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I have figured out the secret of applying passably mediocre eyeliner! 

1) Arrive 10 minutes before the rest of the cast, and plan to devote all 10 minutes to drawing 4 black arches around your eyes.  If time is leftover, it will be spent on eye shadow.

2) BYOM.  Bring Your Own Mirror.  That way you don’t have to fight for space by the 1-way mirror that is actually a window for every passing by in the hallway and gets to see the awkward squinting face of your jabbing yourself in the eye with a pencil. Repeatedly.

3) Use a sharpened pencil, not the easy roll-up eyeliner.  While the latter is easier to apply to other people (as in, when doing make up for small children) or when doing age lines on less-delicate skin, the former makes a darker line with ease, so you don’t have to push as hard, and it actually looks less sloppy.

4) Angle the pencil with precision, so it neither hits upper eyelashes, nor jabs the eyelid, nor slips into the eye proper.  This angle is more or less 72.3 degrees from horizontal. 

5) Move like molasses.  Slow and steady will use all 10 minutes, but will get you the desired raccoon eyes. 

6) Try not to forget your make-up at home by the front door, thus sending Mr. Apron home to get the bag and therefore negating the ability to use 10 full minutes on your eyes, and cramming the entire beauty preparation routine into the 10 minutes before warm-ups.


Three shows done, three to go. So far, a few normal mishaps that go with the territory of community theatre – a late entrance turning a trio into a duet, a retiree tripping up the stairs as he came on stage, my forgetting that I had put my glasses on during my break backstage, and coming onstage in Victorian dress with spectacles c. 1965. Oops.

 But so far, nothing major, nothing bringing the house down or canceling the show. Well, except that opening night was canceled due to snow. But really, what I mean is, um, it’s happening, whether we like it or not.

And that’s kind of how I feel about make-up. I never wear make-up in real life, and I mean never. I’m not one of those modest femmes who insist it only takes me five minutes to do my concealer, mascara, and “lipshine”. I literally just don’t. Whenever I embark on a theatrical adventure (Halloween costumes, a play, Rocky Horror, dressing up as Bert & Ernie for our annual Valentines), I state, very honestly, that Mr. Apron has worn make-up more often that I have. For this alone they should revoke my license to being a girl.

When I attempt to do my make-up for a play, I feel like I’m being asked to perform surgery for which I’ve never trained. No older sisters playing dress-up with me. No made-up mommy whose vanity I could raid. My own mother swears by one beauty product alone – bright red lipstick. Its ever presence on my mother’s face was enough to turn me off of lipstick in general. Until I entered the world of theatre and was suddenly expected to know how to apply such things as lipstick, blush, mascara eye shadow, foundation, and, my nemesis, eyeliner.

Luckily, in high school a friend dragged me to the home of a Mary Kay lady who made one futile attempt to sell me things, and taught me to apply mascara. Luckily, I do enough make-up for children’s theatre (ironic, n’est-ce pas?) that I can suck in my cheeks and apply blush. And, for better or for worse, years of watching my mother have taught me more than I’d care to know about lipstick application. Yet eyeliner and eye shadow evade me. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve tried, rubbed it off, tried again, used different tools, found better lights, looked up, looked down, opened my eyes, closed my eyes, pinned my eyes half-closed, blinked, and rubbed it all off again. It’s just embarrassing. I can kind of line my lower lids, in a crude, theatrical way, but I absolutely positively cannot line my upper lids. Complete and total fail. Which led me to beg my little sister to do my eye make-up the night she came for the show. (Goodness knows how/where she learned to do it.) But I’ve had to do it myself every other time. And poorly, I might add. I feel like a kindergartener drawing all over my eyes with a stubby crayon. I blink, I stab, I flinch, I rub. And, in the end, I probably look like a raccoon-eyed whore who has been crying in the rain after her pimp punched her. In other words, ready for the stage.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I were in a dressing room full of other former marching-band geeks who were also declaiming their novice states. But, of course, I’m in a show with, among others, one former pageant competitor who’s also an esthetician. Opening night, I walked into the dressing room to see her pull out an attaché case filled with enough brushes and tools and a commensurate color palette to paint a mural. Effortlessly, she tucked her impossibly long and thin legs under her as she sat on the floor and made herself up. Not all the girls have quite her resume, but most can at least draw a straight line on their eyelids.

I don’t want to wear make-up, but I want to be able to put it on when I need to.

I am good with my hands. I enjoy crafting, sewing, decorating cupcakes, working closely with an X-acto knife – myriad tasks requiring a steady hand and precision. That’s what makes it even more frustrating when I struggle with a stupid eyeliner pencil and a q-tip loaded with eye shadow. I want to be good at it. I guess I’ll have to find other ways to maintain my girliness credentials, like painting my nails, French-braiding hair, and wearing twirly skirts.