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It Takes a Strong Foundation


In early adulthood, I always considered the expression a "strong foundation" quite literally. After all, I was blonde, schooled in Amelia Bedelia books, and raised in quake country, where the lessons had been learned locally in 1906 and again in 1989.

So when my husband and I were shopping for our first Bay Area home, against our bank account's wishes, all the risks were swirling in my head. Of course, my husband was more concerned about Allan Greenspan's fiscal recommendations, but I kept going back to The Three Little Pigs. There'd be no straw and sticks for this savvy home buyer! And while we didn't actually end up with a house made of bricks, we did manage to avoid one constructed on landfill-- so that Big Bad Mother Nature couldn't shake it all down.

Just ten years later, my paradigm had shifted more than any of our local fault lines, and physical structures were no longer forefront in my mind. I was now raising two young children who made me interpret "foundation" more figuratively. Let there be preschool, strong community ties, and an entire childhood of teachable moments about what is right and wrong.

The early lessons all seemed to boil down to a long list of don'ts: "Don't steal." "Don't cheat." "Don't beat your sister with your new sparkly baton." This strategy was coupled with desperate attempts to catch the little scoundrels being good-- and then employing every Psych 101 reinforcement strategy I could remember.

It was an art form to find a positive angle for every hair-rasing skirmish I mediated. However, the day I uttered: "I'm so proud you stopped pulling your sister's hair out the first time I asked you to...What color sticker do you want?" might best be considered an abstract art form, because I'm still asking myself "What was that?" I'm now thinking a Biblical hair-follicle-for-a-hair-follice approach might have been more effective.

Fast-forward ten more years that passed in the blink of a now sunken and crinkled eye, and I have yet another Freudian free-association with "foundation." And while the association is free, the product is definitely not. For I am talking about the mother of all cosmetic inventions that takes a girl's face from 40-something to thirty-ish in the swipe of a sponge.

Foundation. It's one aptly named product. It's the base on which to pile ten pounds of other products that make an old gal presentable to her viewing public. But let's call it what it really is: a mask, albeit the opposite of any you'd wear on Halloween because by wearing it, you're hoping to avoid scaring young children. It's your daily life anti-Boo!

And a girl's dependence upon it begins innocently enough. It starts with a quick stop at the local drug store to pick up a generic-brand bargain to conceal a zit, a late night, or if you were stupid enough to allow suction, a hickey. Then, before you know it, you're desperate enough to believe you'll be be even more "flawless" by shelling out the big bucks at the mall.

At my age, no matter what Consumer Reports says, I still have high hopes that the extra twenty dollars spent on the French-made bottle of liquid luminescense will Erase those fine lines! Mattify the T-Zone! Make me look like the air-brushed goddess on the poster!

Indeed, like most mirror-owning women my age, my use of foundation has gone from "special occasions only" to the daily putty and spackle that holds my face together. Its mission is to hide the fact that my childhood was sunscreen optional, that I have sleepless nights of worry about my family and friends, and that the fruit of the union of Father Time and Mother Loss-of-Elasticity makes a girl look an awful lot like an apple doll.

So, to heck with cement cinder blocks and moral fiber, my strong foundation now comes from the cosmetic counter.