Early on in this crisis, weeks before lockdown, I got an email from my friend Isobel. ‘I’m getting some of these scarves,’ she wrote. ‘The website says: “All our gear has been tested to filter out 99.75 per cent of all particles 0.1 microns and larger.”’
I thought she’d ordered me something from Hermès, with a stirrup pattern. ‘OK, thanks,’ I wrote back.
I reminded her today of her promise of a scarf. ‘They are coming from the US. They haven’t arrived yet.’
I know this sounds shallow, but I quite like the idea of going out with my face covered. For the first time since I was 12, I won’t have to wear make-up. Oh, the time that will be saved! The expense. The not having to prime and shade and highlight. Not having to take it off at night. Not having to sterilise brushes and worry if my mascara has gone off, like milk.
I remember my first make-up set as if it were yesterday. Christmas 1970. My mum gave me a Boots No7 kit. It was like a Cadbury’s Christmas stocking collection box (do you remember, they had netting over the front like tights or something you’d go deep-sea fishing with?). But instead of giving you spots, it covered them up. Having applied foundation for the first time, I was able to go to the loo at Brentwood High School for Girls without sliding along a wall to avoid the mirrors. And thus began a love affair that has lasted until today.
I soon graduated to Mary Quant: Blushbaby in Toffee, nail varnish in Moss. I looked both flushed and dead at the same time. I plucked my eyebrows to a fine arc, inspired by the Sarah Moon Biba ads. I didn’t know fashion would change, and that my eyebrow hair would give up the ghost. By the time I got to London in the age of punk, I was heavily pencilling in my brows. As soon as I could afford it, I went to Harrods and had them tattooed; I thought I would resemble Brooke Shields, but ended up looking like Groucho Marx. Worse, the black slowly faded to purple.
In the 80s, I discovered self-tan. When you used it, you had to walk around naked, air drying, before you went to bed, otherwise you’d stain the sheets. Self-tanning stayed with me until a couple of years ago. I think the reason I was dumped by the Rock Star was because, staying at his house, I sat on his (heated) loo seat and dyed it brown.
As the years rolled by, I discovered semi-permanent lashes that had to be professionally groomed like a horse. I applied more coats to my face, as if it were an outside wall: primer (Hourglass); tinted moisturiser (Laura Mercier); bronzer (Mac). I discovered Touche Eclat, which promises to eradicate any sign of disappointment from your face. I was never one for lipstick, following a rule that said you should only accentuate one area of your face – for me, eyes – in the same way you should only expose cleavage or legs, not both.
When David stayed over at Christmas, I got up an hour early each day to put on foundation (Chanel) and concealer (Sisley), only for him to say, ‘You look better without it.’ Why do men always say that? I once went on a date with a man in New York, who claimed he likes women ‘to look like they’ve just got out of a shower’. Which sort of destroyed my life’s work.
But now I’m thinking, what’s the point? No one sees me. Who cares that Chanel makes the best kohl pencil or Dior the best eyeliner?
I’m currently feeling, in lockdown, the way I feel on a plane when I’ve been sent on some dreadful assignment: I never want to land. Everyone else, as soon as the wheels touch the Tarmac, is switching on phones, eager to return to their lives. I would always be too scared to look at my messages, to find out what horrors awaited me.
I’ve just logged on to my laptop and there, in my inbox, is an unopened message. ‘I got a text!!!!’
Dear God, put me in a bikini and it could almost be Love Island.
Before I open it, I go upstairs, get out the magnifying mirror and paint my face. Only then can I land, and face the future…
To contact Liz tweet #lizjonesgoddess or visit lizjonesgoddess.com