Warning: This is about to be the jappiest/most Carrie Bradshaw-esque thing I have ever written.
I’ve now lived in New York for about a week and a half, but New York has always been part of my life in some small way. My Dad grew up here and I have great memories of visiting his parents in their Co-op City apartment and eating the most amazing food I’d ever tasted. Growing up a few hours away, New York was always the definition of cool. Even though I lived in Baltimore, New York was still “the city.”
I was first introduced to Bendel’s, the high-end accessories store, in high school when my friend’s mom got me a Bendel’s gift tote (in retrospect, something she surely got for free) and I said “Thank you, what’s Bendel’s? Is it at the Towson mall?” I was soon explained all about the institution of Bendel’s and all the designer make-up, purses, and headbands that came with it.
A few years later Bendel’s came into my life again through Gossip Girl. The characters on Gossip Girl seemed to make Bendel’s runs like normal people make Target runs.
At that point, though, Bendel’s was still a mythical and exclusive place that I assumed I could never enter. In college, that changed. I visited my sister who had been living in New York and she planned a Gossip Girl walking tour for the two of us. It was a great day and the memories I have from visiting my sister during her time in New York are some of my favorites. One of the stops on the tour was, of course, Bendel’s. And we went inside. Wearing my purple North Face fleece, I’m sure I stuck out as a tourist and was immediately hounded by a make up saleswoman. “Would you like us to give you a make over?!” Of course I accepted. I left feeling pretty and glamorous, something I rarely felt on my college campus. I bought make up and started wearing a little bit of it every day.
The next time I went to Bendel’s I was with my aunt and cousins. I was visiting friends in New York after spending a year in Ukraine and spending the day in the New York with my family from small-town New Hampshire was a great excuse to do tourist-y things. Again, we found ourselves in Bendel’s. This time, I walked in feeling a bit more confident. I had just come back from making a life for myself in a strange city where I knew no one. I could handle Bendel’s. Again, I left with new make up. After spending the year in Ukraine, I had developed the very Ukrainian habit of never leaving the house without make up.
Today, I went to Bendel’s again. After an orientation speech about the importance of self-care, I figured that exercising and eating healthy were things I already knew how to do (I still don’t do them well though), but wearing a bold lip was something I do not know how to do. And as a grown-ass woman I should learn how to take care of that. I was excited to go to Bendel’s as a non-tourist, but when I walked in I didn’t see any make up and had to do a very tourist thing: ask a salesperson for help. “Oh we don’t sell cosmetics anymore,” the impossibly beautiful Bendel’s woman said to me. I was shocked. “Since when???,” I demanded. “Since 3 weeks ago. It’s still pretty new.” Still pretty new. Like a bad break up.
I left Bendel’s much more upset than I thought I’d be. My grandma whose cooking I loved so much in Coop City has passed away and my grandpa moved to the suburbs. My sister no longer lives here. I have so few New York traditions left from my years growing up in awe of New York.
I went to Bergdorf’s and talked at length with a make up artist from Moscow. She told me her story and what it was like moving to New York from Russia. She also told me where to get the best Russian food in Brooklyn. She taught me how to do lipstick and gave me her phone number. “You’re going to love living here and studying Russian,” she said.
I’ll miss make up at Bendel’s, but maybe it’s time to start some new traditions.
Ferguson is sixty-seven per cent black, but fifty of its fifty-three police officers are white. In Comment, Jelani Cobb reflects on disenfranchisement, disillusionment, and the protests following Michael Brown’s death.
Illustration by Tom Bachtell.
I’m not an expert on Civil Rights history or race relations today, but I believe Jelani Cobb’s pieces throughout these past few years have been the best coverage of these complex issues I’ve ever come across.
- A person that I am determined to make my best friend at NYU