Celebration of beauty no match for what shines within

The week before I’m scheduled to host a cosmetics event for Bloomingdale’s, my skin breaks out. Not only are pimples popping up with a stubborn furor, blotchy patches of red flare from my cheeks in some kind of mocking adolescent regression. I am also bloated, thanks to a donut I had to have (anyone who’s ever been to the Fractured Prune will understand) though I have been gluten-free for more than four years and knew exactly the risk I courted when I devour the hot, cake-like confection with its gooey chocolate glaze dipped in coconut flakes and peanuts.

If I am to go on picking apart all the reasons I feel less than primed for this gig, I could take note of the nasty scar on my right calf, the result of a colossal recent act of clumsiness, or the fact that too many late and restless nights have tracked their shadows beneath my eyes.

In short, I feel inadequate. How can I stand up before a group of women celebrating the wonders of serums and moisturizers, eye creams and illuminating foundations when I look as if my own skin-care routine has fallen by the wayside? These are the thoughts that flutter through my head as Saturday draws near.

At stores across the region, Bloomingdale’s will host the Makeup Date, a private, invitation-only event for select customers who are treated to an expert overview of some of the latest beauty products from top brands like Lancome, Clarins, Dior and La Prairie before they are set loose in the cosmetics department to try those marvels for themselves and hopefully take home their personal arsenal. Much to my surprise, I was invited to emcee the spring event at Willow Grove Park.

Yet from my time meeting with the staff working the cosmetics counters and learning about a dizzying array of products to selecting the dress I would wear and introducing the presenters to the excited crowd the day of the event, I had such a blast, I wondered if perhaps I should have gone into a career in fashion after all.

It was a possibility I flirted with when I was about 12 and would spend countless hours at the dining room table, sketching dresses and swimsuits for the designer collection I imagined I would have one day. I even modeled in a few shows at our local mall, but my interest in that world quickly waned as writing became a more-feverish passion. Still, I’ve never lost my love for putting clothes together, for the way colors and patterns can express personality and create a mood. Friends often joke I should open my own boutique though I consider myself neither a clothes horse nor a slave to the hottest trends. I simply like what I like and have fun with my wardrobe.

But cosmetics — that’s an area for which I’ve never had much enthusiasm or patience, which is why the invitation from Bloomingdale’s was so unexpected. I wear makeup but not a lot, and I have a basic skin care routine that I know could use a little more attention the older I get. But the thought of fussing with countless products to achieve “flawless, radiant” skin or spending more than five minutes in front of a mirror aiming for cover-girl perfection holds little appeal. Even so, I had to admit it was fun stepping into such a glamorous role as host of the Makeup Date.

When I was invited to again take up those duties for the store’s fall event at the King of Prussia Mall, I immediately said yes, never suspecting the self-critical assault I would subject myself to the week before. Yet it takes a single conversation with one of my dear friends, who tells me I am always beautiful and poised and will do a wonderful job no matter what, to shake me out of such disconcerting preoccupation. I appreciate her words but what brings me back to center is how good it feels to be engaged in meaningful conversation with her. As we listen deeply to each other, trading travails and insights and whatever wisdom we can offer for where we are in our individual journeys, I am reminded this is what matters to me, this is where I find true beauty in my life: in the connections that feed me and the sacred trust with which my loved ones and I share the fullness of our hearts.

I find it in the laughter that lifts us up and the giddy company we keep, where the minutes flit by with a bold, enveloping buoyancy. Even the space for our tears and heartaches feels restorative, tended as it is from a real and vibrant generosity.

As I stand before the women gathered for the Makeup Date Saturday morning, I do feel beautiful, but it has nothing to do with the gorgeous designer dress I’m wearing or the bright tint to my lips or sooty curl of my lashes. I am wearing happiness, and that, to me, is any woman’s greatest accessory.

I appreciate that there is genuine value in the brands that will be highlighted — I’ve even sampled and been impressed by their potency — and I realize in our youth-obsessed culture, it can be challenging for a woman to embrace her natural beauty at whatever age she is. Yes, I’m there to help tout the miracles of age-defying formulas and luxurious treatments, and, sure, what woman couldn’t benefit from a little expert advice to enhance her best features and take better care of her skin.

But as I take the stage I envision myself celebrating something deeper, even if it’s an awareness I silently hold throughout the morning’s event: a radiance that is our natural gift as women, cultivated by acts of love and kindness and the courage to live in full bloom of all that we’re here to express.

– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times