Disclaimer: Serious-minded readers of the male persuasion may want to skip this week’s entry, but my female readers will no doubt be able to relate.
There it was in front of me, staring me in the face.
The calendar, that is. Set squarely on November 1.
It had been almost six months since I began this blog, and even a cursory glance in the mirror revealed that no real progress had been made. It was, in the words of a popular Beatles song, time to “Get Back.” Back to the basics.
So I took inventory of both my physical flaws, which I’d been ignoring to a large extent, and the “Tools of the Trade” necessary to combat them. Some tools were already in my possession; others had to be bought. It was here that I again came face to face with the truth that not only is it necessary to suffer for beauty, it is also frequently necessary to have deep pockets – unless you can land yourself on television’s “Extreme Makeover,” for which I did not really care to audition.
I began assembling my arsenal. First, I took the box of still-unopened tooth whitening strips out of my bureau drawer. Then came the still-unopened bottle of Sally Hansen “Hard as Nails” clear polish, recommended as a low-budget but highly effective remedy for skin tags. For those of you not blessed with the latter, they are warty little growths that hang off you like the price tag on Minnie Pearl’s hat. Duct tape has also been touted as a cheap, non-medical remedy, but I personally find nail polish easier to use, especially since it does double duty as a pantyhose-run mender.
Living as I do in a southern climate, sandals are a normal part of my wardrobe. Aside from keeping my toenails at a respectable length, I hadn’t been paying much attention to the condition of my feet, until my heels started getting so rough I felt them snag my sheets one night. Note to self: Take that still-unopened tube of Neat Feet Moisturizing Foot Lotion out of your bureau drawer, too.
I next looked at my fingernails. Never mind that in my youth I was the envy of many a girl for my long, hard nails that needed no aid such as gelatin (the effectiveness of which has long since been disproved) to grow. How long had it been since I buffed and shined them? (Men, if you’re still reading, women do actually buy things to make their nails shine without the benefit of polish.) Of course, the people who sell nail buffers claim their products promote healthy nail growth, as well as remove ridges, but frankly, I’ve never heard a woman yet say to another, “My, what naturally shiny nails you have!” Nevertheless, I went back to the Bureau Drawer of Unused Beauty Products for my largely unused buffers, where I attempted to locate the directions telling me in what order I was supposed to use the black side, the gray side, the white side, or the pink side.
The occasions on which I envy men are rare, but there is one facet of life in which they hold a definite advantage, and that is facial hair. It is socially acceptable for a man to grow a mustache, unless he’s Amish. It is not acceptable for a woman to do so, although I have heard of or known personally some women who have no objection to such a thing, with a former boss falling into the latter category. I did not really become aware of mine as a potential problem until a female relative amusedly pointed out, some years ago, that I should start taking a pair of tweezers to mine, as I had apparently inherited my great-grandmother’s. Plucking my eyebrows is painful enough. I opted for a plastic disposable razor instead.
Until, that is, I began being annoyed by those little dark hairs that seemed impossible to remove with a razor. This time the bureau drawer was no help. It was time for a trip to my local drugstore, where I purchased a tube of facial hair removal cream, along with another box of tooth whitening strips. The first box of the latter was only good for seven days, after all, and I’m pretty sure that won’t be enough to combat more than four decades of drinking iced tea.
And speaking of tweezers....Men are at still another distinct advantage when it comes to facial hair. While I have on rare occasion come across men whose eyebrows looked like they needed the aid of a lawnmower, I have never yet heard of one who actually plucks theirs, although I suppose Hollywood actors may do so. (And then there’s Michael Jackson.) Women’s eyebrows, on the other hand, are a different story. Witness the transition they have made over the years, from the 1920’s flapper’s pencil line to the 1980’s Brooke Shields. My grandmother and her sister plucked theirs to the point of near-extinction in their own flapper days, with the result that they had to use eyebrow pencils the rest of their lives to avoid a permanently surprised look. After years of wrestling with mine, and buying various kinds of tweezers, I think my grandmother came out ahead. The purchase of facial hair removal cream was also designed to cope with this problem.
