Last week was a weird week. On Wednesday morning, my grandfather died. On Saturday, I played plus-1 to the WGA Awards. On Sunday, I was supposed to fly to Minneapolis for my grandfather's funeral. On Monday, they were going to bury him.
But this is a product diary, and while I'm sure that all of the details of my feelings around the week's other events would be fascinating to my mother or my therapist, this concerns the most glamorous thing I did in a week of mental sludge. Life didn't slow down around me just because I felt like it should, just because I need a break. Even when nothing makes sense, I still wake up, I take a shower, I put on clothes, I put on makeup. Life goes brutally on. The world doesn't give a shit if you need a minute.
My grandfather repaired tanks for the Army, and when he came back from serving abroad during the Korean War, he worked on a farm, then as a janitor in my mother's elementary school. One year they were so poor that my mother and her sister got a deck of cards and a ruler for Christmas. Once, he saw me putting on mascara in high school and asked me what the sam hill I was doing to my face. Another time, when I was only 4, he drove the riding lawn mower over a peony plant I'd been tending in my parents' yard, and I ran out of the house, yelling about carelessness and conscientiousness and shaking my tiny fist at him while he did his best not to laugh. He and my grandma would visit us every Sunday, would show up first to every middle school and high school basketball game. He drove to every cross country race within an hour of his house, even when getting around got tough for him. I have his temper. I have his stubbornness. Both have served me well, both are things I've had to control. I'm not sure he knew much about my life after I moved out of my parents house—I wouldn't call, wouldn't write, didn't really know what to say as he sat at the end of the table at holidays, and neither did he, beyond quixotic attempts to converse with the kid he used to know. I can't stop thinking about how much I wish I would have tried harder to bridge that gap.
Saturday morning, I woke up at my boyfriend's place and took a shower. Because he lives alone and I have roommates, when we spend the night together, it's at Matt's apartment. Because Robert Moses was a motherfucker, it's an incredible pain in the ass to get from my neighborhood in North Brooklyn to his neighborhood in South Brooklyn. Because I'm a forgetful person, since he's moved into his current apartment, I've amassed a near-duplicate set of cosmetics at both places. Sometimes I'll buy the same product from two different brands and keep one at his house and one at mine, pitting them against each other in a cosmetic death match.
I washed my hair with something called Matrix Cooling Mint Shampoo, because it was there. I conditioned my hair with Bed Head Moisture Maniac conditioner, which I did pick out, but only because Soap.com was out of Bed Head Foxy Curls Conditioner (the best-smelling conditioner in the world, if you like smelling like a Skittle, which I do) the last time I placed an order. I scrubbed my face with the Walgreens version of St. Ives Apricot Scrub, and washed the rest of myself with the native Aveeno body wash. In an adjoining apartment, a couple was bickering. I flipped my head upside down and blow dried my hair straight with the tiny travel dryer I keep downtown.
Early last week, I bought a stick of Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry, a product I'd read raves about online but in practice was a little too intense for my regular routine and pale-as-hell face. But because Saturday morning's plans involved going to Westminster's Meet the Breeds all the way on the West Side and the chances of dogs giving a shit about my being uncomfortable in a trendy lip color were slim, I threw some on before we left, along with a quick slash of Stila Stay All Day liquid eyeliner in black (a mainstay of my makeup bag) across the lash line on my top lids, some free mascara I got the last time I cashed in my Sephora points, and a little Benefit Fake Up concealer in Light along both sides of my nose to hide the uptick in puffiness and redness levels of my face. I know there are probably better concealers out there than Fake Up, but I am too impatient to deal with them. Fake Up just goes on and doesn't have to dry, and it's easy to reapply if necessary.
As I suspected, the dogs really did not give a shit about my face. A boxer licked me on the chin. A table full of sweet, soft eared beagles stared lovingly at the dizzying throngs of people crowding around them, their faces quizzical like the beagle my mother's father had gotten her when she was a little girl. They'd named her "Puddles" because she would always pee on the floor next to the garbage can. Adults were reduced to childlike cooing over the dozens of champion dogs, all of whom sat patiently while strangers grabbed at them.
Here is a picture of me and a Canaan Dog named Jezebel. Jezebel did not give a shit about my lipstick or melancholy (or most people, to be honest). Her handler—an almost suffocatingly joyful man—explained proudly that the teenage girl who lives next door named her.
The late night comedy show Matt writes for was nominated for a WGA Award long before my grandpa had fallen sick for the last time, but because circumstances had changed, Matt kept asking if I was sure I still wanted to go to the ceremony. I'd agreed to write this product diary after I first agreed to do the event. I decided to proceed with both because I didn't want to confront the reality of a family death fully until I could actually hug my mom (and, under logic that seems very odd as I write it down, I didn't want Matt to spend Valentine's Day next to me on his sticky leather couch as I stared at my hands and rambled about regret). I thought that occupying and overstimulating myself, surrounding myself with energy and excitement and other people would help me hit an emotional pause button, that writing it down might help work through it. This is an incredibly temporary and risky coping strategy. Do not recommend.
