Vanity, Thy Name Is Mother

I have crossed over to the other side. I’m not sure when it happened, but something fundamental about my circumstances has changed.

I am an old person now.

I first realized it a few years ago when I was flipping through a women’s magazine and an ad caught my eye. It was the kind of ad I never used to notice at all. But this ad spoke to me. It said, “Would you like to reverse the signs of aging?” and, “Would you like to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles?”

I spoke back.

“Yes, I would,” I said. “I would like to reverse the signs of aging and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

And after studying the flawless face of the 14-year-old model pictured next to a jar of wrinkle cream, I was convinced: This was the stuff for me. Even days later, finding out that reversing the signs of aging and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles would set me back about $14 an ounce did not dissuade me.

I hesitated only briefly. Hmmm . . . $14. That’s a jumbo-pack of GoodNites.

But in the end, age-defying beauty was what I desired, and age-defying beauty was what I would have. I bought the stuff. Immediately upon returning home, though, I felt compelled to confess the purchase to my husband. After all, I did not want him to become alarmed when, after more than a dozen years of marriage, his wife became a youthful hottie overnight.

Mostly, he found my extravagance amusing. That’s fine. I happen to think it’s funny that he spends untold amounts of money on assorted packages of drill bits that pile up, unopened, in his tool box. Some things spouses simply tolerate in quiet amusement.

After applying my magic lotion morning and night, I still am not sure my regimen is producing any noticeable results. But no worries; I have the patience of an old woman. Besides, I am beginning to think that perhaps the whole wrinkle problem might be resolved if I just don’t buy the pair of old-lady glasses I have begun to suspect I might need.


It’s hard to be vain when you are a mother. Never mind the ravages of pregnancy, the necessity of wearing dark circles under one’s eyes, and the eternally baby-spit-up-on, toddler-peed-on, jelly-toast-smeared-on motherly line of fashion — I would settle for five minutes in the bathroom to put on my makeup before going out. Many a morning finds me using my reflection in the toaster to apply mascara, while an endless parade of little people make their last potty trips before we leave the house.

Then there are the times that I can get into the bathroom, but not alone. I try desperately to become beautiful with my one free hand while some small person, tucked neatly beneath my other arm, squawks and squirms. Others teeter on the step stool beside me, whine for their toothbrushes, and rifle through my makeup bag.

And let’s not forget the running commentary from the older boys who ask helpful things like, “What is that stuff you are putting on? Why do you need that? Would anyone even notice if you didn’t smear that gunk on your face?”

Once, after intently observing my application of eyeliner, eleven-year-old Ambrose offered a medical opinion: “That looks like a good way to get an eye infection.”

In the end, the good news is that the trials and tribulations of my beauty routine mean that I am determined to stop comparing myself to supermodels. That just wouldn’t be fair. I am pretty sure that Gisele Bundchen doesn’t work under these conditions.

But my particular challenging conditions are the stuff that makes the beautiful life worth living. Don’t ask me to confirm this in those frazzled moments when I am on my way out the door looking somewhat less than put-together; but most days, I am pretty sure that this life here — the one that I am living in an unending search for the glamour of a magical mascara moment — is a beautiful thing.


Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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