The price of beauty

The setting: Friday of Labor Day weekend, in a car with my husband,  hundreds of miles from home, on our way to a family wedding.

I turn to my husband, “We have KV’s present, right?”

He says, “You didn’t grab it?”

For a second, I think he is joking, and then I notice the tension in his jaw that makes it clear he isn’t.

Oh shit.

“You didn’t load it into the car?”

“I only carried down the big stuff. I thought you’d get the rest.”

“So we don’t have my red bag either?!”


“Or the present for M?”

“There was a present for M too?”

“YES!” I say, my voice rising. “I can’t believe you didn’t grab that stuff!”

“I can’t believe you didn’t check…”

“Well, YOU always pack the trunk. When I came downstairs, you’d not only packed it, you’d covered everything up and shut it. I assumed you’d carried everything down.”

“Oh sure, it’s MY fault. It’s always my fault,” he says under his breath.

This could turn into a really ugly argument. I don’t take the bait.

Silently, I’m steaming.

I’m married to an engineer and he has a system for everything. The worst thing any of us can do is mess with his systems.  If you try to pack the car for a trip or put even one piece of something in the trunk, he’ll pull it out because you’ve put it in the wrong place.

Over the years the modus operandi has been for me to put everything that is going on the trip into a staging area, and then Mr. Engineer will decide what is carried down when and how it is arranged in the trunk. How many times have I carried things down and heard him say, “Why are bringing that down now? You should bring the big things down first!”

I’d long ago stopped trying to help. Best way to deal with him is to let him do things his perfect efficient foolproof OCD way. Usually that works.

Except this time, we had System Failure.

I had dutifully corralled everything on the rug in our bedroom, and he had only brought the suitcase down.


I felt tears well up in my eyes, and I quickly turned my head to look out the window. I hate to cry, but I had labored in my studio for days making a personal gift for the bride. I’d gone to multiple art supply stores to find The Perfect Frame.

I could not wait to give it to her, not only because I was sure she’d love and appreciate it, but because I wanted other members of the family to see it too.  Now, I’d have to mail it, and I’d never get to see her reaction or share the gift-giving moment.

SO frustrating.

And then there was the red bag. It contained all my toiletries. Everything I needed to spend a weekend aways from home and prepare for a special occasion.

Now leaving toiletries behind wouldn’t normally be a big a deal, except that the weekend was going to be equal parts family wedding and reunion. My siblings are scattered across the U.S., and we seldom manage to get together. I had not seen my sisters in almost 10 years.

I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last two years, and I was sure my skinny sisters were going to be shocked when they see me. My makeup bag contained everything I needed to put my best face forward, muster some confidence, and survive all the photos with dignity.

I couldn’t believe all the products I’d carefully loaded into My Bag of Tricks were left behind, hundreds of miles away.

That night, after we reached our destination, we headed out to Target, and I replaced most of the contents of my absent toiletry bag.

Toothbrush and toothpaste. Shampoo, conditioner, comb, styling gel. Deodorant. Razor, shaving cream, lotion. Cleanser and face cream. Foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer. Eyeshadow, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, eyelash curler, mascara. Lip gloss. Nail polish. Foot file. Q-tips, makeup sponge, blush brush, eye makeup remover, magnifying mirror.

They were all put on the checkout belt and scanned and totaled: $223.

$223?  For real? For health and beauty items from Target? Good grief. I can’t believe it. Neither can Mr. Engineer.

As I swipe my credit card he quickly does some mental calculations and says, “It would have been cheaper to have driven home and gotten your bag.”

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