This is probably a horrible idea. As are many of the things I think will be great fun, like that perm in third grade, taking two toddlers to the Pumpkin Patch on Groupon Day by myself without a stroller, allowing an Elf on the Shelf to enter my home. These were all seemingly grand ideas prior to their enaction. It’s once you’re in the thick of it that you smell disaster, or maybe that was just the chemicals frying my hair?
Once, many years and parenting fails ago, I gave my two older daughters, ages five and two at the time, a bag full of all the old makeup I hadn’t used in years. It was a treasure trove of poor choices in eyeshadow color and lipstick type and all the blushes and mascaras I had tried and failed to love as much as previous products that had been discontinued. It was a bag of unfulfilled hopes and it was just taking up space in my cabinet, so why not let the girls have at it? I set them up in the dry bathtub, naked, with a little eyeshadow instruction and explanations of what went where, as well as where not to put it.
How fun would this be? They always wanted to play in my makeup and now they had free rein to go crazy without the concern of ruined clothes or furniture - and they were all set for bath time right after. I would be able to nurse the baby and get us all through the last 30 minutes before my reinforcements got home from work.
Genius, right? Except, not really. Why I thought a two and five-year-old would heed the “no makeup in the grout” rule is unclear. Of course, they put it in their hair and practiced their penmanship on the sides of the tub. I also hadn’t checked the content or condition of the makeup in the bag. I didn’t see the waterproof mascara or the long-lasting lipstick or the Endless Performance cream foundation that, after years of neglect, was now the cosmetic equivalent of mortar with food coloring added.
Some of the eyeshadows and blushes were cracked, so simply opening one had the same effect as using a flour sifter filled with midnight blue, deep purple, and blushes called luster and bumpy ride. Seriously, Nars, stop it with the innuendo color names - it’s beyond awkward to have to whisper the name of your lipstick to someone inquiring about it at a kid’s birthday party, “Oh, thanks. It’s called Sexual Healing by Nars.” Marvin Gaye is a national treasure, but just stop.
I nursed the baby in ignorant bliss, sanctimonious about my parenting prowess - I had this whole “parenting three kids” thing down pat. My husband came home and I smugly directed him to the bathroom to see what a smart woman he married. When he came back out, his face mirrored the wide-eye emoji, and he asked if I knew what was going on in there. “Of course. I gave them the makeup - they’re thrilled. It bought me a half hour to feed the baby. We can wash it off during bath time.”
He jerked his head towards the bathroom. Rolling my eyes, I followed. They were covered in it. I expected this - no problem. We own soap. But the tub, it’s textured on the bottom so you don’t slip and now it was splatter painted with crushed cosmetics, and had lipstick ground into the bumps. Well, that would require a little scrubbing, but what a small price to pay for the uninterrupted time. What ended up requiring the most strenuous of scrubbing were my children. I’ve never really liked long-lasting lipstick; I loathe it now. The decade-old makeup adhered to their skin (and hair and nails and the tub and the tile and the grout) like industrial strength putty, tie-dyeing their faces with splotches of stains. There were tears. There was screaming. Some abrasions.
All of my eye makeup remover. Rubbing alcohol. Copious amounts of coconut oil finally did the trick (The millennials are right: it fixes everything). By the time we wrapped their red, raw little bodies in the last of the clean towels, the baby was staccato screaming from the bassinet, the dog was licking the coconut oil off the floor and my husband had elicited promises from all of us to never, ever do this again.
The girls didn’t suffer any permanent damage, but the grout never recovered. It had seemed like such a great idea! So much fun. Kind of like this column. In a clear example of bad judgment, the Northside Sun has offered me, a mother of four kids who uses writing about the monkeys in her circus as therapy, this space to get myself in trouble. And I don’t even have to put on makeup to do it. What fun!
Most of my days involve conversations with easily distracted little humans: “Mama, did you know that a girl at school - is that what we’re having for dinner? Gross. I’m not eating it. She’s gonna get to go two times. TWO TIMES!” Um, okay. Chatting with my children can be like watching paint dry, then being rear-ended by a non sequitur. Disney World, the girl gets to go to Disney World two times - I know you were wondering. I read because I’m pretty sure books are going to get me to an empty nest with my ability to string together coherent sentences still intact.
Another favorite hobby of mine is telling other people what to read. I am excellent at it. Being chill about someone not reading what I suggest? Needs improvement. I’ll work on that. In the meantime, every Mississippian should be reading the newest release from Mississippi-raised Harrison Scott Key: Congratulations, Who Are You Again? He writes, “The hardest part of dreaming is that if you don’t do it, nothing terrible happens. Life goes on.
This is why crying babies and student loans always take precedence; if you don’t see to those matters, things explode, break down. Civilization stops being civilized. But if you never cut that album you always wanted to record, what happens? What worlds come crashing down, but the one in your heart? None.”
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.