Just last week Eloisa James and I discussed all of the dreaded conference neuroses that we suffer. And ironically enough, during a business trip to a Books-A-Million seminar in Birmingham, Alabama this very week, I had to face MY very worst traveling nightmare. Was it a terrorist threat? Sitting next to someone on the plane with SARS? A bird with red eyes and a runny nose perched on my hotel window ledge?
Alas, it was worse than that! Only an hour before I was supposed to go downstairs to meet and greet my adoring public, I discovered I had forgotten to pack...MY MAKE-UP!!! (That howl of anguish you just heard came from Lisa Kleypas.) I am usually very careful about this. I may not always carry extra underwear but there are 2 items I always pack in my carry-on in case my checked luggage is lost—my speech and my make-up. This time I carried on ALL of my luggage, but failed to pack the make-up. (At least my husband could have FAXED me a speech!)
Given that I'd had this very nightmare numerous times, one would have thought immediate hysteria would ensue. After all, I am at the age where I need foundation to cover both wrinkles and zits. And since I'm having a bad hair life, it makes me feel a little better if I can pretty up my face. But instead of falling apart, an eerie calm descended over me. I rummaged through my purse to discover a lone tube of lipstick, then quickly dressed and went down to the hotel gift shop to discover that the only make-up they carried was a lone tube of lipstick.
Still feeling weirdly calm, I went back to my room with only 30 minutes to go before I was due at the signing. Without mascara or eyeliner, I have the eyes of an albino rabbit. Deciding it was more important to look good than to avoid permanent blindness, I attempted to use the hotel ink pen as an eyeliner. It didn't work very well. Those things just weren't designed to draw on skin. I eyed the lone tube of lipstick, knowing what I had to do. Taking it into my trembling hand, I proceeded to smudge lipstick on my eyelids, my cheeks, and oh, yes...my lips.
Then I gazed into the mirror and prayed that the Lord would let my inner beauty shine through. (Those howls of laughter you just heard came from Connie Brockway and Christina Dodd.) Perhaps, if the Books-A-Million managers were gracious (and nearsighted) enough, I could skate by on nothing but dimples and charm. After all, don't hundreds of thousands of women leave the house every day without make-up? Why in certain intellectual circles (and at the national RWA conferences) the less make-up you wear, the more intelligent you're presumed to be! (That superior nod of agreement you heard was Eloisa's.) Just because my mama was a Maybelline queen who never left the house without full eyeliner, that didn't mean I had to be afraid to show my naked face to the world, did it?
So I marched boldly downstairs and after a few minutes of chatting with those charming people who obviously loved books just as much as I did, I did the unthinkable--I forgot about myself. My only moment of weakness came when I spotted the trio of black Sharpies the Books-A-Million folk had kindly left for me to sign the books. But I battled that temptation, knowing that if I tried to use a Sharpie as an eyeliner, I'd probably end up looking like Cleopatra or worse yet, an albino raccoon. (Plus I wasn't sure workmen's comp would cover putting your eye out with a Sharpie during an autograph signing.)
When I came home, I shared this sobering and life-altering experience with my fellow writers. Then I e-mailed them some pics. I'd barely hit SEND before a REPLY from Christina came bouncing back. "Ya know, Terri," she wrote, "You don't look so bad without make-up." Unfortunately, the picture I'd sent was from a signing the week before when I WAS wearing full make-up. Ya know, with friends like these...