One of my goals for this blog is to offer a platform for authors whose work I admire. I know a lot of wonderful writers and poets. When a new work is available I make it my mission to feature their work or point to it so you can take a look at it.
This charming little story was sent to me by Carole Field, MFT, published author and playwright. You can find her books, “Dating Down And Those of Us Who Do It” and “New York Guns, Kansas Nuns, Birth Control!” on Amazon. I have known Carole for many years. We talk about everything. She is an educated listener and a deep thinker. I can always count on her to give me a unique, well-considered perspective on any issue.
Knowing her as I do I can absolutely accept that she wrote this story in one session while sitting in the parking lot of the Food 4 Less! “The Smell of Make-Up” struck me as engaging, lovely, funny, and touching. Here she captures a moment in time that takes a bit of nostalgia, a bit of fantasy, and our current planetary restrictions and ties them all up together into a little bit of hope. Seems like a gem of a holiday gift.
THE SMELL OF STAGE MAKE-UP by Carole H. Field
I am never really vexed by the randomness of thoughts. I’m aware our synapses aren’t linear. Ultimately, we just make them work. But this particular, glaring, non-sequitur was so unhitched, I had to go home and scribble it on paper.
So- there I sat in the parking lot of Food 4 Less on Van Owen Blvd. Not the most religious of experiences. And I watched the masked and gloved, largely Mexican, families cajoling and joyously poking each other towards their/our essential pilgrimage.
And so, what else do I think of when I’m in a grocery store parking lot on a scorching, Sunday morning during a pandemic? None other than- how much I missed the smell of stage make-up. Naturally.
Yes- the smell. Not the pretty colors or what it did to these deep-set eyes, but the smell. That first blast when you unscrewed the lid and it hit you, without permission.
“How do you do, Sugar? We’re in this together “, it would say.
I would light up like a twin finding his counterpart, or, even, a virgin birth.
The make-up from Macy’s or Bloomies or the cheap drugstore on W. 53rd never had that certain smell, nor, the voice, avuncularly calling me Sugar.
That darling little man on E. 41st s who never looked up from reading Backstage or Show Business but could accurately advise you from some third eye.
“Watcha up to?” he would ask.
“Yay- I am going out with ‘No, No, Nanette’ next week, “ I would respectfully reply.
“Mazel tov,” he would say. “Get the Max Factor #5. You’re part light olive, part pink. Anything else will drown you out. We got new lip brushes from Berlin. They’re on sale. “
And, I’d leave there, smiling, with my new stash, still never seeing the color of his eyes.
And in the subway, I’d steal a bench, peruse the area to begin my new relationship with no interruption, and uncap one of my new potions.
And, there it’d be again. The waft, the greeting, the historical ambrosia left by every actress before me and every actress henceforth, hoofing, in “No, No Nanette”. And it would say,
“Hi, Sugar. We’re in this together.”
Whether it was the Belasco, or a black box on Melrose, or Temple Israel‘s backstage in Detroit, the smell of stage make-up had the same voice.
I pulled myself inside the grocery store. No doubt everyone in there was thinking the same as me. Understandably, I hobbled over to the lonely make-up stand. There, far from commanding, smiled the Revlon and the Maybelline. They were trying. But I pretended, for just one second, that I was surrounded by the smell of Max Factor and Ben Nye and….And, that the word pandemic was only something cobbled together on a Scrabble board. And, that the lights were as radiant as ever on the Great White Way. And, the only masks anyone was wearing were for effect, for something theatrical, under the silly magicians, cheesy sleight of hand. Undoubtedly.
“Sugar,” said the voice from Max Factor #5. “Hey- you got it goin’ on. This pandemic thing is temporary. They all are. Go with your inner resources. Go for the love, Carole. Because whether you’re basking in the smell of odorous, legendary, rouge, or of the inhibitions produced by your mask, it’s all about the love. Did you ever believe it was about anything else? “ he laughed.
I cautiously moved away from the make-up stand and filled my basket with food. I now had to look at Food 4 Less with different eyes. Yow- who knew that roast chicken and mascara had so very much in common?
Oh…..what was it I said about random thoughts?