PaperGirl Blog by Mary Fons







I Resent Makeup

posted in: Day In The Life, Fashion 10
Caption, caption, caption, makeup, caption, caption. Image: Wikipedia.


I haven’t always resented makeup. And I don’t always resent it now. In fact, today I have a stress-induced blemish that is taking over my entire face, so my concealer is my best, best friend.

But — concealer notwithstanding — makeup is making me mad these days.

In the small village where I grew up, Montross Pharmacy sits on the west side of the town square. If you google “Montross Pharmacy”, you’ll find it’s described as a “pharmacy/gift shop/soda fountain”, which tells you a lot about Montross Pharmacy and a lot about the village where I grew up. You can get diaper cream, antibiotics, and Dr. Scholl’s products in the pharmacy department. And in high school, my friends and I would dangle our legs off the high-top chairs at the counter after school to wolf grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries (me), or patty melts and onion rings (Annie) and get green rivers to go.

It was in the gift shop at the front of the store where I got my first look at makeup. I’m sure Mom had some at home, but I don’t think I ever got into it. I was a tomboy for a long time because I did absolutely everything my older sister did. Hannah is now very, very good at makeup and seems to enjoy it immensely, but that didn’t happen until she was in college.

For me, it was middle school. As puberty had its evil way with me, I became extremely interested in the compacts of blusher (I swear they called it blusher back then) hanging on the back wall and the spinny racks stocked with strange- and wonderful-smelling lipsticks that were full of chemicals that I’d guess aren’t allowed in lipsticks anymore. There were mascara tubes — I had no idea what mascara was about and was therefore extremely wary of it for some time — and round boxes of loose powder with pounce puffs inside.

If you wear makeup today, you probably have products by Tarte, or bareMinerals, or Stila, or various items from the roughly nine zillion other options available from makeup specialty stores like Ulta and Sephora. None of that existed when I discovered makeup. Fancy city ladies may have gotten their cosmetics at department stores, but us country folk went to Montross Pharmacy for our makeup. And L’Oreal, Maybelline, and CoverGirl are still drugstore staples, God bless ’em, but when I discovered makeup, it was all about O.G.s like Wet n’ Wild, Coty, and Bonne Bell.

Can I get some love in the back for Bonne Bell. Also can I get at least a smattering of applause for Love’s Baby Soft. Thank you.

Eventually, I was able to buy a few cosmetic products with my allowance and got permission from Mom to wear it. I’ve been wearing makeup ever since. I am a pale-complected woman. Blusher helps those around me know I’m actually a living creature, and it makes me feel pretty. Blush is my favorite makeup product, with mascara a close second. It’s rare that I go out of the house without mascara. It opens up my eyes and … I don’t know, I just like mascara.

But like, these days? These days, so many females wear so much makeup. We all know how it happend. It’s the specialty stores, it’s the proliferation of cameras in our phones, it’s social media, it’s makeup tutorials on YouTube. The rise of the selfie gave rise to a makeup industry that, when I was a budding consumer, was valued at … okay, I’ve just spent 20 minutes trying to find the valuation of the U.S. cosmetics market in the 1990s but I’m getting nowhere and I need to get to the office. I can tell you that today, the U.S. cosmetics market will reach a value of 25 billion by 2026. It’s staggering, this change.

And lately, I’ve really resented “having to wear makeup”. Of course I don’t “have” to wear it. But I do a livestream show 2-3 times a week* and I don’t feel comfortable slapping on some moisturizer and leaving it at that if I have an audience. Makeup does give me a measure of confidence and after 30 years of wearing the stuff in the daylight hours — and sometimes after dark, if ya know what I mean — I feel weird without it.

But it takes time to apply it. I could be doing other things while I put on dumb makeup. And it’s expensive. And boys don’t have to spend time putting on makeup and boys don’t have to spend their hard-earned money on it and basically, I am having a very feminist moment with makeup and it’s not equitable and it’s not fair and I hate it.

And now I have to go because you know why? I have a video call in 20 minutes and I have to go put on some makeup. That’s literally why I’m ending this post right now with a weak closing paragraph. Not cool, society. Not cool.

