Make-up is a little like sugar on cereal. The longer your kids don’t know about it, the better. And then of course when they do finally find out about it, they have a tendency to pile it on.
And so it breaks my heart to say that The Pixie – at the ripe age of five and through no fault of her own – has discovered makeup in a Big Way.
It’s all because I thought she should do dancing. You know, as a bit of exercise and as something to do that was entirely for her and had nothing to do with her brothers. The dance school I chose seemed so relaxed – kids did the class in their school uniforms and without proper shoes. It was cheap, it was local, she was happy, I was happy.
But then we hit The Concert Season and everything spun rapidly spun Out. Of. Control.
Suddenly, I found myself faced with a list of make-up requirements that looked like it’d been issued by the wardrobe department of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I was dishing out money at every turn for special stockings, flesh-coloured underwear, makeup, hairspray, bobby pins, concert DVDs and photos and discovering that the inclusion of the word “ballet” or “dance” in any item’s description had the same effect as the word “wedding” – it doubled the price instantly.
Still, I had come this far and it was too late to pull out without letting anyone down (The Pixie most of all). And so I dutifully turned up at the theatre for the dress rehearsal at the appointed time with my child and all the requisite accoutrements. I had even managed to hang two (out of the four) costumes on hangers with a plastic shopping bag draped carefully over them.
I felt pretty damn good about myself – after all, it’s hard to find spare hangers in The House That Ate Paris. And the plastic bag showed that I was a mindful mother who didn’t want her child’s costumes to get unduly soiled (or at the very least the shoulders of the costumes, since that was all the plastic bag covered). Then I saw the other mothers arriving with zippered suit bags and fold-out hanging racks and suddenly I felt like I may as well have screwed the costumes up in a wad and stuffed them at the bottom of a bag with a wet towel from swimming lessons, such was the level of “care” I’d obviously taken.
It turns out that all this time I’d been smiling and waving and exchanging small-talk with other parents when I dropped The Pixie off at her lesson, there were all these Bona Fide Stage Mothers walking amongst us, who only revealed their true identities at Concert Time. These women took things very very seriously. They had check-lists. They had separate little zip-lock bags for each costume accessory. They “shusshhhhed” other children when they spoke above a whisper in the dressing room.
It was enough to make an NDM turn to drink – except a little talk to the parents before the dress rehearsal from the Dance Teacher put an end to that particular avenue of relief. STRICTLY NO ALCOHOL BACK STAGE, was the clear message she delivered – while looking directly at me, no less.
I nudged The Fabulous Miss Jones sitting next to me.
“She’s looking at me! How does she know?” I whispered. And then I remembered the rather loud conversation Miss Jones and I had had in the theatre carpark about ten minutes beforehand which went something like this:
MISS JONES: I wish I’d bought a hip flask … Only joking!
THE NDM: I wish you’d bought a hip flask, too…. Only I’m not joking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more serious in my life.
Anyway, somewhat disheartened, we returned to our Stage Motherly duties where I watched the Miss Jones put makeup on her daughter, hoping I could learn something. For someone who is always so well-groomed herself, Miss Jones did such terrible job that I burst out laughing. My, how I laughed. But my laughter quickly dried up when I started doing my own daughter’s face, turning her from a naturally beautiful five-year-old into an extra from Michael Jackson’s Thriller in a matter of minutes.
“Don’t take the black stuff off, Mama!” my little girl cried, when I tried to make amends. “It’s sooooo lovely!”
“Yes, lovely for a Panda Bride, my love,” I replied. But the more I tried to fix things up, the worse I made it and it rapidly got to the point where it physically hurt me to look at my own child’s face.
And so, it was with a very heavy heart indeed that I sent my daughter off to the stage and slipped into my seat in the auditorium. Honestly, why the hell am I doing this? I thought to myself. I mean, there I was, literally haemorrhaging money so I could stick my five-year-old daughter on the stage looking like Christina Aguilera in “Lady Marmalade” and I couldn’t even get drunk while doing it.
And then the auditorium lights dimmed and the curtains parted. And I saw my little daughter gaze up in wonder at the stage lights overhead and be struck by that very same lightning bolt that once struck me many many years ago. And I cried.
I cried because I still remembered that feeling of being on the stage for the first time after 33 years. I cried because I was so proud of my daughter, freak show make-up and all. And I cried because I knew it was entirely likely that I’d go out and buy ziplock bags the very next day and well and truly begin my descent into Stage Mother Hell…
Stay tuned for the second part of this exciting NDM adventure on Wednesday, entitled “Concert”… In the meantime, nobody tell my kids about sugar on cereal, okay? I don’t think I can take it right now.