A caveat – this is an entirely personal POV post.  I’ve never been a particularly vain person, never had reason to be.  And no one who knows me would consider me ‘high maintenance.’  I have short wash and wear hair, nails that haven’t seen a manicure since grade school, and a ‘beauty’ routine that uses less than a handful of products. Regardless, like any American woman influenced by the media and my own desire to look attractive, I exfoliated, plucked, and moisturized, dabbed on a bit of scent, and slicked on some lipstick on a daily basis.

But when we had to pack up our belongings and move to tents this summer I wasn’t thinking about looks. It was like an extended camping trip, right?  Who packs make-up to go camping? My primary concern was that the family was fed and safe.  Well, clean, and clothed were secondary.  That’s how basic it got.  I packed soap, shampoo, toothpaste and brushes and a first aid kit, not lipstick, moisturizer and Crest Whitestrips!

The two months we spent in the tents camping out in the parks were tough. Mid-summer in California is dry and the campsites had seen constant use since the beginning of the season. It was impossible to get and keep clean – walking back to the tents from the public showers (where a quarter bought you 3 minutes of hot water) we would begin to acquire a fine coat of grime, the first of many layers before our next shower.  We spent hours in the sun and even liberal doses of sunscreen couldn’t keep us from developing deep freckled tans.  Fingernails broke in the setting up and taking down of tents, bug bites accumulated and festered.  Whether it was due to squinting in the sun or fretting over our future, new lines were etched onto my face, leaving me with the appearance of a perpetual frown. My “beauty routine” consisted of putting on deodorant.  I ignored the damage – there wasn’t much I could do about it anyway. 

Since moving into the trailer some things have improved.  It’s perfectly easy to brush our teeth after meals for instance and we shower much more frequently.  We can keep clothes clean after laundering them – something that was hard to do in the tents.  I can even, though not easily, color my hair again.  I retrieved my moisturizer from our storage unit but am uninspired to mess with makeup.  When you aren’t going to work every day, the need to look professional fades. Depression, poor diet and lack of activity have layered on the pounds, and with the sun damaged skin and lined face; I look five years older than I did this time last year.  Just one more toll this journey has taken.

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