Recently on Twitter, someone prompted the Twitterverse to tell them about a time “you felt truly attractive.” My response was “At my grandpa’s funeral.”
But let me explain.
My grandfather and I became very close towards the end of his life. It was just as much of a joy for me to see him as it was for him to see me, and in his usual Jewish grandfatherly way, would kvell (Yiddish for bursting with pride, to say something with pride) about how beautiful he thought I was. This was even when I would roll up to the Jewish Home For the Elderly in yoga pants with like, no eyebrows on and dirty hair.
The man had style before he was bed-ridden. There are photographs in my house of him in his younger years, wearing trendy outfits for the time and looking handsome. He appreciated the effort people put into looking good. He would tell me when he liked my coat or if he thought the color of a shoe or a bracelet was eye-catching. He was detail-oriented and happy to see every little thing that I wanted to show him, from my haircut to my toe polish to my new tattoo.
Towards the end, I tried to put some extra effort into how I looked when I saw him, because he had such little contact with the outside world. I wore colors and lipstick and fun jewelry.
It wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t. I could have come in Norts and a big sweater every day with no makeup on and he would have been just as ecstatic to see me. We would have talked about traveling (his favorite thing), eating (his second favorite thing), our family, paranormal things (I loved to ask him about ghosts), dying, god, the Russians, his Russian parents, or anything. The connection between us was never about how I looked on the outside, but it felt like a nicety he could never be afforded. He was too sick to be out of the home for long, to see many people, and the people he did see every day weren’t necessarily the most sparkly. So for him, I sparkled. I wanted to bring him the best version of me. Someone thriving, someone vibrant, someone pretty. Someone from the outside, because he was trapped in there.
When he died, I wanted to sparkle for him one last time. It felt like a do-over for how we said goodbye.
The last time I ever saw my grandfather in the flesh, I had a fever of 102 and almost didn’t come. I had to fight my family to let me go and see him. It was Christmas. I wore a yellow medical mask around my nose and mouth. “Get that sticker off your face. Let me see you,” he had said to me. I don’t know why he thought it was a sticker.
“You can’t,” I had answered. “I don’t want to get you sick.”
I couldn’t kiss him on the head when I said goodbye, so I held his hands. He was still glad to see me.
He died the next day.
So, to honor him, I wanted to go all out. I wanted to look amazing. I wanted not only to be sparkly, I wanted to look hot. I wanted elderly Jewish family members and distant relatives alike to see me and be like “Woah, that’s Hillard’s grand daughter?” Hell yea, it is bitches. Progeny, but make it sexi.
I bought a funeral-appropriate but still cocktail party-esque black dress from Nordstrom, Spanx with butt pads (accidentally), this deep-berry stain lipstick from NYX, opaque tights, heeled boots, and an itty bitty purse that was black and cheetah print and could only fit my cellphone and a handful of Ativan.
I had my lashes done. I got my hair blown out. I arrived in San Francisco for the funeral and completely fell apart.
I remember looking at my face in the mirror as I got ready (I am a makeup before outfit girl) and feeling like an alien. I was blotchy and booger-y and had massive dark circles. I put heavy-duty primer on, followed by a heavy application of foundation. I concealed. I contoured. I didn’t bronze because it was January and who would have believed me. My eyebrows were arched and full. My lips looked kissed by berries. The routine of applying a full and detailed face with a shit ton of products actually calmed me down. Spritzing myself with setting spray felt therapeutic.
It was only until after I opened my package of Spanx that I realized they included butt pads. I called my sister in to laugh at them. They were incredible and unnecessary and looked amazingly subtle under my dress followed by a pair of tights. I did up my dress. I put on my shoes. I grabbed my purse. I was wearing butt pads!
If you didn’t know that I was headed to a funeral, I looked HOT. I looked vampy and leggy and like I had a perfectly circular and pert butt. If you didn’t know better you might have thought I was on my way to a date or a very sexy business meeting at 10 a.m.
In the words of my least favorite Bachelorette, I “did the damn thing.” I greeted his former co-workers, his friends, our family members I had never met, our family members I knew. I smiled. I stood up straight. I shook hands. Then it came time for the service.
God bless Too Faced Cosmetics and the power of waterproof mascara. No matter how hard I cried, how much snot I wiped on my sleeve, or the amount of wine I drank after the service–it all held together. While my eyes were red (crying and drunk) my lashes looked luscious. The makeup on my nose stayed on even after honking it into a tissue 1000000 times. My hair was shiny and curled at the bottom thanks to Dry Bar and it photographed well in the photos I took in the Columbarium bathroom for the guy I was dating at the time. Yes, I even took a photo of my butt. You couldn’t see the pads under the tights. I was hot!!
(P.S. Zayde, I’m sorry for taking a picture of my butt at your funeral. I blame the grief and the wine.)
Did I feel beautiful? No. I felt like throwing up and crying some more. But did I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I looked good? Hell yeah brother. Hell yea. I don’t think I have put so much careful love and attention into looking that good, again. Not even for a date.
But even though I sparkled and shone with lipgloss and nice hair, I showed up. That’s what was important. I was there with my family, and I got to say goodbye, without a face sticker or a mask or a fever. I was there because I loved him. That’s all he would have really wanted anyway.