*I’ll tell you more about this in the coming days, but until then, you should for sure tune in to Quilt Nerd. It’s live, free, it’s on Tuesdays @ 7pm CST and Saturdays @ 8pm CST, and I do other shows in between, sometimes. Go to and get yourself a Twitch login and join me. It’s really fun and I’d love to see you. 

Jeni’s Ice Cream Will Soon Be In My Chicago Neighborhood (Goodbye, Cruel World)

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Food 6
I was ready to use a stock picture of any old ice cream, but a Hilary Hartman uploaded this image to WikiCommons. My Wiki-only OCD re: pictures is assuaged. My streak unbroken. Thank you, Hilary. Image: Wikipedia.


There is a Jeni’s Ice Cream shop coming to my neighborhood.

When I discovered this, I screamed — for ice cream. If you know Jeni’s ice cream and live in my neighborhood or near it, you’re also screaming. It’s terrifying, all these screaming people, but it’s not like we’re screaming because we’re being chased by an axe murder or anything. We’re screaming for Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam, and Salted Peanut Butter With Chocolate Flecks, and Gooey Butter Cake, and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. There are others, and great tubs of them will soon arrive in the Gold Coast and I will commune with them.

This is not a sponsored post. In fact, it is I who pay Jeni’s Ice Cream for their goods and services. It doesn’t seem fair to pay a company lots of money (their product is not cheap) and then give them free marketing on top of it. But, since the ice cream-delivered dopamine hits I’ve enjoyed over the years have been made possible because of Jeni’s product, I suppose I owe them. For cold spoonfuls of Atlantic Beach Pie, Mexican Chocolate, Buttercream Birthday Cake, and Skillet Cinnamon Bun, I give, and give, and give, apparently. Pathetic!

Recently, Eric and I caught a matinee at the AMC on Ohio Street just off Michigan Avenue. When the movie got out, we walked north, toward home. Our route from the theater takes us past Connors Park, a tiny patch of land at the intersection of Rush, Wabash, and Chestnut Streets, and this was the location of my discovery. I know I’m giving you lots of street names, but I want to remember every detail, to mentally return to the scene of my future ice cream crimes.

And setting the scene is important because Jeni’s could open a shop in a ditch or serve customers through a subway grate and I’d still be happy about it, as long as that subway grate were 10 minutes from my home. But the decision to operate out of Connors Park? It makes this whole thing extra awesome.

I didn’t know that the tiny patch of land at the above intersection was considered a park; I thought it was just a very large curb. Indeed, the triangle-shaped island that is Connors Park comprises just .34 acres, bounded on all sides by a line of narrow shrubs. There’s an oak tree, three or-so benches, and birdbath-sized fountain, which is all that can fit around the biggest feature of Connors Park, a low, rectangular-shaped glass building plopped right in the center. I’ve always loved that building. It looks like a greenhouse. It was an Argo Tea for the longest time and I fondly recall several afternoons there, writing in my journal as the autumn leaves sifted down past the windows all around me. But the Argo Tea closed years ago — even before the pandemic — and the greenhouse sat empty.

Until now.

Eric was saying something to me when I saw the banner hanging on the building. The banner showed pictures of Jeni’s Ice Cream and the words “Coming Soon!”

I stopped dead in my tracks. I clutched my husband and raised a trembling finger to point at the sign.

“Eric. Look!”

My husband makes noise about not liking sweets — “I’m a savory person”  — but he is weak in the presence of Jeni’s Ice Cream. Most people are His favorites are Brambleberry Crisp and Buttercream Birthday Cake. My favorites are, in no particular order: Pistachio Honey, Atlantic Beach Pie, Mexican Chocolate, Green Mint Chip, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Salty Caramel, Cream Puff, and Savannah Buttermint.

I’m serious, those are my favorites. All of them are my favorite-favorites. I will say that Cream Puff is my main favorite right now but that’s only because Pistachio Honey, the first Jeni’s flavor I ever had, is no longer available for some demonic, cruel reason. You always remember your first, you know?

