That little stash there, that's just what I travelled with to London, what I carry in my bag at any given time. There's more at home (even more so since starting Facegoop, possibly the worst thing to happen to my finances since, well, since I first got pocket money).
M is more about the skincare, but I'm all about the instantly transformative qualities of a bit of concealer, blusher, eyeliner. My face needs it, truly. Without lashes, I need the basic punctuation of eyeliner and shadow. The rest is optional, but I like how it looks; I like to give myself cheekbones and a colour other than my natural cadaver blue. I like to make my lips plumper and pinker than they are naturally. I do it because it's pleasing, almost meditative, and because it's something I do solely for myself that makes me feel good. There aren't many things in my life that tick that box in such an uncomplicated way.
I wasn't a particularly early adopter. Coming from the house of a radical academic, albeit one who was very partial to beautiful things, cosmetics were far down the list of priorities, behind my loathed French classes from a gloomily troubled Baudrillard disciple, piano lessons that flew in the face of my absence of natural ability, Julia Kristeva and books, books, books. Of course, I trailed round the Body Shop and bought odd idiotic bits and pieces like everyone else, but I was more enthused by the rare, heady trips to Leeds Warehouse for big, boxy t-shirts in red, fuchsia and black (oh, Warehouse was IT, the acme of sophistication). I know where I first got sucked in though; it was in the library at Quaker school and I was 16, when I discovered French Elle.
I can't imagine who decided at that rather ascetic establishment, that they should take a subscription to French Elle, but there it was, hidden discreetly behind Le Nouvel Observateur and L'Express, in the oak stacks of the John Bright library, untouched by anyone but me, each week a new issue. I would sit there in free periods and read it cover to cover. My eyes would run swiftly over most of the interviews, and the worthy pop psychology, glaze over completely for the recipes. But the fashion, and even more, the beauty pages, caught my imagination like nothing else. I feel confident that in 1990, I was the only 16 year old in North Yorkshire with an encyclopaedic knowledge of thalassotherapy treatments.
I remember copying down the names of perfumes, and products, in an exercise book and going to search for them in Browns or Fenwicks, the old school departments stores of York, hovering around the counters, terrified of the gorgons with their pantomime dame faces. I remember my first big purchases - a Chanel powder compact, and a Chanel lipstick, a very early nineties beigey nude called "Félin" (the only way I was ever going to be described as 'feline'), the smell of them, the little velvet pouch the powder compact came in, the luxury of it all. I remember how extraordinarily grown up it felt. Sure, my contemporaries were having sex, learning to drive, getting drunk and smoking dope. But I had my Chanel compact and it felt good. I wasn't the prettiest and I sure as hell wasn't the most popular, but I had the coolest make up.
Then later of course, my hair all fell out and making what was left of my face as nice as it could be was even more important. If I'm not wearing any make up, it's like that soap opera shorthand - it means Something Is Wrong. There's something a bit unappealing about loving make up, isn't there? It's says you're dependent on artifice; that you're not natural. Well I don't care. Make up has been my friend for nearly twenty years now, and I'm sticking with it. I expect that the older I get, the more I will wear, until at eighty or ninety, I will have a full, Barbara Cartland mask of slap, garishly slathered on with little regard for the facial features it is supposed to enhance. I hope to have a jauntily inappropriate wig too, maybe something voluminous in a nice coppery chestnut colour?
I converted my mother in the end, in a tiny way. After she died, I inherited the other half of the pot of Guerlain Météorites we had shared between us, pouring out the tiny balls into two containers. That batch is long gone now, tiny, shimmery multicoloured spheres proving irresistible to small boys, they ended up crushed and dispersed around various places I have lived. But the powdery violet smell of their replacements still reminds me of her when I occasionally when I open them up.
You know, presumably, that lipstick purchasing is inversely correlated with economic health?
Which, I imagine, is why I have bought THREE in the last six weeks, after not buying any for at least a year, maybe more.
(terrible picture, I only have my phone with me, but I love the sort of halo of fabulousness they are giving off. Quite right too).
That picture? That tells you of the total financial apocalypse that is my life, and possibly the fate of Europe altogether. But wotthehell. At least I can dance out in a blaze of, erm, nude pink.
(And YES, dammit, I bought a Tom Ford lipstick. Food and shelter are overrated)