I've worn eyelash extensions for more than two years. And this past week was the first time I have questioned if it was worth it.
Worth what, you might ask, if you've never partaken in something as high maintenance, costly, or vain as this. It's akin to any of the variety of beauty endeavors, like having your nails done, or getting spray tans, or having your eye brows laminated. If you don't know what any of these are, you likely have the genes of a Greek goddess and should absolutely consider having children.
But then you might ask me if having children is worth it. Worth what, I might ask. And I would find myself in just the same quandary, trying to justify if it is, in fact, worth the maintenance, cost, and vanity. And again, I would say I'd never questioned if having children is worth it, until this week.
I stretched out on the table bed (it feels far more table than bed) at the eyelash salon explaining to my lash lady why she had to squeeze me in for a quick fill before my regular two-week interval.
"They've never shed this badly," I remarked.
"Ooo, this is bad," she said, scanning my lash line under her bright spotlight. "What have you been up to the past week?"
I paused for a moment to think. "I'm wondering if it's my coffee."
"Are you pouring it on your lashes?" she quipped.
"No, no, but the steam from the coffee...I wondered if that was, I dunno, steaming them off."
"Did you just start drinking coffee this week?"
"No, but I changed mugs. I used to always drink out of an insulated mug with a lid. But I was gifted a new mug that keeps itself hot and so now the steam isn't trapped by a lid."
"And you hold your coffee really close to your face?"
"Oh yes, the warmth calms me in the mornings."
"Are mornings hectic at your house?"
"I have two kids."
"Okay...it might be the coffee..." she said with a skeptical tone. "Do you take really steamy showers?"
She worked her fingers through my lashes quietly for a moment. "Have you possibly been crying more than usual this week?"
"Oh for sure," I said.
She remained quiet as she worked. I lay there reflecting on the week. Minutes went by before she said: "Want to talk about it?"
And like a water balloon poked with a stick, I came pouring out. My husband had been traveling for the week and so there were twice as many logistics to worry with in his absence. My work week had been more packed than usual. But more than anything, both of my children were dealing with difficult social and academic circumstances at school.
On top of that, during morning drop off on Tuesday, I inadvertently embarrassed my oldest child. I was brutally unprepared for having reached that phase already. Seeing her face cloud with horror as I shook my booty while singing loudly when there was a singular person standing forty yards away from us caused an ache deep down. Wasn't she just in diapers? Didn't she just learn to walk? How was I here already?
And so, in the remaining mornings of this week, I would get up early and make myself some hot coffee, allowing the steam to wash over my face while I sat quietly at the kitchen table gathering my strength for the emotions and logistics of the day. After drop offs, during which I assured my youngest the day was going to be great and apologized to my oldest for having potentially caused her any embarrassment, I went home, got the shower as steamy as I possibly could and stood in there crying until there were no more tears.
When my lash lady finished, I paid her, got in my car, and pulled down the visor to inspect her work in the lighted mirror. As I admired my reflection, all the maintenance, cost, and vanity of this endeavor made perfect sense. It fulfilled my goal: I looked awake and put together without having to wear a stitch of make up. Sure, I have to make a trip to this salon, which is 20 minutes from my house, every two weeks. Sure, I have to give up an hour of my time to lie still on a hard table while the lashes are adhered to me. Sure, I have to invest the money. And sure, I now realize, I have to be cautious about consuming my favorite beverage in the mornings, tone down the temperature during my beloved morning showers, and of course, keep the tears at bay.
But looking in the mirror as I did in that moment--winking seductively at myself--it all felt worth it.
In much the same way that the beautiful, heartbreaking work of raising kids, on the whole, is worth it. Because when we talk about having kids, or raising kids, we are usually talking in broad brush strokes. We visualize the joy and sadness blended together in such a way that the overall effect feels even. But zooming in on those singular moments, those tougher weeks, those heartbreaking moments, might have someone asking, Why would anyone sign up for this? Holding your crying baby late at night praying for sleep. Pulling your screaming toddler off the floor at Target. Holding your disappointed 7- year-old who didn't ace a test she studied so hard for. Holding your hurting 10-year-old who was called a nasty name at school.
The desperation for them to leave a certain phase--like teething or potty training--followed by the aching pain that comes from watching them grow. The cruelty of wanting them to be just a little bit more self-sufficient to the heartbreak of not feeling needed. The exciting anticipation of having a baby to the pure agony of having to let them go one day.
Dear god, why would anyone sign up for this? How the hell is this worth it?
And as I watched my kids emerge from the school building Friday, my lashes full and fluttery, I felt my body tense. I was desperate to read their expressions, their body language, the pace of their strides. Because, as a mother, you don't know how your day is until you know how your kids' days were.
As my children got closer to my car and I could see their faces--smiling and happy--my heart flooded with an indescribable feeling. And the question that entered my mind as my giggly children climbed into the car is not unlike the question that enters my mind every two weeks after all the ridiculous work I put into having my lashes done and then glimpse myself in the visor mirror after the appointment:
Who wouldn't want this?