Anyway, soon there will be a Jeni’s near our apartment. It’s the best news I’ve heard all month and I just wanted to share the news — but keep your hands off my ice cream.*

*I hate this cheesy ending but I have to get back to work … eating my ice cream. I hate that ending even more. I hate it more than I hate it when my Jeni’s ice cream is gone. Help. I’m stuck in a bad ending loop. Maybe Jeni’s will open a location in the Loop. 

How To Save Money For Home Improvement

posted in: Day In The Life 10
Repairing our frescoes is going to cost a fortune! Image: Wikipedia.


When I bought the apartment where Eric and I currently live, I knew it needed work. Everyone knew it needed work — that’s why I was able to buy it. The location, the building, the mise en scene; if I hadn’t gotten a discount, we wouldn’t have an address on our historic, tree-lined street.

But I did get a discount because the paint in the unit is an inch thick and the parquet floors are in terrible shape. The kitchen came with a Magic Chef stove ca. 1955 and a dishwasher from the pleistocene era. And the other day, one of the shelves in the inset bookcases literally collapsed. (There’s a joke in here about slouching toward Bethlehem, or Atlas shrugging, or the fall of the House of Usher, but that would require me to admit that I’ve still got a copy of Atlas Shrugged. It’s a first edition and it was a gift and it’s hard for me to let go of books, alright?)

Now that we’re staying put in Chicago for the foreseeable future, we’ve got to serious about home improvement. Eric and I have been discussing needs and wants. We need to replace all the molding; we want to connect the kitchen and the the dining room by opening up the east wall. We need to install ceiling lights; we want a gold toilet.* It’s going to cost a bunch of money because this is a big city and that’s just how it is. Plus, Eric would be cool with standard-issue everything, but I’m fancy. I told him this before we got married. He knows.

To get it done, we’ll have to take out a home loan. This is terrifying to me. Borrowing money with our home as collateral — I think that’s how it works — is just a very grown-up thing to do. I feel like a child most of the time and children don’t take out home loans. Can we manage another monthly bill? It’s freaky to think about. Student loan payments have been suspended for two years now, but that party will be over soon. And the apartment may have been on sale, but property taxes don’t get markdowns. If we want to do the work, we’ll have to get the loan, but I want it to be lean, lean, lean. This means I/we need to save money or make some more of it.

Here are things I can do to save money:

no new clothes (I hate this)
no fripperies (I love fripperies)
no major travel (let a book take you on an adventure, loser)

Here are things I can do to make some extra money:

sell my old clothes (but keep a few or I won’t have ANY clothes because I can’t buy new ones, apparently)
grow my Twitch and YouTube channels (harder than it sounds but I’m working on it)
rob a bank (complicated)

If you have other ideas, feel free to comment below! If you know how to rob a bank in your old, dumb clothes while broadcasting it all live on the internet, definitely comment below.


*do not want

Ponytail Elastics: Free For All

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 7
The elastic is safe … for now. Image: Wikipedia.


Tea. Light and heat. Transport. Cell service. Socks. Aspirin. Butter.

Some things in life have to be purchased over and over and over again. There’s no way out. If you want to stay alive, you’re going to need supplies, and supplies wear out, run out, break, go missing, or you decide you hate yours, or the ones you got don’t work out, or you just want new ones. Not everyone needs the same supplies, but everyone needs some supplies, so you’d better get yourself some money because there’s no such thing as a free pair of socks.

For those out there with long hair, however, I’ve got good news: If you’re in a city, there is one supply that you will never, ever have to buy again, if only you pay attention.

I’m talking about ponytail elastics.

Maybe you call them “hair ties” or “ponytail holders” or “hair elastics”. You may go for the thin kind, where the two ends are joined with a speck of pinched metal. Maybe you prefer the thicker, fuzzy ones that are less likely to result in horrible snarls when you take them out. Whatever your preference, if you’re in a place that has miles of sidewalk, there are free ponytail elastics waiting for you. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve walked a lot of city sidewalks. A month after I turned 18, I moved to Chicago and I’ve been crossing her pavement ever since. Longtime readers of PaperGirl saw me walk through New York City and cross sidewalks in Washington, D.C. after I left. I didn’t write much while Eric and I lived in London, but you can bet we covered a lot of cement over there. And in each of those cities, without exception, I found many, many ponytail elastics on the ground. When you’re next in a city, look down. You’ll find them too.

