I started reading Seventeen and Glamor when I was twelve years old. I was so lucky to be a girl! Girls were allowed (more like encouraged, more like pushed) to make themselves look better than they really looked. And there were so many ways to do it, even way back before the turn of the century, like in the early ‘sixties. From hair dyes and perms to an array of makeup, girdles, padded and push-up bras, nylons and garter belts, and high heels! Pity the poor boys, doomed to walk around with what they were born with! No amendments permitted, they were stuck with what they had! Ha ha! Nya Nya! I was so, so lucky, to be a girl!

If a girl was pudgy and short, she could be made svelte, super curvy and way taller. If she didn’t have big boobs, she could just strap on a set. If she didn’t have thick eyelashes, she could buy a pair (or shoplift them, if she was too young to have her own money) from Woolworths and stick ‘em on! And ordinary old brown hair (very bad!) could be made blonde!

But the rumblings of trouble, for those girls who ended up looking good after all that or were born that way (or any other girls, come to think of it) started early. I soon learned to cross the road, or duck down a side street, when a construction site loomed ahead, dreading the catcalls, insults, ridicule, whistles, and propositions. Then there was the man on the subway who, leering and laughing, opened up a porn magazine and pushed the centerfold photo of a giant erect penis into my horrified 13-year old face.

My parents weren’t much help. They were immigrants from Eastern Europe who tried very hard to fit in and cared very much about what the neighbors thought. One day, they were lying in wait for me as I got home from school to let me know the way I walked was somehow objectionable. I guess it wasn’t ladylike or something (to my mind, I just walked, as in one foot in front of the other) but to this day I still don’t know what they were on about. They also used to push my long brown hair under the collar of my jacket when we were out in public, thinking that others were looking at me with disapproval, for some reason.

And it only got worse. In my twenties, the hairstylist who liked to press his private parts onto my hand if I ever left it resting on the arm of the salon chair, recommended I color my hair. I had never thought about it but replied that if I was going to color it, I wanted it to look natural. “Natural?” he scoffed. “Natural is what you got already!”

This confirmed again that ‘natural’ was a very bad thing, to be avoided at all costs, especially since those costs were intended for the cosmetics, hair and beauty services industries. Natural was very bad! Unless, of course, you were a boy. Then, natural was good and not-natural was weird. (There was a sitcom in the ‘sixties called Camp Runamuck, and one of the running jokes was Camp Commander Wivenhoe, who hid his eyelash curler in his baseball mitt. So ahead of its time!)

Looking back over some forty-five years (not even counting my teens) of being sucked into buying and wearing makeup and partaking of related beauty services, I estimate, ultra-conservatively, that I have spent some $100,000 on all this crap. How many times did I get home, having spent close to $500, my shopping bags full of gold and silver boxes, with ribbons and tags and fancy logos, only to empty them out and find just a few teensy little plastic tubes and jars, full of promise, delivering nothing? As a plastic surgeon friend of mine once told me, in all honesty, “you might just as well use Lubriderm.” Shhh! It’s a deep, dark industry secret.

My daughter somehow escaped the makeup trap. She is 27, and I have never seen her wear makeup for any occasion. Her hair is brown, and she likes it that way. As for high heels, she put them on once, for a Thanksgiving dinner, but took them off halfway through the evening and I have not seen her in high heels since. Someone gave her some good advice somewhere along the way, but it wasn’t me. Or, maybe she just has more God-given common sense, and a stronger sense of self-worth than I ever had.

As for me, at 65, I hate like hell to wear makeup now, ever. I hate wearing bras just about as much. I stopped coloring my hair three years ago and let the grey grow in. ‘Well, you’re 65, so no one’s looking at you anyway,’ one might argue, and that’s certainly true enough. However, throughout my life, I have been lucky in love and have had a few good, kind and intelligent men, one of whom I still have to this day. Was it the makeup and Spanx that drew these great guys to me, or something I already had—naturally—for free? I will never know. But what I do know, is that I could sure use that hundred grand now!

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