I know my grandpa loved my brother, sister, and me more than any of us deserved to be loved, and when someone who loves you that much is gone, it feels like a part of you disappears with them. It doesn't matter how old they were, or that they'd survived cancer a handful of times, or that they'd been fading for awhile. I still imagined in the back of my mind that I'd get to talk to him once more, that his old smile would be back, that he wouldn't seem startlingly different from the way he was 14 years ago when I left home. I wished I'd made more of an effort to know him beyond when it was convenient for me. But I didn't, and now I can't.
When I returned home to get ready for the WGA's, I showered the smell of dog off, using the same round of products I'd used in the morning morning minus the face scrub. After getting out of the shower, I used some L'Occitane Almond Supple Skin oil on my arms and legs and Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask on my face. I had felt as frivolous as a Real Housewife when I bought a tub of that $88 tub of face crap last August, after I realized 24 hours before plus-1-ing the Creative Arts Emmys that no spas within a half day's drive of West Hollywood had any facial appointments available. But I've gotten more than a dozen uses out of it since then, and I love it, and I will probably buy it again after I run out. After the face mask, I applied Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve face cream, as it is my dream to defeat age and live forever through the power of topically applied beauty products and avoiding the sun with the fervency of a vampire. Numbly, rotely putting on makeup has always comforted me in times of emotional crisis, when my arms and hands feel heavy. I was grateful to have something to keep me busy. I swept Benefit POREfessional primer over my cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. I've tried using other primers that aren't as expensive, but, to be frank, they suck. This is the only kind that doesn't make my face feel like it's slowly sliding off. More concealer under my eyes and by my nose next, followed by light coverage Maybelline BB Cream in "Light," followed by Too Faced Sweethearts Perfect Flush Blush to prevent me from looking like I was suffering from consumption. For my brows, I used the dark brown powder from Too Faced's Brow Envy Eyebrow Kit. Then a sweep of silver from Sephora's Mixed Metals Baked Eye & Face collection on both lids, a little dark silvery black in the creases, Stila liquid eyeliner, Makeup Forever mascara, and Benefit Girl Meets Pearl along my cheekbones and down the bridge of my nose. I know that matte lipstick is not "cool," but if I'm loyal to a single beauty product, it's Sephora's Cream Lip Stain in Always Red. I wear it almost every day and it rules.
We left Brooklyn for the ceremony in a midtown hotel later than we'd planned, and ended up just telling to cab driver to drop us off just East of Times Square since traffic on 47th was at a standstill and 90% of tourist pedestrians in this city are certifiable fucking idiots. Tripping down an icy sidewalk in heels wearing three times as much makeup as I normally wear really drove home how badly I didn't want to be there at that moment. Winter felt like an uncomfortable outfit I couldn't take off; the city like an inescapable dirty hole.
I focused my energy on drinking a lot (another poorly conceived coping mechanism) and spotting celebrities (a less bad, but fleeting coping mechanism). We were a table over from Sarah Silverman (who is almost unfathomably pretty in person), and at another adjacent table sat Clive Owen and his unfortunate mustache. Here's Morgan Spurlock and the guy who plays Saul's brother in Better Call Saul and Norman Lear and Larry Wilmore. Here is a clutch purse I found in the bathroom that turned out to belong to the wife of one of the writers of The Knick. My grandpa wouldn't know or care who any of these people are. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him in a tie.
By the time the unpleasantness was somewhat (chemically) muted, it was almost time to go home, and I had only a few hours to sleep before my 7:30 am flight to Minneapolis. I just wanted to be there; just wanted to go straight to the airport and wait in my dress and get on the plane and wait dutifully outside in the dry, brutal cold of Minneapolis until my brother picked me up. I wanted to hear about all of the letters they found in my grandpa's desk, notes about pranks he played on his brother Glen, the one who died in a farming accident when he was still young and broad and strong. I wanted to fast forward until Monday morning, to the funeral. After how absent I'd been as an adult, flying across the country and showing up for him one last time was the least I could do for my grandpa. I woke up at 5:30 with about half of the makeup still on my face, quietly stumbled into clothes, grabbed my suitcase, and headed to LaGuardia.
As soon as I got there, I found out that my flight had been cancelled and moved until 7:55 pm, due to winter weather. The skies were clear. I went back to the apartment and tried to sleep. As I was about to board my flight that evening, I got an automated call from a chipper customer service robot informing me that my connecting flight from Chicago to Minneapolis was canceled, the last flight out of Chicago that night. I barreled to the counter, begging the ticket agent to please help me get to Minneapolis before the morning. The earliest they could get me to Minneapolis, he said apologetically, was Monday night. If I wanted a refund, he said, I could fill out a special form requesting one and mail it to both US Airways and American Airlines, neither of which could offer me any computerized refund. I just wanted to get home. I had to get home. Why couldn't they have told me this would happen when I had enough time to take a bus? Why now? Why this flight? This was my last chance to come through for him; I'd failed so often. The employee looked embarrassed. I stood clutching my suitcase and a Hudson News bag containing a half-eaten sandwich and began to cry ugly, heaving sobs in front of hundreds of strangers as what remained of my makeup from the night before streamed down my face.
I missed the funeral.