And they’re all for the taking, my long-haired friend.

I’ve always assumed they got there by accident. Personally, I’ve never thrown a ponytail holder on the ground in a fit of anger. I can’t remember throwing a ponytail holder on the ground at all. If the one holding my hair back breaks, well, it goes in the trash. No, the sidewalk ponytail holders soaked in rainwater or baking in the sun got there by accident. I’m sure of that. Someone pulled off their scarf from around their neck and the hair elastic came with it, falling to the cement. Or an already loose ponytail holder was dislodged when someone put on their bike helmet. Its innocent, pink body was flinged into the air, alighting for a brief, glorious moment on a smelly, city breeze before dropping to the ground to be stepped on for eternity, or until the enormous spinning brooms of a street cleaner vehicle whooshes them into a gutter. Where they go from there, I cannot say.

Will you save them from this sorrowful fate? Will you, ponytail-having person, pick up the poor ponytail holder — a free supply that in the drugstore cost way more than necessary — and give it a home? The next time you need a ponytail elastic because somehow you’ve succeeded in losing all of the ones you got at the drugstore a frickin’ month ago — will you pick this city fruit and restore its dignity?

Are you insane?? That is like, so gross.

Tender Pockets

Detail, silk dress ca. 1920s. Image: Wikipedia. 


Before the pandemic began, I had clothes that could be considered “outside” clothes.

Like so many of you, I tried to maintain some sense of normalcy amid the confusion and fear of those first few months. One of my strategies was to wear my outside clothes inside. I’d dress like like I was going to be seen in public, walk from the bedroom to my desk, perch on my chair and mostly meet deadlines. My desk was a tiny cafe table in the corner of the living room. Eric and I purchased it after we gave up the coworking space we had been renting downtown near the river. The table was barely big enough for my computer and keyboard but I made it work, wearing outside pants and an outside shirt. I even wore shoes for awhile.

But entropy always wins. As time passed, I stowed anything with buttons and zippers and embraced clothes that were soft and contained elastic at the waist and ankles.

That was two years ago. Today, I’m double-vaxxed and boosted. I mostly still wear my mask in public. (So weird that I sometimes forget.) Being outside is possible again. You can tell because today I’m wearing jeans with a button fly and my shirt doesn’t have a stain on the front. I put on my outside face almost every day.

It hasn’t been as fun as I thought it would be to get my outside clothes back into rotation, though, because most of my outside clothes have pockets. (None of my inside clothes have pockets.) As I hang things up, I check the pockets and it’s breaking my heart. It’s not just because the objects represent life pre-pandemic and that feels sad because the girl who last used these pockets had no idea what was on its way. That’s obviously part of it this time, but switching out warm-weather clothes for spring ones has always been painful for me. My pockets, myself: The objects people carry tell the story of their life (or at least part of a story.) It’s surprising how much you can learn about a person by going through them.

Here are the relics from my life in 2020:

  • lists (example: “H20, Wite-Out, Nutella, graham crackers, burrito stuff”)
  • used tissues (was I crying or did I just have a runny nose?)
  • lighter
  • plastic tabs for marking pages in books
  • loose medication
  • awesome lipstick x 2
  • lint
  • a wadded up five-dollar bill
  • a couple receipts

The lipsticks were dry but still useable. Plastic tabs will always be my #1 office supply item. I’m still on the same medication. The receipts were weird because a couple of them were from D.C. and I don’t go to D.C. anymore. I put the five-dollar bill in a drawer because I used cash in 2020 but hardly ever now. Lint is eternal.

The arrow of time only goes forward, but the arrow of time doesn’t have pockets. I’m not saying the arrow would ever turn around and go back if it had pockets, but it might slow down to catch its breath.

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