During the summers, having two working parents meant 5 days a week at Grandma’s, whose house was basically a gigantic fort through my 7-year-old eyes. My days were filled with puzzles, card games, polka music, opera, musical theatre, organ music, playing with dogs, movies, and lemonade. To me, Disney wasn’t the happiest place on earth. It was there, at my Grandmothers house.
One day, my sister was away at a soccer camp, leaving just me and my cousin Nancy at my Grandma’s.
“I’ve got to run some errands”, my Grandma said, “so let’s get our shoes on and go on an adventure.”
On the highway, maybe 10 minutes outside of my home town, there are these small ponds. I used to call them the Finger Lakes (when in reality, the actual finger lakes were not very far away either). Being the nerds that we were, Nancy and I loved when my Grandma would take us on a ride to go by them.
“If you both behave, we’ll go by the finger lakes on the way home!” She had told us. Immediately my cousin and I knew she meant business.
After stopping at both Reids – the grocery store, and CVS, we pulled into the mall parking lot.
“Grandma needs to grab some things, but you both can look around if you’d like”, she told us.
Being 7 years old, a department store was considered the ultimate Hide-And-Seek territory. Racks full of clothes offered the most opportune place to hide without anyone finding you. Catching my cousins eye, I quickly knew that this would be the game of our lives. As we stepping into the store, Grandma told us where she was going to be and that we were allowed to look around too as long as she could still see us.
Gearing up to begin our game, Nancy was easily distracted by the bright displays of the Makeup counter. A saleswoman noticed us nearby and asked my cousin if she wanted to try on some makeup. Thinking that my Grandma would have no objection, she immediately said yes and sat down in one of their chairs. I must have looked disappointed that I wasn’t asked too, as the saleswoman pulled up another chair next to my cousin for me.
I was amazed by all of the colors one could apply to their face – to me, makeup was for theatre, movies, and Halloween. I knew that if I wanted to be a famous actor that I would have to know how to use make up.
“Could you help me with makeup too?” I asked the saleswoman.
Caught off guard, she giggled and said “Sure, let’s find your shade”.
Ten minutes later, my Grandma was leading my cousin and I out of the store and having me wipe my face off on a towel she had in the back seat of her station wagon. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until we drove directly to her house without driving by our Finger Lakes.
Years after this happened, I spoke about this with my Grandmother. I had never told her about my sexuality or any of guys I had dated. Bringing up this memory, I asked her if she had been upset I had tried on makeup.
In true Grandma style, she responded with: “At the time, I didn’t think it was right for a little boy to wear makeup. But knowing how much I love you… I think I was jealous that you were prettier than me”.