Several major minefields on the path to beauty, or, at the very least, social acceptance, remained: cellulite, acne rosacea, and Big Bertha, with her close counterpart, Big Beatrice. (See blog entry dated May 29, 2006.)
Unfortunately, neither of the first two conditions is presently considered curable, although they are treatable. While the thought of liposuction has tempted me, seeing it performed on TV was rather horrific, and I’m not talking about just what’s extracted. Plus, there’s the expense and recovery time. What story would I tell my coworkers?
Women the world over have tried many things for “cottage cheese thighs,” but perhaps the most curious one I’ve yet come across involves a rolling pin, plastic wrap, and warm coffee grounds. Apparently this is a method that models use. Heat up some coffee grounds, slather them on your trouble spots, and cover them with plastic wrap. Then take a rolling pin – you know, the kind that people who bake their own Christmas cookies use – and, as Jim Morrison sang, “Let it roll, baby, roll!” (Men, if you're STILL reading, this goes to show that even supermodels are human.) I thought of trying this method, in spite of the fact that I am not a coffee drinker. In fact, I believe I even bought a package of coffee. For all I know now, it’s sitting, unopened, in the aforementioned bureau drawer.
Then last week a friend gave me a tube of cellulite scrub and another of contouring cream. Upon learning this, my mother remarked, “You know those things don’t work.” I said that might be true, but I wasn’t averse to trying something when it was a free gift, as this was. The only problem is that I will most likely run out of my initial supply before any results start to show, á la the tooth whitening strips. I can’t help but think that manufacturers design things this way.
My problem complexion is as tricky an issue as that pesky cellulite, and one I can’t even blame on heredity. At least I can cover the latter with Capri pants in warm weather, which millions of women know are God’s gift to those saddled with dimpled thighs. It appears that the best solution for the former is laser surgery on my broken capillaries, but I took the advice of my dermatologist to try less dramatic therapies first. So out came the expensive cleanser and the expensive lotion and the anti-redness gel (by now I shouldn’t have to tell you where they were located). Not satisfied with the previous results of this regime, I took the additional step of researching makeup formulas suited for the condition, and ordered a foundation for “moderate to major” disguise with an accompanying powder. (I will not bother to mention that the two of them cost more than I have ever spent on any brand of makeup, but at least the foundation is supposed to last a good while.) It doesn’t stop there, however. There is also the doctor-prescribed vitamin supplement, since rosacea sufferers not infrequently have a deficiency in certain substances, to be followed by the doctor-prescribed pills.
I still wasn’t finished with skin problems! While examining my fingernails and their not-so-shiny condition, I was naturally compelled to notice my sun spots. (I am trying to learn to use this term in place of the less flattering, and now no doubt politically incorrect, “age spots.”) My dermatologist had a solution for that, too, a skin-bleaching lotion. You can once more guess that (a) this was not cheap, and (b) from where I had to dig it out.
Last but certainly not least, there were still Big Bertha and Big Beatrice to contend with. So I resumed walking in the evenings and dusted off Eddie Baran’s “Body Sculpting Bodyweight Exercises for Women.” My original intention was to do one exercise per day from each of the three major sections – core, upper body, and lower body. The only problem was that I can’t yet manage the vast majority of them, so my options were quite limited, especially when it came to the upper body – nearly every exercise featured is a form of handstand! Oh, well. I said I was going back to basics. The whole point of “treading,” I continually have to remind myself, is to do what you can, as you can. So I found a couple I could do from the first two sections and started with them, slowly.
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Will all these things work, or will the Bureau Drawer of Unused Beauty Products eventually become known as the Land of False Hopes? Only the future will tell! In the meantime, ladies, I would love to hear your side. Men have their war stories, and we have ours. I’ll even promise not to share yours with my male readers, if you wish. Let me hear from you! And until we meet again…may you all Keep on Treading!