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War Paint: Why I’m Afraid of my Dresser Drawer


Published in ChicagoNow, August 25, 2016


After seeing the musical War Paint, it felt like it was time to tackle my own collection of war paint (AKA no-longer-used makeup and magic creams) cluttering my dresser drawer. War Paint depicts the rivalry between Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, both of whom founded cosmetics empires following World War I that lasted for decades. But I offer my drawer as a competitor for anything these ladies produced.

The impetus for this mission was two-fold. I couldn’t find an antibiotic cream I was sure resided *somewhere* in that drawer, and I could no longer close the drawer completely. Perhaps I would find some treasure in addition to the cream?


So, what was lurking in the depths of that drawer? I filled a garbage bag with expired ointments from the dermatologist and makeup so old it could not be passed on to my granddaughters for play. I also tossed samples of every imaginable product that I saved because maybe I would try it. I guess after languishing over ten years in that drawer, I was not likely to use any of them.


Those were the expected discoveries. A sad collection of war paint ranging over the past quarter century that I had hoped would somehow transform me into a better version of myself. An assortment of Band-Aids and dressings for my arthritic toe and to comfort the blisters caused by uncomfortable shoes. Two-dozen cosmetic brushes (I’m guessing these were giveaways because I have never used them, but perhaps I will one day?). Really dry lipstick (guess it doesn’t last forever) and really red lipstick from an experiment that didn’t work.


And then there were the more interesting discoveries:

  • A container of baby teeth (not sure which kid’s) – Truly disgusting but do I toss them now after saving them for 30-40 years? My kids all vote YES.

  • Charms from what must have been my younger daughter’s necklace because they include her name, a cat, a dog, a diploma, and a track shoe. I guess she kept the chain and left these for me.

  • A small glass box filled with safety pins covered with small red, white, and blue beads, held together by a larger safety pin. I have no memory of who created this and why.

  • A tarnished mezuzah. Since I already have one by my front and back doors, where did this come from? And is it even mine?

  • A box of old broken watches (maybe they just need batteries?).

As I surveyed the meager assortment of stuff I planned to return to the drawer because I might actually need it, I found myself wondering if I would also be tossing these items a few years down the line. To be honest, unlike Ms. Rubinstein and Ms. Arden, I have vowed to adapt to modernity and have given up on expensive creams and potions. Walgreen’s will suit me fine.


But before I could finish my purge and reorganize project, I had to remove the drawer that remained stubbornly stuck and partially open when closed. After pulling out five plastic bags and four pairs of shredded panty hose from the space under the drawer, I did it. I was feeling rather proud of myself.


Now came the fun part. Before putting things back, I had to take a break to purchase organizers. Marie Kondo would be so proud of me. Well, not really because I just hauled my discards to the garbage without thanking them for their service. And I should have tossed more, because many of the things I kept do not “spark joy.”

So now my drawer looks like this:



But I still can’t find the antibiotic cream.



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by Laurie Levy
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