Why I Want to Talk About the Mascara I Wore to My Dad’s Funeral


The first time I got detention, Dad was thrilled.

It was 7th grade in suburbia, and fractions were boring me senseless. Silently, I shoved my math book aside, replacing it with Making Faces. Kevyn Aucoin’s book of makeup masterpieces was a personal treasure—Dad got two copies, so I could have my own—and it never failed to rescue me in times of torture, i.e. all of 7th grade.

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Here’s how this specific slice of hell went down: a field hockey captain spotted Gwyneth Paltrow in Aucoin’s book, gasped to make sure the whole class was watching, then shrieked, “Faran’s looking at photos of a naked girl on her desk!” Enraged, I snapped back, “Gwyneth is not naked! She’s in a Calvin Klein slip dress, you ignorant shit!” Hello, Principal’s Office.

From Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin

“The kids don’t get it,” Dad would say, always, when I mumbled tales of junior high horror. “You have a vision. You’re an artist. One day, you’ll be part of changing the world.” Then he would laugh and add, “Maybe by high school, you’ll even be cool!” Until then, detention beckoned, because though he was proud of my spunk, Dad never condoned degrading someone different. In fact, like me, he was often the odd one out: First a Russian kid in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, then a star athlete who ditched school for the folk scene of Greenwich Village. In Vietnam, the things he carried included a Nikon camera; he was shooting photos when he wasn’t shooting guns. After being discharged, he took more pictures—of concerts, of protests, of my mom, even though she had a master’s degree to finish and didn’t want to be a muse.

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By the time I came along, Mom was done with school and Dad was still an outsider: a Bronx Jew in Waspy New England, obsessively buying fashion magazines as a lifeline to his beloved New York art scene. Under his tutelage, I could name every big designer by elementary school—Donatella! Karl! Diane!—and made my own pretend magazines using his discarded photos and several stolen Sharpies. By high school, his prediction came true: I was more empathetic and less prone to mean comebacks, but still obsessed with fashion and art. In other words, just weird enough to be cool. Plus I was finally (!) allowed to wear makeup on school days.

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A high school slip dress courtesy of my dad.

Stu Krentcil

Cue the movie montage scenes of me and Dad combing through Cambridge thrift stores for beat-up denim, Clueless-worthy kilts, and reverent stops at every camera store and bookshop we passed. When we traveled, he showed me how foreign supermarkets always have cool, cheap fashion and beauty finds: pink monochrome flip flops from the Publix in Florida, Labello lip balm from Kaufland in Germany, and Japanese mascara for serious Twiggy lashes. If friends asked where I learned all my beauty hacks, I’d say, “my dad,” then brace myself for the inevitable questions: his sexuality (straight), his job (photographer), and his coolness, to which I would reply, “Everyone’s cool until they’re your dad.”

Stu Krentcil Vietnam

One of Dad’s Vietnam portraits.

Stu Krentcil

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That sentiment’s universal, but it seemed especially true for my dad. He was equally at home—and adrift—as an artist and a soldier. He was fiercely religious yet furiously original. He was a logical thinker, but sometimes blinded by beautiful people and brilliant, bonkers ideas. Dad was great at encouraging us to find ourselves…until he lost his temper in the process, thanks to the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome he acquired in the war. It was hard for Dad when I carved my own ways to success, beauty, and God—even though he’s the one who taught me to build my own path.

When college friends asked where I learned all my beauty hacks, I’d say, “My dad.”

Fast forward through my so-called fashion life—supermodel parties, designer interviews, all the crazy stuff I’m lucky to sometimes do. Dad would freak, I often thought, because I was freaking, too. The first time I passed Miuccia Prada backstage, I texted him SHE SMILED AT ME in happy, terrified tears. But Dad had his own world—his photo studio, his gun club, his synagogue—and he was proud of his work in the art scene and the veteran’s community. He also had ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

An early selfie.

Stu Krentcil

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More common in Veterans than the general population, the disease has no known cure and slowly robs its victims of speech, movement, and finally, life. He had a year between his late-term diagnosis and death, though despite feeding tubes and morphine drips, he still took tons of photos, which he emailed to me every week. I spent lots of last year zooming home for visits, but he and Mom insisted I live my life—which is why when he passed, I was following his long-ago advice, and buying cheap mascara in a Japanese supermarket. I flew home four hours later.

A late selfie

Stu Krentcil

Nobody talks about wearing makeup to a funeral. If you wear it, are you a narcissist? If you don’t wear it, are you careless? But I was on autopilot the day of Dad’s service, and for me, autopilot = blush + lashes. I used Dolly Wink, the Japanese mascara I’d bought the day he died. Then I cried all day—when I saw his casket at Temple, when his Army friends saluted his grave, when my ex called to check in. It was pretty standard Grief 101, except Dad’s friends kept saying the same weird line: “I’m so sorry. Your dad loved you so much. He was right—you’re so pretty!” I thought they got it from a Buzzfeed list—”6 Things to Tell Insecure Bitches at Shiva!”—and ignored it.

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Nobody talks about wearing makeup to a funeral.

That night, I crawled into bed with the lights on, scared of ghosts and searching for a Lifetime movie on demand. (For the record, Wicked Moms Club is high art.) Then I glanced at my nightstand mirror and thought my reflection was a mistake. My eyelashes were insane, with the kind of Twiggy definition I’d first discovered in Making Faces. Thanks to Dolly Wink mascara—bought, per Dad’s eternal instructions, at a Japanese mini mart—I’d cried for twelve hours straight and still looked like a Kevyn Aucoin fanatic. His friends were right—the effect was ridiculously, inappropriately pretty. I cried a little more, buried under my childhood Hello Kitty blanket, and then I did what Dad would have done: took a photo to document the madness.

Faran Krentcil

The resulting selfie is grainy, twisted, and a little bit glamorous, like the Cindy Sherman books and Warhol catalogs Dad would send to my first New York apartment. The photo is still in my phone, and every time I scroll by it, I laugh. It’s weird and beautiful and absolutely wrong, which makes it even better.

Dad would have loved it.



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