My first New York boyfriend called me Bambi because of my big innocent eyes.
In the late 70s heading out to CBGB or Max’s, I would circle those eyes with black kajal pencil I’d heard came from crushed beetles. I winged it out like the London girls I saw pictured in the NME and Sounds, music papers imported from the UK.
In the 80s I started a country band and we were rustic, traversing the badlands of Manhattan with washboards and acoustic instruments, traveling to gigs by Checker Cab. All that grooming stuff kind of fell by the wayside— I had no bathroom sink, just a tub in the kitchen. I got married and became a mother and between temp jobs, childcare and gigs, who had time for eye makeup?
Then I started a harmony trio with two girlfriends and we went all out for photo shoots. A makeup artist introduced me to false lashes. Nzingha would not hear of our girl group looking drab and down home. The lashes were a prop to work with in front of the camera and onstage. They were a five dollar vacation from my everyday self.
I went solo and the lashes stayed. My dressing room was often the front seat of a van or the restroom of an Indian restaurant down the street from clubs too humble for amenities, but I got so I could practically put makeup on by feel. Inevitably, half of the pair of lashes would lose its grip during my set and I’d end up flinging it off, bringing laughs from the audience but leaving me down one strip of lashes for the next night. I was forever scouring unfamiliar towns for a fresh pair.
Around the age of fifty, I realized all this gluing and ripping of fake lashes had left me with really meager eyelashes of my own. I tossed out the Duo adhesive and retired my false friends. I turned to Latisse and neuLash and decided to concentrate more on writing and guitar playing. I was Bambi’s mother or possibly Bambi’s grandmother now and it seemed like the graceful thing to do was leave the doe eyes to younger generations.
A 40-year-old friend showed up one day with gorgeous lash extensions and asked me if it was okay that she was going so glam and girly at her age.
“God yes—go for it!” I said. I remembered back to being that age and feeling sheepish about short skirts, tank tops, everything, like I was too old. I wasn’t fucking old at forty! I was in my prime. Go forward into the future and count back twenty years. You are always in your prime counting back twenty years.
I imagined 80-year-old me counseling a 60-year-old friend who’d asked if it was okay to wear a bikini, or shorts or fake lashes at her advanced age—if they made her feel good—and how I’d say “If you want to, do it. Do ALL OF IT.”
With this in mind, I went to our local pharmacy to buy some lashes and was overwhelmed by the huge selection. Twenty years ago there were maybe three choices: Cher, Liza and…wispy.
I ended up going online to order exactly what I wanted. The mailer arrived empty, as if someone or something had torn it open. It’s hard to imagine any of our neighbors appropriating a pair of fake lashes, but there are a lot of deer around here. I’m keeping an eye out for an extra Bambi-looking Bambi.