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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Off the grid: You can take the girl out of the backwoods

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

“Do you have an eyelash curler?” asked the woman behind the makeup counter. She has the kind of symmetric eyebrows that Mother Nature is not entirely responsible for. I looked at her quizzically.

“Is that like a tiny little heated rod?” I wondered what the solar-powered version of this beauty ritual is. Can I blindfold myself with nylons before bed so I wake up with the right lash curl?

I never really learned how to do the makeup thing. Occasionally, my poor judgment will get the better of me and I’ll slather lipstick on my face, giving the impression of a toddler who’s been pilfering in her mother’s purse. Mascara inevitably ends up on my cheeks by midafternoon, and like most of my cosmetic attempts, could be inspiration for a Dali painting.

But the girls are telling me I need to get with the program because I’m getting married in a week and “for the photographs” it will look better if my “eyes pop.” Apparently, makeup wields this magical power. Which is why I was standing at a makeup counter comprehending only a small fraction of what this woman was telling me.

I listen, because she’s clearly never been mistaken for a Dali, then explained my migrating mascara problem. She talked about long lasting, volume, foundation versus concealer, and lots of other things that did not make sense.

“Do you use a primer?” she asks. Suddenly, we were in my wheelhouse. Primer! Of course! If I just primed my whole face (and lashes), my makeup would stay where I intended it, assuming I could get it there in the first place.

I bought everything she recommended and left the store with a tiny plastic bag worth several hundred dollars. I had so many cosmetic wonders, I could correct everything from a pimple (kindly referred to as “blemishes” among these wise experts) to a pirate’s missing eye. My groom may not even recognize who he is marrying, which would just add to the mystery and romance of the day.

I grew up in (and am marrying into) a family where everything is about having the right tool for the job, so the practicality of owning things like brow pencils, highlighters, lip liners, bronzers and eye lash primer is an easy sell. Applying them isn’t hard either, she said as she rubbed it on her hand and used words like “swipe, pat, dab, brush” – all things at which I am highly competent, like caulking and staining trim.

Excited at the opportunity to dabble in the experience of appearing a sophisticated lady of aesthetic nature, I stood in my bathroom before a large mirror and excitedly unpacked box after shiny box. Each tiny carton came with a tinier set of folded instructions for things like “sultry eyes” and “sexy beach eyes.”

I had a hard time choosing the right option for me because they didn’t have “40-something sun-leathered eyes,” but I made do.

Here’s the thing though: When branching out of my comfort zone and trying new things, they must at least hold up to the reality of my life. So I took my volumized eyelashes and shimmer glow brows and plump coral mouth for a run. In the rain. Seeing as I cannot get through a rehearsal of my wedding vows without crying at the first sentence, this seemed a reasonable litmus test.

Somewhere around the fourth mile, I took a photograph to send to my savvy girlfriends because there was “good natural lighting.” The only thing familiar about the woman I saw was the smear of chocolate on my face from the Larabar I had just inhaled.

I went home, used some of my $40 skin-safe turpentine to scrub it all back off and returned to my original plan: a fresh gardening sunburn and some cherry Chapstick.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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