Sunday, October 28, 2012

For the Faint of Heart

You know what is really a good move? Pumping enough blood to your brain. I recommend doing it as often as possible. If you can’t manage that, though, the next best option is failing at this activity as dramatically as possible.

The first plan fell through for me last month, but I made good progress on the second one by passing out backstage during a performance of Pride & Prejudice. Conveniently for the show but less so for achieving maximum attention, I didn’t have any more lines or appearances for the night.

Instead, I woke up to the ministrations of Mr. Darcy’s housekeeper from the great Pemberley estate, who also happened to be a retired nurse. We were shortly joined by a collection of extremely quiet paramedics, while the other actors balanced between concern and not missing their entrances for the last half hour of the play. The ambulance team seemed a little disappointed that they didn’t get to remove me directly from the stage, so there’s room to improve for next time.

Shortly after we arrived at the hospital I remembered that no one knew I had come straight from Regency England without a chance to change, so I began introducing myself to every approaching staff member.

One of the techs had already taken it all in stride.

The wardrobe situation also resulted in a sheepish call from the stage manager to my parents, who arrived at the hospital shortly after I did.

In the end they diagnosed me with “high vagal tone,” which basically means that various situations can set off an involuntary nervous response that slows down my heart rate and limits blood flow to my brain. Several of the triggers are related to neglectful self-care, leading back to the whole “stop doing dumb things and you’ll be fine” principle that gives me so much trouble.

It turns out that my central nervous system is a lot like one of those kids who hold their breath when they throw tantrums. Its motivations don’t match the average toddler’s, though.

Now I have a list of potential triggers to watch for, including overexertion, dehydration, emotional stress, and my favorite item as explained by one of the ER personnel, “prolonged standing, sitting, or lying down.”

Thanks to this experience, I can begin giving more credence to my body’s signals and the advice of medical professionals and make the healthy choices of a responsible adult. Or there’s emotional manipulation.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Painted Lady

Until very recently, all of the makeup I owned was purchased for my high school prom, Class of 2004. I take that back—there was one set of eye shadow that my grandmother gave me after cleaning out her bathroom drawers.

As you may have gathered, I hardly ever wear makeup. It’s not that I have naturally radiant skin or a point to make about the true nature of beauty; I just really enjoy waking up about thirty minutes before I leave for work.

I’m also a little too unrefined for cosmetics, in the same way that my hands are not a safe place for nail polish for longer than an hour. Occasions for wearing makeup—weddings, graduations, etc.—typically start out as a lot of fun. The preparation is fun. Arriving and being pretty and excited is fun for about ten minutes. But then life continues to happen, and I remember that thanks to beauty I can’t scratch my chin or blink too much or eat or drink or cry or sweat or touch anything.

You can only run away for so long, though. Last month I was in a play, and live theater requires cosmetic enhancement unless your role is “very pale and somewhat flat person.” Small community theater also requires doing your own makeup, which is where the real problems start.

The other major factor in my cosmeticsless existence is a practically nonexistent understanding of how the stuff works. In a desperate attempt to learn what I missed in middle school, I threw myself on the mercy of the people at the Clinique counter in the mall.

I started by forgetting the common-sense rule of picking an associate whose look you would like to match. It’s like remembering to take cooking lessons only from people whose recipes you actually enjoy. This error made it difficult to explain what I wanted.

After using up my weekly allotment of the word “subtle,” I risked trying some other descriptions…

…but the terminology was too much for me.

In the end, though, Ms. Clinique did figure out some things to sell me that worked for the theater and also made me feel extremely fancy.

The best part is, with a few simple tools, I can recreate the look myself anytime I want.