It all seemed so innocent when we passed Sephora. We were at the mall, my 16 year old daughter and I, getting a little time together in our quest for shorts that are neither too short nor too long (kind of a Holy Grail thing, tbh). We ducked into the makeup/skincare/haircare emporium to get . . . . what was it? Some sort of highlighter or palette or brush. My daughter was in need. It seemed innocent and do-able.
So I should backtrack a little and say that Sephora is a mystery to me. Not that I haven’t dropped some cash there. I took my daughter for her birthday. I was thinking of something my sister-in-law had said in passing about wishing she had a makeup tutorial when she was first wearing it so she didn’t apply it so heavily. Seemed like a good plan.
We sat for a few minutes with a woman who had a bright pink swath of color over both eyes (on purpose I’m pretty sure) and I figured, if she doesn’t know about makeup, who does? I became embroiled in a display of cuticle oils for a few moments — its the kind of thing you don’t know you need until you sample several brands at once — and I looked up to see that they’d turned my daughter into the image of a Kardashian sister.
“This went much better than I thought it would,” she said. I stifled the tears and figured this is what the kids are doing these days that isn’t binge drinking or casual sex, so why not just let it go? We settled on a few items she couldn’t live without and hightailed it out of there. I thought we’d seen the end of that place.
Readers, I could not have been more wrong. This is how, on a recent mall trip, we found ourselves in the aisles of Sephora with a list the lengths I usually bring to the grocery store. Even though my daughter basically thinks the Kardashians are gross, she gives them props for their makeup. And beyond the Kardashians, the industry is exploding with youtube tutorials and celebrity endorsements adding into all those girls with K names hawking products.
For the uninitiated, Sephora is a bright gleaming beacon in the mall corridor. Overhead, under your feet and from every shelf there are bright, bluish lights bombarding you. Products are arranged mostly by brand in some system that is incomprehensible to me. So if you know your brand, and can figure out how close to the front and center the Sephora gods deem it is worth, you can find it. But some things, like brushes and those funny pointy sponges they call beauty blenders, are also grouped together. It was in the brush aisle that a small child mistook my leg for her mother’s. She was a few paces ahead saying “I just need a little concealer,” as her husband trailed behind with another child sleeping in a stroller.
There were also a few other mother daughter duos either fighting over too-expensive or inappropriately named items “How do you know that Orgasm is a word that would embarrass me?” said one mom. While another huddled together by the Kat Von D aisle, comparing shades of concealer meant to cover up their forearm tattoos for an upcoming wedding.
We were almost ready to go when a saintly employee approached with hand-held shopping cart and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to show you more brands of primer?”
I felt like that one time, in Michael’s when I was finally in line with 15 minutes until school pickup — I saw the teacher appreciation gift card tins and realized I had forgotten the teachers altogether and the good ones were definitely almost gone, but getting one would mean losing my place in line and basically abandoning my kids at school forever and I just couldn’t breath.
And there, Sephora, with the bright lights, the grabby children, the tattooed mother daughters and the brightly lit sexually suggestive products I really didn’t want my daughter to see/joke with me about, I couldn’t breath. I sat on this nice stool in front of a mirror. I swatted away a woman with a makeup brush and a plan to “elevate my look” in the “next 15 minutes” and just closed my eyes and thought of my little girl. The one who is not so little but still the most beautiful person I know, inside and out. The one who couldn’t need this stuff any less, but who wanted it and was actually pretty good at it. And if spending time with her means understanding that Kat Von D may be a tattoo artist, but her lipsticks are the best, then it’s worth a few minutes in Sephora. Plus they have sample sized everything right there as you wait in line. Even cuticle oil.
No, Sephora did not give us any compensation for this post. Hint, Hint.