Friday, February 12, 2010

Look good, feel better

That's the promise of the charity funded by the cosmetics and toiletries industry. Women with cancer are invited to a workshop to learn about make-up and hair care. The idea is great. Slap on some lippy and bingo! you look good and feel better for it.

I was reluctant to go. Why mess with perfection? But I met a fabulous cancer warrior at the local supermarket and she pushed all the right buttons. "You get hundreds of dollars worth of free stuff." I rang and booked as soon as I got home.

I don't do group anything very well so I gave myself a really serious talking to all the way up the Cancer Society stairs. "You're not running the show; these women are probably warm blooded and have feelings so shut up about what you really think; breathe; two ears, one mouth; focus on the free stuff."

It was awful in all the expected ways, "we won't go around and introduce ourselves, I know how nervous that makes you" and wonderful in unexpected ways that humbled me. So many volunteers giving up time to bless women in need. So many delicious freebies from my favourite cosmetic giants. There's the rub. Partly why having cancer is such a shitty disease is because as a society we are bombarded with misinformation about how a person's value should be measured. Images of 'beautiful' women are everywhere and they're not often bald, with eyebrows falling off. The whole concept of the make-up morning rubbed up against what I believe makes people beautiful. The confidence that comes from being certain of your place in the world, the joy of living a life you've chosen and created, the peace that passes all understanding and allows us to graciously accept that bad things happen to good people. I couldn't help but think that two hours of sharing and celebrating each other's triumphs through the trials of cancer treatment might have had a more permanent beneficial effect. But perhaps that's what the support groups the Cancer Society offers are for. We all certainly laughed and enjoyed the attention of the wonderful volunteers who could not be faulted. Their love and warmth was uplifting. And total surprise - colouring in my eyebrows was fun. "Lots of little strokes."

Truthfully, I left looking like a drag queen. Lots of eye-shadow, caked on foundation, and a pukey peach lipstick. Still, I had wonderful gifts of cleanser and makeup remover to rub it all off.

Back at work, the girls in the cafe underneath my office immediately commented on how nice I looked. Crap. C arrived at his desk. Did I know that my cheek was sparkling? And by the way honey, you look great. Shit. I hauled my spare 9 kilos up 79 steps to visit Frosty F, my chief bridesmaid. She, of all people, would respond appropriately and offer me a flannel and some soap.

"Oh my goodness Sach. Where have you been? You look a-m-a-z-i-n-g. That colour on your lips is gorgeous." Fuck.

I had to laugh. It took nearly two hours to get the goo on and where am I going to get that kind of time on a daily basis? The best advice I got from the workshop was to invest in a head wrap to wear at night to keep my head warm. The lovely expert slipped one onto my head to show the other girls how easy they are to pop on one's pate. It has the added benefit, I quipped, of being a contraceptive device.

So here for your viewing pleasure is me, the evening of the event. The light doesn't do the thickness of the goop justice or show just how dark grey my hair is. But hopefully, at the very least, the joy and peace I have about the lucky life I lead shows through.

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