It’s all in the eyelashes

Heather Haldeman
2003, Chicken Soup for the Soul – syndicated column

When I was a little girl, my mother’s dressing room was next to my bedroom.  It had three large mirrored closet doors opposite a long dressing table where Mom kept the promise of enhanced beauty in a plethora of pots, jars, tubes and brushes. But it was her collection of false eyelashes that intrigued me.

Mom wore  “Twiggy” false eyelashes at night that looked more like spiders than false eyelashes. I skipped over those and played with Mom’s more “natural” lashes. Putting those “natural” lashes was tricky for me.

Whenever I could, I’d plop down next to my mother’s boudoir chair and carefully study her every move as she put them on. First, she’d skillfully apply the DUO Eyelash Glue at the base of the false lashes. Then, she’d lean in close to her lighted mirror, and starting from the center of the lid, she’d gently pat the lashes in place with her fingertips.

After she left the room, I would mimic her, using her extra pair of lashes. At 9 years old, my chubby little fingers weren’t as agile as my mother’s long, graceful ones. Often, I’d end up with glue all over my hands and the lashes all twisted and stuck together. 

Then, my mother switched to the new “Individual Lashes.” Those were much easier for me to apply because each little strip was pre-glued. There was no need to fuss with the Duo anymore, and I could stick the lashes on in a matter of seconds…peeling them off as soon as I could hear my mother coming back into the dressing room.

Everything changed with Phyllis Thomas moved to the neighborhood. Phyllis was from New York, worked in fashion and knew the latest trends in everything…including false eyelashes. Hers were “permanent.”

The first time Phyllis came over, I was fascinated. It was her eyelashes. They looked like black caterpillars, and I couldn’t decide if I liked these thick, fake lashes or not.

Mom, on the other hand, instantly loved them. My make-believe world in my mother’s dressing room ended a week later when Mom got her own set of “permanent” lashes.  “I’ve been liberated!” she told me excitedly. “I can even sleep with these!”

All the little white plastic containers with the spidery specimens disappeared.

When I asked Mom what she’d done with her old false eyelashes, she told me that she tossed them in the trash. “I’ve been liberated!” she told me excitedly. “I can even sleep in these!”

It took a while for me to get used to seeing my mother in the morning, wearing a nightgown and false eyelashes.

When our family went camping the following summer, her lashes looked even more ridiculous in the wilderness. My stepfather joked that even the bears were confused when they spotted her with those “things” on her eyes.

Mom didn’t care. She loved her lashes. “They make me feel pretty,” she said. “Without them, I look like a peeled grape.”

Mom’s worn them now for more than 35 years. She continues to get her lash “fills” once a month at a salon in Beverly Hills – the only place she knows of that still puts these lashes on.

Two years ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant lump in her breast. In the recovery room, still drowsy from the anesthetic, her lashes looked heavy, weighing her lids half-way down. “My lashes make me look kinda sultry, don’t you think?” she whispered to me in a narcotic haze. Across the way, an elderly man gave her a weak smile beneath his oxygen mask.

Mustering up a flutter of lashes, Mom winked back. Raising her left eyebrow, she whispered, “You never know when you’re going to meet one.”