The Taxonomy of Cosmetics: A poem on understanding beauty

I tell her she’s beautiful every morning.

She replies with a slight smile, a
well, at least you think that,
and then drags me into the make-up store.

Sephora — a shop named for ancient Grecian beauty
and the dazzling face of Moses’ faithful wife —
employs a flamboyantly gay, make-up wearing, man-elf
and a furry, lady-dwarf with enough colors caked on her
ugly mug to be mistaken easily for a depressed clown.

My girl is looking for some product she can apply
atop her painted façade that will let her nuzzle me
without my ending up in blackface.

Having no theater experience
and only vaguely remembering my mother mentioning
“mascara,” “concealer,” and “powder” as second-hand buzzwords,
the taxonomy of cosmetics is new and baffling to me.
The little stacks of color packs furrow my brows in consternation.

The pale, dwarf-clown politely offers
my Amazonian-princess girlfriend
the store’s standard (and free) “make-up consultation”
like it’s a damn insider’s favor.

It involves her whipping out an assortment of brushes
from her stained, craftsmen’s tool belt,
pushing multiple types of unnamed substances
on the face I kiss every daybreak,
and telling my beauty that she needs
this gel and that goop to be beautiful –
leaving out that it’ll cost far more than it’s worth.

But even if she can find it cheaper somewhere else online,
the snake-oil saleswoman has made a deal in this grand bazaar,
though her panacea liniments remain but colorful placebos.

While my woman is nodding in agreement like a little schoolgirl,
I slide back into junior-high biology,
trying to understand the logic of how this all fits together –
wondering if there’s some cute mnemonic device
to help me remember why it makes sense,
why this false science has become so profound a law.

Inside Sephora.  (Original photo by user hjl -- Flickr.)

Inside Sephora.
(Original photo by user hjl — Flickr.)


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