L: Some grungy makeup; R: What it looks like on my face.

I have been a freelancer for almost two years, and in that time I have transitioned from “normal, if under-groomed, office gal” to “semi-feral blog waif.” I work extremely erratic hours, which means my days are unrecognizable from one to the next; I’ll often go multiple in a row without having a conversation longer than “I’ll take this one neat” or “Is it cool if I pay in dimes?”

Luckily for me, construction on a luxury apartment next door has served as my alarm clock for the past year, with a chorus of jackhammers awakening me at 7 a.m. on the dot. Do I float out of bed like a well-rested butterfly emerging from a high thread count cocoon? No. Sometimes I will I stuff in some earplugs and go back to sleep, but much of the time I succumb to the din, and hurl myself, groggy and pissed off, into the shower. This is how I start my day.

Shower Time

I am on the tail-end of a bottle of Nivea Gel de Ducha Cremoso (body wash), which I bought in Colombia during a month I spent there this summer. I dread running out of it because it means more time than I’d like has passed since I was there. I was initially wary of the scent (“Care & Orange”) since I tend to think citrus-y soaps are more likely to attract a cloud of bees that will sting my eyes out, Wicker Man-style. It turns out I actually really like the scent, and haven’t been chased down by a single mob of bees since I started using it! In order to forestall its end, I use only a little drop and subsidize it with Trader Joe’s REFRESH Citrus Body Wash, which smells to me like the freshly scrubbed linoleum of an upscale gym. Not all citrus body washes are created equal, it turns out, but whatever. I’m clean.

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I am hesitant to type this, but I generally avoid washing my face. This is because a friend with the flawless skin of a baby once told me she didn’t and, because I am more impressionable than a lump of fresh clay, I stopped doing it too. That said, I do own a bottle of Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser, because I once tried a bit of my roommate’s in the shower and was happy to find that my skin didn’t immediately break out or fall off. These are the standards I set for my face wash. If I remember to take my makeup off, I use Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, though usually it comes off when I rub my eyes with my sleeve or smear my face across my pillow.

Pre-makeup, pre-shower. The mirror isn’t dirty, it’s just got some chunks missing. I live the dream.

To redeem myself in your eyes after the whole “not washing my face thing,” I want to tell you that I’m pretty obsessed with oral hygiene, and brush my teeth so many times per day with a vibrating Oral-B Pulsar that my gums are starting to recede. In addition to the regular morning and evening, I also tend to do it when I am stressed, bored, or want to fall asleep but can’t. Ditto flossing. I’ll probably continue to brush and floss them obsessively even after they all fall out; the dental equivalent of Lennie squeezing the puppy to death.

Hair Time

I have been blessed with hair I genuinely consider cooperative, and over the years we have developed a healthy, functional relationship. I wash it two or three times a week with some OGX flavor or another—this time it’s the Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo and conditioner; other times I like the Coconut Milk. I try to mix it up. I’m crazy!!

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After it’s clean, I usually do one of two things, depending on the weather/time of day. If it’s night and relatively warm, I’ll let it dry, and then French braid it, which tends to unfurl into nice waves the next day. Otherwise, I’ll let it dry around 75 percent of the way before blow drying it straight. For the longest time, I thought I had to straighten it in small, painstaking little pieces, a process that took forever, but only a couple years ago did I learn that just dumping my head upside down worked almost equally effectively.

To dry it, I use a horrendous hairdryer (a Conair 1875) I bought at a Dollar General in New Orleans, which if I’m not careful actually sucks the hair into the back. I’m too lazy and cheap to buy another one, though, so it will have to do until the day it stops working 4o or 50 years from now.

I tend to have a lot of little flyaways, even though I don’t dry my hair that often and haven’t dyed it in years. My hairdresser has in the past said that this is the result of new growth, since at some point “a bunch of your hair must have fallen out.” Great! To combat this, I will occasionally pat on a drop of Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Penetrating Oil. But usually not.

Skin Time

For my entire life, everyone on my mother’s side of the family has insisted that I’ve been blessed with otherworldly genes. The lore of our youthful, age-defying skin was the smug topic of holiday conversation for at least 20 years, and with good reason: My grandmother looked not a day over 60 until the day she died at 91, a fact that she brought up basically nonstop and may well have been her last words. My mom, who is 62, looks like she’s in her late 40s. “You’ll look young forever,” they’d say knowingly, and like a FOOL, I believed them.

