April 02, 2003

Rest in peace, Clairol True-To-Light

I’ve had the same routine every morning for just about as long as I can remember: I brush my teeth, wash my face, shower, get dressed, and then sit down in front of the makeup mirror. I probably spend a good twenty minutes every morning in front of it plucking, moisturizing, and putting on makeup.

I know what you’re thinking - what does a smart, beautiful, forward-thinking girl need with painting her face? It’s what I often say to myself.

But I can’t help it. I need my makeup. It takes work to be pretty, you know. Don’t get me wrong, though - I’m no Tammy Faye. Makeup for me consists mostly of strategically spotted concealer to cover up the sleep deprivation-induced under-eye circles, a dusting of translucent powder, and, occasionally, lipstick. Without these things, I do not leave the house.

One of the obstacles to the proper application of makeup is the fact that most bathrooms (which are the usual locations of mirrors) do not have good lighting, and the sink gets in the way. These problems are solved by the makeup mirror.

A good makeup mirror is not simply a mirror. It will have a light source that illuminates your face evenly, so you don’t have shadows, and you put it on a table, so that you can get your face right up close to it. Some people also like magnifying mirrors, although they tend to give me a headache, and come on, do I really want my pores to look an inch wide?

For the last ten years, at least (I can’t actually remember when I bought it), my Clairol True-To-Light sat perched on my desk, ready to come to my aid whenever I needed to be beautiful. Every morning, I pressed its little button, and every morning, it would light up without fail.

This morning, I turned it on and then got distracted for a moment. When I turned back, it was off. I thought to myself, that’s strange - I thought I’d turned it on. So I turned it on again, again got distracted, and again turned back to find it off.

The third time, to make sure I wasn’t going insane (always a possibility), I watched it after I pressed the button. The light came on, stayed on for a few seconds, and then sputtered out.

I was stunned. I thought my Clairol True-To-Light would last forever. It’s been through beauty product hell - it’s been dropped on the floor so many times I’ve lost count. It’s been tossed around carelessly as I moved from apartment to apartment. Pieces of its plastic housing were broken off in several places. Through it all, its bulbs have burned strong, never wavering, never flickering, never failing.

No more. My Clairol True-To-Light was dead. I pressed that button over and over again, hoping against hope that it might recover. Please don’t die now. I need you. I can’t live without you. It was like in the movies, when one person keeps pumping the guy’s chest, even though everyone else knows he’s dead, and it’s hopeless. Just like in the movies, the light stayed out.

My heart heavy, I walked slowly to the bathroom and did the only thing I could do. I applied my makeup using the poor lighting. I contorted my body into awkward positions just to get my face close enough to the mirror to see it. It’s a miracle I didn’t come away looking like that lady in Airplane.

On the way home, I stopped at the store. It was hard to do, but I made myself go in. I felt a lot of emotions. I was sad. I was feeling uncertainty - what if bought a new mirror, and I didn’t like it? Would I ever be able to find one as good as my old friend?

Mostly, though, I was annoyed. When the hell did these things get so damn expensive? I paid $20 for my Clairol True-To-Light ten years ago. I was now looking at anywhere from $60 to $120, and the low-end ones were out of the question because they all had incandescent bulbs. Makeup mirrors are perhaps the only context where you actually want fluorescent bulbs, because they don’t heat up as much (very important - you don’t want to sweat while applying makeup), and because they mimic the lovely fluorescent lighting present in most offices (for example, the one where I toil away most of my waking hours).

I had very few options. I didn’t have time to comparison shop. I couldn’t spend another day in the dreaded bathroom. So, I shit you not, I dropped over a hundred dollars on a freakin’ mirror. A mirror! That’s how desperate I was.

At the very least, all that money certainly bought a mirror that itself looks very pretty. The real test will come in the morning, when we’ll see if it can make me look pretty. It has some big shoes to fill. Not that I’m putting any pressure on it or anything.

Rest in peace, Clairol True-To-Light. You will be missed.

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