Pursuing Beauty

“Joel,” I caution, “your meeting starts in twenty minutes.”

“Yup,” he replies, concentrating on his computer, “No problem.” He then goes from shaving and showering to out-the-door in less than fifteen minutes. Amazing. I can spend that much time deciding which shoes to wear.

In December, I attended a dinner-dance fundraiser where people showed up in their best bib and tucker. I’m certain the ladies in attendance spent a considerable amount of time getting ready for the festive event, while the men did so during an ESPN commercial break.

My nails and hair both require an inordinate amount of time and seek revenge when I rush the process.home manicure

My self manicures often go awry. After completing the warm-up activities — cleaning, filing, controlling my cuticles — I rummage through my collection of nail polishes: a multitude of small bottles holding minuscule amounts of questionable colors grown sluggish with age. I choose Very Berry and give the lid a mighty wrench; it’s impossible — like trying to twist a flagpole out of cement.

When hot water, rapping on the counter, and gripping the lid with a nutcracker fail, I enlist Joel. He twists the cap free while reading the newspaper, a casual act that makes me want to scream.

Next, I apply the polish — too quickly, too liberally. My dad once noticed a pedicure I’d given myself and said, “Looks like you dipped your toes in a bucket of red paint and called ‘er good.”

I invariably do damage before the polish dries: I reach for a pen and gouge a trench across three nails; I go to bed thinking the polish is dry and wake up with implanted sheet marks; I pull on winter gloves too soon and attend a party with fibers waving from my fingertips. I then glide through the festivities with my fingers curled into my palms — making it difficult to get a grip on the appetizers. I also smile brightly, hoping the chaos of my nails will go unnoticed because of the distraction provided by my hair.Bad hair day

After I outgrew an uncombed ponytail, I tried to make my hair as straight as Mia Farrow’s in Peyton Place. In the 80’s, I turned to time-consuming perms, wanting the big hair of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. When I finally allowed my hair to do its wavy thing, it was time to start coloring it — another drawn-out disaster.

Years ago, I heard a fashion expert explain successful accessorizing to a female audience. He said women should put on the jewelry, scarves, belts, and hair adornments they intend to wear, then examine themselves in a mirror and remove one item before leaving the house.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I remember his advice — and wish I could remove my scalp.

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20 thoughts on “Pursuing Beauty

  1. What a lovely read Janet. I’m one of the lazy ones who has just a haircut, no colour, no nothing! My nails go the same way. You describe your nails so vividly, sticking to everything, I really felt for you! ❤

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  2. Oh my, a ruggedy girl…I keep a picture of an Afghan Hound on my cork board in hope of one day returning as a tall blonde. At Super Cuts if the hairdresser takes more than ten seconds to lean back and exclaim- “My you have a lot of cowlicks”, she gets a tip. I grieve that nail salons are more numerous than book stores here. I am all grey now, but when salt and pepper at 19 called it “My Distinguished Bits”…When you grow up looking like the back end of a tram-smash, you learn to laugh. Great post Janet, thanks.

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    • Oh, Sheila, I am tickled by your ability to take any topic and make it incredibly funny. You have so many laugh-aloud lines in this quick comment; I would have pleased to generate one or two that good after working on a piece for some time. I have always found a sense of humor to be the most attractive feature a person can have.

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  3. We all want to look our best, but sometimes our best doesn’t satisfy our self esteem. My mantra is “Handsome is only skin deep.” So, I do what I can with my aging looks, and just let my sparkling personality lead the way.

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  4. Janet, I’ve experienced every nail polishing smear you’ve described and I often fret over my hair. But like you, as I’ve aged, I’ve also relaxed and evolved. My phases have included: I hope I can afford this. 2. I hope this is appropriate. 3. I hope this looks special. 4. I hope this fits. 5. I hope this doesn’t look ridiculous. 6. I hope I can find an excuse to stay home.

    You’re right though, no matter how much we ladies simplify, those fellas have it easier when getting cleaned up.

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    • I love the phases you’ve passed through. So funny and true. If I were a clever illustrator, I’d put them on a poster or T-shirt and make oodles of money, which I’d share with you, of course.

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  5. I’m afraid I gave up nail polish after the time I sat with my hands in the air until I “knew” they were dry—oh, about an hour or so. Then I reached for something and gouged a deep crevice in the polish on my thumb.
    I asked myself: “Did I really just waste an hour of life trying to dry my nails?” And that was the end of that.
    I tend to be more like Joel. These days it takes me about 10 minutes to get ready to go out. Just like “Waking of the Bear” I’m depending on my sparkling personality to get me by!

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  6. I eventually came to that same realization about polish, makeup, hair, and fashion. But Joel still gets ready faster than I do because of all the things I have to do to keep my aging body going!

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  7. Sometimes I get jealous of my husband, who brushes his teeth, runs a comb through his hair and calls it done. I am determined to look my best each day but horrified at how much time that takes. And the older I am the more time I must invest. Oh well, I guess beauty (or as close as I can get) is worth it. 🙂

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    • I identify with every sentence of your comment, Laurel, especially “…the older I am the more time I must invest.” Isn’t that the truth? And the increased time doesn’t produce the result that less time used to. Sheesh!

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  8. An entertaining post as usual, Janet. Thank you for the laughs and joy while reading this!
    My mother was/is a hairdresser. So the presentation of herself, as well as her children is very important to her. She didn’t quite know what to do with me, still doesn’t all these years later, especially when it comes to my hair. I call it “wet seaweed on a rock”, it is flat, dull color and so straight. She would try to perm it, color it, do something to make it presentable, to her. I never understood the problem, I was fine with my fine-hair.
    The same was true for my nails, I have never been into polish, I have never known her nails not to be polished. When I sit with her, she pulls out her emery board and starts re-shaping my nails, why? And, make-up, yes for her, no for me…
    I still get grief from my husband and kids for taking too long to get ready. If they only knew how well they have it! Can’t wait to see their reaction when they discover I am a record breaker in the primping department compared with most. It makes me smile to think about it 🙂
    Oh and if you are into it, wordpress is hosting a poetry 101, I thought of you when I was reading it. I think I am going to join in, I like a challenge like this once in a while…I can give you the link if you are interested.

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    • I enjoyed this comment so much, Carrie; it allowed me to visualize you and chuckle at the ways you differ from your mom. I love the visual of her re-shaping your nails. Please send me the poetry link. I’ve haven’t been putting much effort into poetry lately, and I’m afraid my group is going to give up on me.

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