I make tough decisions every day—career, parenting, financial, diet, exercise, relationship—the last thing I need is an existential crisis in the cosmetics aisle.  But that’s exactly where I found myself the other day in that big box discount store eyeing row after row of mascara choices. Why anyone would need 2832 options (that’s the ACTUAL number offered by this store online) for eye makeup is beyond me.  Assuming you treated mascara wands as single-use disposables, it would take you almost 8 years to work your way through their selection. That’s over $14,000 in mascara expenses if you averaged five bucks a wand, and these are the “bargain” brands.  Good luck finding those deals.

According to People.com, the average American woman spends a whopping $3770 per year on mascara alone.  Not this American woman! Heck, I still have an untouched “bonus” eyeshadow palette from three Christmases ago.  It sits in a bin under the bathroom sink that very likely contains lipstick tubes from the 1990s. Don’t get me wrong.  I am not anti-makeup. In fact, I wear it almost every day. I don’t feel publicly presentable without a coat of mascara.

So, there I stood in the cosmetics aisle trying to pick out the best mascara for a middle-aged woman on a budget who would rather drop that cash on a bottle of wine or possibly spring for “fancy” whole bean coffee when I noticed something about mascara products.  Apparently, we women strive for fat eyelashes. The fatter the better, the advertising would lead me to believe. That’s why they use words like voluminous, colossal, and plumpify in their branding. Can you imagine shopping for colossal yoga pants?

We not only want our lashes to be fat, we also want them to defy nature in their number.  Multiple products promise to either increase the number of lashes on your eyelid or at least help you fake a bumper crop. So, let me get this straight.  For eyelids, the hairier the better. Eyebrows, however, should be plucked/waxed/groomed/penciled and possibly tattooed. Yep, the tattoo effect can be achieved in just a few simple steps with yet another dizzying selection of cosmetics.

We are also totally okay with our lashes looking fake.  That’s where brands with catchwords like falsies and cat eyes come in. If that doesn’t do the trick, there’s yet another line of actual fake eyelashes that stay in place by the power of magnetic force. You can buy them in individual lash sets or by the eyeball.  Women pay good money to look feline. All my attempts at smoky eyes or cat eyes leave me looking like a neurotic raccoon, so I steered clear of those mascaras promising catnip, temptation, or peacock flare.

I was completely baffled by two mascara offerings.  The first claimed to give my lashes telescopic definition.  What? Does that mean they can be seen from space? I highly appreciate hyperbole, Gentle Reader, but I’d really just prefer for my mascara to provide enough contrast to keep my hazel eyes from looking sallow.  I don’t need satellite reception in a blink. The second claimed to make my lashes 4D. I guess they needed to one-up the 3D folks. Seriously, the fourth dimension? That’s getting into some Star Trek stuff right there, with a space-time continuum and wormholes.  I was frankly fearful of that one. Who needs Dr. Who when you have a mascara wand?

I had to make a decision and move on to the much simpler hair product aisle so I could complete my shopping list.  What would my purchase say about me as a person? What would it say philosophically? Why did I care? I narrowed it down to three choices, all featuring adjectives I could relate to in some way:  remarkable—I found that one to be a bit of a pun. Bombshell—I found that one laughable. Professional—that’s why I needed some dang mascara to start with…well, that and the fact that the one I’d been using was making my eyelashes itch, dry up, and fall off.

I know you are just dying to know what wand of overpriced pigmented iron oxide laced with petroleum by-products I selected. I went with the blue one.  Not only was it the least expensive, but it’s stood the test of time. I may not be able to direct jets taxiing down the runway by batting my eyes, attract feral tomcats, or travel into the 4th Dimension, but I’ll look put together without looking made up.

And that’s all the magic I need from a mascara wand.

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1 thought on “Mascara Identity Crisis”

  1. This is so true! And then there are all the mascaras that you have to get through a distributor or at a department store! I have tried them all and always return to Maybelline Great Lash! Love this post!!

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