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  • Writer's pictureAlison Burmeister

A very embarrassing Christmas moment...

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

The first of several stories in a series called, "Advice to your 12 year old self".

"How will I know where to find you?" I asked my Dad. Old enough to wander for a bit on my own, we prepared to go our separate ways. Each year my Dad and I would venture on an annual Christmas Eve Shopping spree to buy my Mom a "nice" gift from Santa. A practical man, my Dad's classic Christmas gift consisted of a good book, a pair of warm socks or imported coffee from the grocery store. The more "mature" me (read materialistic) started to intervene on these gift choices and instead picked out a gold diamond stack ring from the Jewlery counter at Marshall Fields. Now with my Mom's gift taken care of we stood outside in the courtyard square of the Oakbrook Mall. Twinkle lights in the trees illuminated the sidewalks blanketed in pristine, fresh white snow. Holiday shoppers, fully embracing the Reaganomics of the late 80's, dressed in floor length fur coats, with fake tans and wearing Reebok aerobic shoes bustled around us. I wore my P-coat, chosen for its mature appearance rather than the warmth my down jacket, hat and gloves would have provided. Back then, traditional winter apparel like hats and gloves were rarely worn by the tween and teen set. My father however wore his wool snap brim cap, scarf and classic double breasted London Fog coat, the same one he wore over his suits during the work week.

(Mom receiving her diamond ring on Christmas morning.)

"I'll be the one in the middle of the square with my hat on the ground dancing for money", he smirked. "Yeah right Dad", I joked back, rolling my eyes with just the right amount of adolescent attitude. Then, we separated ways agreeing to meet back in 45 minutes. I liked this annual excursion with my Dad, but now I was at the age when being with your parents was not cool, and I wanted to be alone in my adventure. So, as he went off in one direction, I ducked into Marshall Fields department store one more time to explore on my own. There it was, the makeup department. The scent from overzealous counter attendants spraying a multitude of various fragrances filled my nose. Brightly lit counters covered in makeup pallets displayed like gems stretched as far as my eye could see. I stepped up to the Clinique counter, not because it was my favorite, but because it was familiar. This was the makeup my Mom wore and we had a lot of samples at home. "Would you like to try something?" The gal behind the counter said as she greeted me. "Oh, I'm just looking," I replied shyly and continued on down the counter, wondering what happened to that brave girl I thought myself to be 5 minutes ago.

Despite the fact that I wasn't really old enough to wear makeup yet, I loved playing around with what little makeup Mom had at home on her dresser. The first time I missed a ballet class growing up, I was told by my mom that I would have to take a "makeup class". In my head I thought, "skip ballet and get to play with makeup?" This was a win/win in my book! You can imagine my disappointment when I showed up and it really was just another ballet class.

I continued down the line of cosmetics, running my fingertips along the edge of the glass countertops. "Looking for a gift?" Another woman asked me. I looked up and noticed the edges of her red lipstick bleeding into the cracks on the sides of her mouth. She was wearing blue eyeliner and way too much blush which contoured her mature cheeks. Her hair was curled, teased and sprayed into perfect waves of platinum. She reminded me of my Mom's friend who made shadow boxes and had plastic couch covers in her living room.

"Yes, for my Mom," I responded sheepishly and she invited me to sit down in her chair at the counter. I did not resist this time. Now, granted I was not of an age where wearing makeup was the norm, but given my height and mature coat, the sales lady could have easily mistaken me for a couple years older than I was. I didn't mind. I sat down in her chair while she proceeded to pull out a frosty pink lipstick and smooth it onto my lips with a brush. "This frosted pink is real popular amongst all my customers. It really brings out the green in your eyes." She said, really putting on the hard sell. "I bet it will look real nice on your Mom too." She seemed so pleased with her sales pitch, that I decided not to tell her my Mom had dark brown hair and brown eyes and would hate this frosted pink color.

She proceeded to sweep a bright coral pink blush across my cheeks and a matte brown eyeshadow on my eyelids. With an eyebrow spool she combed and arched my eyebrows and suggested when I returned home I might tweeze them into a thinner shape. Losing all sense of time, I allowed her to finish before looking at myself in the mirror. My eyes did look green. Despite the fact that I would never be allowed out of the house looking like this, I knew it would be dark outside when I met my Dad, and he would most likely not notice the makeup. I thanked her for her artistry and wished I could reach up to her mouth and wipe away the lipstick creeping along the edges of her mouth. Feeling pretty good about my first makeup counter experience, I walked back through the haze of perfume scents, out the heavy double glass doors, to the plaza outside.

A light snow started to fall. I noticed the sophisticated shoppers in their fluffy coats and jogging shoes pointing and laughing at something. There in the middle of the plaza was my Dad, with his hat turned upside down on the ground, dancing some form of an Irish Jig, singing what sounded like Hava Nagila. I took one step forward and my father started yelling, "Alison, here I am!" I immediately did a 180 and walked back through the doors I had just came through. My face flushed with even more color than that applied to my cheeks moments before, I cowered into the corner of the store entry way, wishing I could fade into the wallpaper of the department store walls. A few moments later, my father sauntered in to find me utterly embarrassed, sulking under the bright lights of the department store.

"Dad why would you do that? I'm so embarrassed!" I cried. My father laughed a little and then mimicked me shrugging his shoulders and repeating "Daaad!" in a drawn out whiney tone. I looked away from him when I remembered I had a full face of makeup that no doubt looked ridiculous on my pre-pubescent sad face. I wanted to wipe it all away but had nothing with which to do it, so I lowered my chin and walked towards the door. We, my Dad and I, stepped back outside where the snow was coming down even harder now. A chill went down my spine and I wished I had my fluffy down jacket, stocking cap, scarf and gloves.

Advice to my 12 year old self--

Learn to laugh at yourself and don't take life so seriously. When you feel the rest of the world is judging you...know the world is too concerned with itself. Also, wear a hat!!

Alison Burmeister


Balanced Beauty

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