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I, however, am 32, and I look like I am 32. I feel deeply swindled by this lifetime of false assurances, and thus spend way more time fixated on the state of my skin than I probably should. In the morning, I smear on Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Moisturizer with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30. I also dab Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate onto the lines that web my face. This is by far the most expensive shit I use, and it’s because I got it in a gift basket once and promptly became convinced it’s the only thing standing between my current state and that of a pack-a-day long-haul trucker. Now I’m trapped. I have to get a little drunk every time I buy it because otherwise it hurts me too much.

In the meantime, I try my best to just avoid moving my face. There’s a story from a couple years ago about a woman who never smiled to combat wrinkles. “Tragic,” everyone said, wagging their heads with dismay. “Imagine. A life without smiling.” Not me, though. To me, that woman is a god damn hero. When I smile or glare or knit my eyebrows in concentration/irritation/disbelief, my entire face crunches together like a like a balled-up paper bag. I’m trying to put a stop to that. It’s possible that this has given me a reputation for iciness, but the reality is I want to stop my face from looking like a battered leather handbag more than it already does.

Makeup Time

Everything I learned about makeup (very little) I learned from my freshman year roommate, Emily. Emily was gorgeous and insane, and she was the first person to teach me that preparing to go out was an entire event unto itself. We’d put on music (The Love Below was in heavy rotation; 2004 BABY!), mix up some White Russians (with Popov, natch) and fling clothes around the room. Emily would haul out an obscenely enormous makeup kit—more of a suitcase really—and launch into an elaborate face painting routine. If I was lucky, she’d offer to do mine, too. It was always a race against time before she got too drunk and lost her ability to apply eye makeup evenly, occasionally leaving me with one eye bulging larger than the other—a Popov-drunk Hunchback of Notre Dame in a tube top.

I didn’t learn any specific application tricks from her, but I still enjoy the ceremony of the routine—pouring a drink and putting on some tunes—even if the whole process takes like eight minutes from start to finish. These days I’ll probably start with Gerry Rafferty, so let’s fire that up for the sake of scene-setting:

Nice.

So after I’ve applied my moisturizer, I’ll sometimes put on some No 7 True Identify foundation, which I am quite certain is several shades too dark in the winter. Then I dab some Revlon ColorStay Concealer under my eyes and on any offending red spots. If I have to ride for any one product, it’d be this stuff. If they ever discontinue it I will scream to the heavens and throw myself in the river.

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Now that my face has the even tone of a Madame Tussaud’s sculpture, I will liven things up with some blush. At present I am using Sonia Kashuk Beautifying Blush, and it is Fine. I wish I knew how to use bronzer, but I fear that’s not for me this lifetime.

Oops, Gerry is over. Time to kick it up a notch with some Donna Summer.

I nominally enjoy doing my eye makeup, which is not to say that I actually ever “have fun” or “change it up.” During a free makeup trial at Sephora, I became acquainted with Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, which keeps my eyeshadow on until I eventually smush it off on my sheets later. I am still not convinced that foundation wouldn’t serve the same purpose just as well, but buying it makes me feel capable and put together, like someone who regularly sweats lightly on an elliptical or eschews fruit because it’s “too sugary.”

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I have green eyes that I’ve determined are best accented by shades of bronze, so I use E.L.F Prism Eyeshadow in Naked, and switch up the colors only as my preferred ones run out. I finish the whole thing off with Clinique Quickliner for Eyes, which generally does not bleed down my face if I sweat or cry or go swimming. I have never owned mascara, since my eyelashes are pretty thick and dark, and it seems too late to start now. If someone handed me an eyelash curler I’d probably try to eat it.

As I am clearly not a makeup person, I can’t really differentiate between “going-out makeup” and “low-key work makeup.” I guess the difference is “more.” MORE concealer! MORE eyeliner! The most important thing to me is playing music while this abbreviated process occurs. It has to be carefully chosen though, cause if it’s too catchy I’ll want to dance, and then the makeup process is delayed, and then I am late. I am always late, and 94 percent of the time it’s for this reason. I will pretend it’s because I was doing something important, like visiting the stock market or doing a business. It’s a lie. It’s because I was dancing in the mirror to Thelma Houston. Which is exactly what I am going to do now.