“HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!!!!!!!!!!”
Though I’m an avowed agnostic that was the only thing that came to mind as I lay flat on my back, knees apart, while a tiny Korean woman (or Vietnamese, Japanese, whatever! I cannot be bothered with those politically correct details right now!) ripped the short hairs from my, ahem, very delicate, delicate place.
“Oh! So sorry,” squeaks out with a giggle while a gloved hand covers her half-sorry smile.
She doesn’t know it but the real reason for the emphatic nature of my exclamation was not the pain (which was, indeed, intense) but rather at that moment I realized I was soon going to be paying this tot-sized terror $45 plus tip (TIP!!!!) for administering this particular and peculiar womanly rite. Fifty-five dollars to apply hot wax to my nethers and snatch it off with gusto.
I know what you’re thinking, “Don’t do it! Don’t be a slave to the male-centered patriarchy that insists women remove all hair except the luxurious tresses that ‘teh mens’ prefer long and gray free.”
Sorry my feminist sisters, but ever since I made peace with my body I enjoy going to the beach and I’m through – through! – with wearing those stupid skirted suits that only really look good on bean-poles and the rest of us look like we’re trying to hide and elephant under a napkin. And if I’m going to wear the sexy swimsuit, I can’t look fuzzy when I start enjoying the appreciative glances that are now, finally, FINALLY coming my way. Nope. The fuzz has to go.
“So shave or something.” Yeah. Right. Ladies, I am a delicate flower and you know exactly the result that produces — red bumps that resemble chicken pox popping up at the joints of my thighs. I look diseased. No ma’am. No, thank you. Off to the waxy lady I go. Once a month.
But that’s not all. I mentioned the tresses, right? Later that week I had another financial fit as I handed over a $100 for my hair. That’s right — my hair. You see, I’ve reached the age where the gray is no longer pluckable unless I want to walk around with bald patches the size of quarters.
“You look gorgeous!” my Boston-accented stylist coos as I hand over the cash.
“I freakin’ better” I think silently as I smile and shake loose my richly colored and highlighted locks.
My natural color is a rich, dark brown. Actually, if I was going to be real about it, my new “natural” color is dull brown mixed with dry, kinky white. Fortunately for me, it still grows quickly. Unfortunately for me, that means to keep up the illusion of youthful luster I must have my hair colored every four to six weeks. $100. Plus a touch up trim at about 2 – 3 weeks. (About $25. Plus tip.) Let’s put it at about $130 per month for my hair.
But wait, we’re not done; not even close.
I live in Florida and that means my footwear of choice is sandals. Casual flats; strappy high-heels; kicky wedges; beach-ready flip-flops. And that means: Pedicure -$30! Now for those of the XY persuasion I’ll let you know that a good pedicure can last about a month but the matching manicure? ($18.) A week if you’re lucky. Oh yeah, and these guys and gals get tipped too. (And why are all these people Asian?) So that’s now $30 + $18 + $18 + TIPS for the month.
“Oh, you have such pretty hands and feet! That will be $75.00,” says the pretty lady in heavily accented English.
“You’re damn right I do,” crosses my mind as a retort as I carefully get out my wallet without wrecking the nail job.
Oh, and while I’m there, I get the eyebrows ($10) and the upper lip ($6) done as well. Add the damn tip and it comes to around $20 per month to make sure that no one mistakes me for a unibrowed, mustached person of indeterminate gender.
For those of you math fans you’ll see that we are up to $55 + $130 + 75 + $20 = $280 to trim and/or remove the excess protein cells that quite naturally coat my body as “hair” and “nails” and which need to be “maintained” in order to be “attractive.”
Ahhhh. The body. Can’t forget the flesh, can we? This too has a dollar amount. Being fat cost me dearly in terms of self-esteem, comfort in my own skin, and that elusive quality, desirability. So besides my dieting regime (which really doesn’t add much to the bottom line) I spend a pretty penny to rid my mortal coil of corpulence.
