by Kristin Armstrong
Illustration by Heather Sundquist
Let me first out myself. I can be vain at times, in rather odd ways. I’ll just say up front: I am a middle-aged-formerly-relatively-attractive woman who is handling the aging process semi-okay. Sometimes I do ridiculous things to make myself feel pretty. One such unfortunate sidetrack involved fake eyelashes. Have you noticed how many women suddenly have such thick, sweeping lash extensions that they create a breeze whenever they blink? I started to obsess over lashes, thinking that the longer and darker they were, the less noticeable my crow’s-feet would become. Soon Latisse was not enough. I lusted for more. Lust is a sin (probably worse when combined with vanity), but I just had to go there anyway.
I went to an eyelash salon. Can you believe there are eyelash salons? What will be next? Elbow exfoliators? Chin-hair stylists? Bunion bars? Bellybutton vacuuming? Bikini-line landscape architects?
You could choose from the following options: Gorgeous, Sexy, Natural, or Cute. How can you possibly go wrong? I chose Gorgeous. Or was it Sexy? I definitely skipped Natural and Cute. Why be Mary Ann when you can be Ginger? I loved them, at least at first. When I woke up in the morning, I looked more awake — like I already had makeup on. I could swipe on some lip gloss and be out the door. I felt like coyly winking at everyone I saw, from the tattooed checker at Whole Foods to random drivers at four-way stops. My flirty alter ego was fabulous. Or so I thought.
I just wanted my money, my dignity, and my natural lashes back.
Never mind the fact that you have to sit there for more than two hours, with your eyes taped shut as though you’d been abducted by a serial killer, all while pop music blasts into your torture chamber and someone pokes at your lashes with a tweezer. Beauty has a price, right, ladies?
Looking back, I should have known something wasn’t right when I parked at the opposite end of the shopping center so that no one would see my car outside. After a few months, my lustful lash affair started turning into a regular old relationship. I started to see flaws and get bored. My lashes were falling out faster, leaving gaping holes between the dreaded two-hour appointments. The glue started to feel heavy. I could feel the wind lifting my lash line, and it did not feel good. The random rogue extra-long lash (they don’t all grow out at the same rate) would brush up against the lenses of my glasses, annoying me to no end. I started to feel ridiculous when I went running, like I was all glammed-up to hit the town — in shorts at 7 a.m. Meow. If sweat or allergies irritated my eyes, I couldn’t even rub them anymore. I noticed the lashes when I slept, trying to get comfortable on my pillow with broken lash remnants. I would wake up and look in my ultra-magnifying makeup mirror and see scraggly, uneven lashes tangled up like bed-head hair. I tried to comb them (always a good use of time), and they would fall out on the little brush. My young daughters, who have far better eyesight than I do, would say, “Oooh, Mom, you need to get your lashes done soon.”
“But I just got them done!” I’d say. The bloom was officially off the rose.
I went in to get them fixed, and the lash girl told me my natural lashes were in such bad condition that I couldn’t get another set for at least several weeks. She would have to take the stragglers off instead.
She taped my eyes shut, painted my lashes with an acidic adhesive remover, and painfully plucked away at the remains of my Gorgeous. Thirty minutes later, I looked in the mirror and barely recognized the sad, old woman with blood-shot eyes with nary a fringe of lash line. I couldn’t tell if I was weeping because of the stinging, the shock, or the shame.
I finally really saw myself. It wasn’t pretty.
This had to end. It’s over, honey. Over. Done. Finished. We both knew this could never last. This was never right. I want my old life and my old lashes back. They were actually lovely, and I totally took them for granted. I need to make this right. I hope it’s not too late.
I repented for my lust, my vanity, and my wasteful use of finances. There are starving people in the world, and I was taping my eyes shut to all of them.
I put my sunglasses on my raw, nubby eyes and slinked out to the front desk to cancel my membership. Yes, I had a freaking membership. I know, don’t even say it.
“Okay, you’re all good,” the lash girl said. “Come back if you change your mind!” She winked her Gorgeous at me and smiled a perfect, pearly-white smile.
A year, and a shit-ton of Latisse, later, I got a message from the lash dealers, to let me know I had credits to use. Credits? What are you talking about?
At first I feared they would not refund my money for the untouched glue and lash fibers that I thought I was done paying for. I flipped out. I thought to myself, To hell with embarrassment, I’m speaking out. I’m calling the Better Business Bureau. I’m getting on social media, finally, damn it. I’m going to figure out how to make a review on Yelp and use all of my writing skills to inflict an eye for an eye(lash). I’m calling John Grisham. Julia Roberts will play me.
I just wanted my money, my dignity, and my natural lashes back. The manager eventually nicely refunded my money. No more lashing out. Wink.
Read more from the Spring Style Issue | April 2018