeup, Avon was only on the periphery of my life – but it’s remembered ! – you’re good at that ! 🙂

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  20. I remember sitting on our front steps when I was, oh, about four, when the Avon lady came up the walk. I told her, “Dad says you aren’t suppose to come around any more.”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A fun read, Maggie. Loved your fascination with the small lipstick samples. Of course now tots a multitude of makeup and nail polish. The marketers know to snag them early!!

    A Mary Kay Cosmetics rep friend asked to be her ‘show ‘n show’ model once. I politely declined!

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  22. I can see by all of the responses Maggie, this has hit home with many!~In my single parent days I was talked into selling Nutrimetics. In fact it cost me rather than earning anything! I did like the lotion to take spray off fruit and vegetables. I don’t use makeup and my find after all these years is Bio oil that I put on my senile warts, and it really has helped keep them under control!! How’s that for a a sales plug!!
    Just loved your post Maggie as it brought back so many memories. ❤

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  23. Just loved Little Miss Menopause’s comment as she ticked all the boxes I wanted to comment on. 🙂

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  24. I think sometimes we see what others do not- with a hyper-blazed microscopic focus intended upon self-destruction. I feel ya. ;0) We do that as women. (I can’t speak for the men folk!) This is compounded though by mass media brain-feeding us all of the crap and hype of “how to become more beautiful with makeup”- and really, we’re pros by the time we’re 10. I’m sooooo glad I was raised by a make-up less mother and was taught by my father (all of my life) that true beauty comes from within. I literally hate eyeshadow! (And my daily make-up regimen takes 10 seconds, literally. Slap some blush on my cheeks and I’m good to go!) Anywho, I relate to your story here, Mag. I think all of us do. x

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  25. I can so imagine you at the party. =) It’s funny. This post ties in with the series I’m sliding into (on beauty). So…you BOUGHT the set??? Huh?

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    • I know. Huh squared. I have no recollection of my thought process from that night. But in hindsight I expect it was denial. Because if I had allowed myself to respond to my first reaction of disgust, I would have had to say, “I look hideous. I hate this. This product and your work are crap.”

      Can’t have that, now, can we? So I pulled a 180 and by buying the lot squelched the urge to protest.

      BTW – look forward to your series.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. Oh, I remember those little lipsticks! Which is weird because make up never figured largely in my household when I was growing up. Doesn’t in my grown up household either. I only wear it on stage or when I want to shock people by turning up in a dress, heels and make up.

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  27. You remind me of the one time when I went to a makeup “party”. A new acquaintance invited me, so I stopped by for what I thought would be just a few minutes, just to make an appearance. I was the only one who showed up, and we had a great conversation.

    A few years later, when someone new cut my hair, she insisted on showing me the skin care products that the salon was selling and that I had never paid attention to. I let her express her enthusiasm on my face, and saw that clown-like face that you described, when I got to the visor mirror in my car. I was glad that I was on my way home.

    Oh! And on my wedding day, my maid of honor insisted on putting some of her makeup on my face, which was normally naked – horrors! I recall gray being the predominant color.

    Our mothers had it right : keep it simple. Even better: forget it 😉

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  28. Hi Grace! Such a mixed bag of outcomes, yes? I particularly like your final remarks: forget it. Thanks for stopping by to read and remark!

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