The little red box, and other things I left behind

Posted: December 15, 2011 in beauty, style

Been gone. No good excuses. (Well, a family trip to Hawaii followed by a bout with the nastiest of all intestinal viruses — complete with a visit to the ER — but I shan’t bore you with any messy details — other than the fact that, during the ensuing cleanup, my iPhone went through the wash cycle. Donations are currently being accepted, thank you.)

The end-of-the-year festivities always make me a bit sad, a little nostalgic. “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” So far, the fates have been kind, and I still have many of the people and the things I love around me. That’ll change, I know, but we won’t think about that right now, okay?

Somewhere in this bittersweet funk, I have been remembering things that used to be really important to me that are no more, and wondering why. Such as:

Desert Flower Lotion. My dad owned a Mom and Pop pharmacy, and I used to love the Desert Flower line of products we carried, the first real lotion that I found made a difference in my desert-dry skin. Probably the aloe. (The original Jergens lotion smelled really good, but that stuff was like water.) One Desert Flower bath set also came with a bottle of light cologne and bath powder in a little round, paper-covered box with a powder puff. So girly. So gone.

Tweed cologne. And Tigress.  I can’t remember who made them, but I clearly remember the scents. Tweed was almost a man’s fragrance, very woodsy, and came in the coolest beige and plaid carton, sort of pre-Burberry. Tigress was much more complex and dark, probably too sophisticated for my 17-year-old self at the time. And the packaging was equally rich and sensual, all dark fur. I can still catch a glimpse of myself and my friend Sherri, down in her basement bedroom, dousing ourselves with Tigress and talking about boys. (She actually dated in high school. I just talked a good game…) Google update: Well, slap me silly. Tweed and Tigress are still available. But their packaging is ALL WRONG. They probably smell different, too. It’s just not the same.

Maybelline cake mascara. Wow, this is an oldie. The mascara came in a little red box that slid open to reveal a small brush and a line of hard brown or black  powder. You’d spit on the mascara moisten the brush, rub it on the cake and brush the mascara on your lashes. Of course, early on, I’d get to junior high early enough to apply it in the school bathroom so Mother wouldn’t catch me wearing make-up. And it helped me realize very early on that black mascara was too harsh-looking for me. One fashion faux pas avoided. I’m sure tube mascara is a vast improvement, but I really liked those little red boxes with their secret, face-changing contents. Other brands of cake mascara are still available on the ‘net, touted as “old Hollywood.”

Yardley Lip Slickers. These actually may still be around, just not at any of the stores I frequent. They conjure up all sorts of images of the British fashion and music invasion that dominated my high school years: Mary Quant, Carnaby Street, Twiggy, the Beatles and the Stones, Marianne Faithfull in her leather and lace. (And to think that byjane was in London, actually living out my fantasies!)

Of course, there are plenty of products I don’t miss, like Secret Cream Deodorant (that did absolutely nothing for a junior high sweat monkey like me and had the ickiest texture), Clearasil skin tone cream (which just made my acne brown),  Noxema Cream Cleanser (What were we thinking? That stuff made my skin worse. It was like Crisco!), sanitary napkin belts (UGH!), and magnetic rollers that we’d sleep in (and my hairstyle would still be gone by mid-afternoon). And weren’t we ALL glad when panty hose showed up?

I largely stumbled my way through adolescence. Never one for fashion, Mother didn’t wear makeup beyond a red lipstick for Church on Sundays, and I had no older sister or nearby cousins to show me the ropes. So I’d scour my monthly issue of Seventeen and scrutinize the faces, bodies and routines of my friends. It was hit and miss, but I found a few things that worked, like a good haircut. The advent of benzoyl peroxide cream and retin-A finally took care of my acne, and I found the Clinique counter at the mall. Antiperspirants continued to improve. (Is anyone else out there as grateful for that as I am?) One word: Tampax. Enough said. And a significant weight loss in my forties finally introduced me to the notion that clothes could be something besides camouflage.

I’ve always felt like a latecomer to the big Cosmetic and Sartorial Party, but I’ve enjoyed myself since I arrived. I just wish sometimes that a few of those products I once loved had arrived with me. They boosted the confidence of an awkward girl and helped her to become, well, me.

Is there something you miss from your wanton youth?

  1. Jenny says:

    Butterscotch lip gloss. Thanks for the cake mascara memory (and the funny moistening comment.)

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