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.