“But you don’t HAVE to pay for that. There are lots of free things you can do.” Yeah. And I did them. And they didn’t freakin’ work. I need structure; a sensei, a coach. So what seems to be working for me is karate (about $100 per month) and a personal trainer (about $225 per month.) Oh, and the six day a week bike ride that doesn’t cost anything. And thank God, no tips!
So, $280 + $325 = $605. That’s seven thousand two hundred and sixty dollars a year. $7,260 per freakin’ year! And that’s just to work with the naked flesh. You gotta paint it up too.
Again, back to the sensitive skin problem; I break out with the use of ANY type of liquid make-up. Fortunately (?!) the fantastic people at Bare Minerals have solved this dilemma at the cost of about $25 for base, $20 for concealer, $18 per lipstick, $12 each for eyeshadow and I have three, $22 for blush. Each of these lasts, you guessed it, about a month. So once again let’s tally it up, shall we? $121. Per month.
New total? $726 per month. Jeez-us!
But I’m not done, oh not by a long shot. If you’ve been keeping up you’ve noticed the outdoor exercise (add super-duper sunscreen – $15), moisturizer (I’m not extravagant. I use Olay – $28 for day face, $32 for night face, $14 for eyes, $12 for body = $86) and don’t forget all the products needed to keep the tresses in line in the Florida heat and humidity (again, no extravagance. Suave products – about $10 for shampoo and conditioner, $8 for sheen, $8 for control, $8 for curls = $34.) Lotions and creams? Add $135 per month.
NOTE – now you’re right that some of the creams, lotions, and make up might actually last longer than a month. But don’t forget that you can never have “just one” lipstick and the endless “product pursuit” to find the miracle moisturizer that actually will, ahem, remove wrinkles. I think the total is still pretty accurate.
Where are we now? Oh that’s right. $726 + $135 = $861. Times twelve months? $10,332.00. And that’s stark naked. Not a stitch of attractive, well fitted clothing. Not a dress. Not a single pair of properly fitting jeans. No cute tops or sassy shorts. Not a lone pair of shoes. No pretty jewelry or sexy undies. No smoothie-choochie revealing bathing suit. Nothing. Nada. Niente.
Do you have any idea what I could do with $10,000.00 if I didn’t really matter what I looked like? If it didn’t really make a difference?
“But you don’t have to do this, Stasha. You’re beautiful just the way you are. On the inside. Where it counts. Aging is inevitable. Accept it. Embrace it. Love who you are, not what you present to the world.”
Holy Mother of God. Please tell me that you realize that’s not true; for most men but definitely for women. Please, please tell me that you recognize that appearances DO matter, and they certainly matter to me. Tell me you see, everyday, the consequences and price people pay when they don’t try to be as attractive and well maintained as they can. You (I) don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to look like you try, like you make an effort, like you care.
Don’t think so? Walk through Walmart. Go ahead. Take a walk and a good look around and tell me you are so evolved that you don’t see the people who’ve given up, and that you don’t feel just a twinge, at best, of pity and at worst, contempt. And forget about other folks. What about the effect it would have on you if you just “let yourself go.” Try to get a job or meet with a client not caring about your appearance. Try to enjoy your spouse. Try to enjoy your life without doing what you can to “put your best face forward.”
You see, there’s the world as we’d like to be — egalitarian, positive, accepting, and kind. And then there’s the world as it is — with winners and losers, those on the inside and those forever on the outside, those who appear blessed and lucky and those who seem as if they’ve lost every battle and missed every opportunity.
That $10k is just one part of the price I pay to try to stay on the right side of all those lines. Being happy with my appearance doesn’t “buy” me happiness, but it does remove a few doubts, reduce a few criticisms, and lessen a few fears. It helps me imagine I’m slowing down the sands of time and that the days, months, and years I have left will be full of vigor and vitality. That not only will everything I have continue to work (thank you diet and exercise!) but that it (I) will be desired and appreciated.
It’s true looks aren’t everything. But looks aren’t nothing either. And if all my little potions and procedures — and the ten thousand dollars it takes to get them — can help keep me moving forward through this magnificent life gracefully, even beautifully then to me, it’s worth it.