Monday 23 October 2017

Reader, I blame my mother

Once a natural-look devotee, Julia Molony has embraced the slap with such gusto, the plumber thinks she's a porn star

I'm as amazed as the next person that Strictly Come Dancing style could have conquered the mainstream, but apparently the artificial look is in. Fake lashes, fake nails, a face-full of industrial-strength grease and glitter: these are the gaudy aesthetics of the moment.

When I discovered this news, it brought me no small measure of reassurance. For some time now, I've been hiding my growing make-up habit like a secret alcoholic. Sneaking off at strange hours to buy lip-plumping glosses, or concealers that claim to have magical transformative powers. Clearly, I'm just bang in line with the prevailing trends, because lately I've got into the slap like a Towie girl on a hen night in Vegas.

Once upon a time, not that long ago, tinted moisturiser and a touch of mascara was enough to get me out the door and through to the morning after. Not any more. In just a few years, I've gone from sporting a style most kindly described as "church-hall-cake-sale chic" to being the kind of woman who puts on false lashes and sets her hair before a day at the office. Which is at home. Now converted, I see my more muted past as a terrible waste of time. How, at this relatively late stage in life, am I only just starting to get to grips with vital female life skills, such as how to master a smoky eye?

It was my mother who started it. She is, in all senses, a high-maintenance woman. At my age, she was offered the chance to meet Dustin Hoffman in New York, but spent so long getting ready that by the time she arrived, he had already left. I began borrowing her hot rollers to put a bit of boost in my ultra-fine hair some time ago, and soon it became an almost daily ritual.

Once you've got into the habit of spending 20 minutes every morning winding strands of hair around warm bits of plastic, you've already lost all sense of proportion. At the beginning, it was just a fun way to pass the time that another person might spend commuting. I'd start the day not simply ready for work, but Mad Men ready. The small detail that, for me, most working days pass without any face-to-face contact with another human being at all, seemed beside the point. In an act of almost perfect narcissism, I've well and truly embraced the dictum that we make an effort to look good only for ourselves.

In the winter, days sometimes pass without me getting out of my tracksuit and thick socks. But this doesn't stop me spending hours on my hair and face. There I sit: couch potato below the neck, dolled up like Joan Collins above it. Though I'm sure even Joan isn't vain enough to bother with a full face of war paint without even so much as a stray butler to appreciate her efforts.

There was one plumber once to show off to. He arrived at my door at the landlord's behest and seemed so startled by the vamp who greeted him at 11 o'clock on a weekday morning that he probably thought he'd stumbled on to the set of a high-kitsch porno. I, meanwhile, was so mortified by the visual come-on painted all over my face that I could barely bring myself to offer him a cup of tea.

Internet make-up tutorials have become my new guilty pleasure. The other day, I wasted hours watching a make-up artist (from Nepal!) using eyeliner and lipstick to transform herself into Jessica Rabbit. It remains one of most impressive things I've seen online. I think it was meant for fancy dress, but that didn't stop me experimenting with it to dazzle in my own living room during a Tuesday-afternoon phone interview. Had the interview been in person, I'm sure my cartoonishly over-arched eyebrows would have turned every neutral statement into a saucy question.

In my still inexpert hands, I can't say for certain that these home makeovers are doing much for me. It's hard to mess up false lashes and lipstick too badly, but I'm still a bit wobbly with the eyeliner, and the mysteries of correct eyeshadow application remain a beautiful enigma. But a perfectly groomed end result isn't, for me, really the point. As a child, I once found some guaranteed-not-to-wash-off-for-24-hours lipstick and scrawled it all over my cheeks and forehead to test out the promise, causing quite a talking point at school the next day. So it seems, in make-up, I've always had a latent taste for the avant-garde. Apparently, the eccentric style icon Daphne Guinness likes to paint nail varnish on her lips for fun, so, if nothing else, I'm in rather good company.

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