Friday, June 5, 2009

Oh The Lengths We Go To

One of my lifelong wishes has finally been fulfilled. I have achieved Breck girl hair. Once upon a time, we curly girls were destined to a life of straight hair envy. Our dreams of having a perfectly executed hair toss thwarted by the sheer boinginess of our hair. The hope for a lush, long ponytail hanging down our backs dashed by the pouf that nestled on the back of our heads, barely restrained by an industrial strength rubber band. Our only alternative to the riotious dance of follicular glee on top of our heads was chemical straighteners...smelly, time consuming, hugely damaging and rarely delivering the dream.
Welcome to the new world, people. Now we can reach the dream in our very own bathrooms, enter the straightener! They used to be called flat irons and made about as much sense as sticking your tongue to a railing in January. The possibility of mastering this particular piece of hardware was slim to none and your chances of ending the process with the stench of burned hair permeating the house were far more likely than getting the Breck girl hair. My friend Carrie (also my hair stylist) introduced me to this wonder of modern hair stuff the other day and has given my a crash course on DIY hair straightening. What took her about twenty minutes in the salon while carrying on a perfectly coherent conversation, took me nearly an hour with extreme concentration and one slightly toasted ear. She claims I'll get better the more I do it. I love the result but really don't see myself having the patience for this process every day. Nice to have the option, though.

This experience started me thinking about the number of processes we girls engage ourselves in nearly every day, or at least weekly. We'll go top to bottom here. We willingly spend a significant amount of time and money on our hair, our crowning glory. We happily buy mousses, gels, waxes(!), conditioners that we both rinse out and leave in, sprays, clips, irons (curling and straightening), blow dryers, curlers, headbands, you name it. This is in addition to the time spent having someone else do things to our hair. We willingly pay lots of our hard earned money to have someone cut, curl (or straighten), highlight, dye and even sew fake hair onto our heads. All for something that's technically dead matter resting in place.
Makeup is another industry I really wish my family had invented. The endless array of products we are presented with on a daliy basis is staggering. Once upon a time, a well equipped makeup case consisted of blush, mascara, eye shadow and lipstick. Now the must haves include mascara (thickening, lengthening, curling, volumizing, sparkling), eyeliner (pencils, liquid, even permanent), blush (powders, creams, liquid), eye shadow in a rainbow of colors (highlighting, lowlighting, matte, sheer, brights or muted), foundations and concealers. Lip products have taken on a life of their own. Lipstick used to be a waxy column encased in a shiny tube that came in red or redder. Now we have the traditionals lipsticks, we have the tube of color with the wand applicator, the little pots you have to use your finger to apply, tubes you squeeze onto your lips and even something resembling a marker to draw color on your mouth. We have lip pencils to define the perimeter of our lips, or even to create new boundaries. We have lip plumpers, smoothers and again even permanent color options.
Skin care is another fiscal juggernaut, the money we shell out in an attempt to make out skin look perfectly smooth and featureless is mind blowing. No more soap and water for us! We need cleansers, toners, oil eliminators and moisturizers. Each product must be specifially designed for our exact molecular make up of our skin on any given day. We have products that are only to be used on Wednesdays and masks to peel off layers of skin we don't like in an effort to reveal new and perfect skin by force.

Hair removal is nearly as important as the time spent on the hair we wish to keep. Once we girls only concerned ourselves with smooth and hairless legs and underarms. We had two options, razors or Nair(tm). One risked hemorraging to death in the bathroom and the other infused your skin with a smell that lingered for days. Now we still have options one and two but innumerable others have been added to the mix. We have waxing...and we wax in places I can't even speak of here. The whole idea of slathering your sensitives with a layer of searing, sticky matter, letting it cool and adhere firmly to that same area and then ripping the whole works off in one fell swoop seems more like a step backward rather than an advance. This is seriously medieval in nature. I have been seeing commercials for the "Smooth Away" (tm) for several months now, I was curious enough that when I saw it in the store I got a kit to see what the deal was. Here's the scoop on Smooth Away (tm). It's super fine grained sandpaper with a sticky back that your stick onto what looks like a tiny flip flop sandal. You then rub over the hair infested area in first three clockwise, then three counter clockwise motions (the instructions were quite specific). This theoretically grinds the offending hair into tiny, dustlike particles that simply disappear. You can use it anywhere that hair may offend you, legs and underarms are a given but the ads show several women using this thing on their ARMS...really? Oh yes, apparently arm hair has become a cosmetic scourge upon the land.

Don't even get me started on clothes, that's a whole different post, I'll save it for another time.

Another ad that fascinates and repulses me at the same time is for the Ped-Egg(tm). This thing is basically a cheese grater for your feet. I SWEAR I'm not making this one up (although I kind of wish I had). This is going to take on the horrors of gross and elephant like feet. You run this thing energetically over the hard and crusty skin on your heels, it grantes and scrapes the skin off and suddenly you have perfect, flawless and hypersensitive feet. The nasty shavings of hardened skin are toughtfully captured in the device, to be disposed of later...or maybe sprinkled over your pasta. The ad for this thing is so nasty, close ups of the sprinkles and everything.

Once we have plucked, peeled, exfoliated, cleansed, concealed, shaved, waxed, grated, repainted, moussed, gelled and sprayed, we are ready for the world. The big secret we don't tell the boys is that we don't go through all this for THEM, it's for us. Damn right it is.