Sunday, July 30, 2006

It takes a lot of work to look this mediocre

For many years, I was a tomboy and proud of it. I was a skinny child, then a plump adolescent, and was always pretty homely-looking, with dodgy teeth and wiry hair which failed to be either straight or curly, and instead hovered in some kind of cowlicked no man's land, all bushy and wiry.

If this was a celebrity interview, I would now be able to tell you that "suddenly, something changed" and as I filled out in all the right places boys began to look at me anew as I blossomed into an attractive young lady.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Instead, I changed from being an ugly duckling into a high-maintenance duckling. At the hairdresser's last week, I began to consider just how much time I spend holding back the inexorable tide of body meltdown. It was quite a shock - as a hangover from the tomboyish days, I'd always considered myself quite low maintenance. But now I think I'm more like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, a high maintenance woman who just thinks she's low maintenance.

This really hit home when I was having my eyebrows threaded and I thought, "Ooh, while I'm here, I should definitely have a pedicure. It would be an investment, really." An investment how, exactly, the rebellious part of me screamed internally. Will it yield some kind of return? Will it keep you solvent in your old age? No, of course not. It's painting about approximately one and a half square inches of toenail, when all's said and done. And they'll be at least five and a half foot away from my eyes most of the time, and with my myopia that means they might as well be on the moon. And no one likes feet anyway - it would be like window-dressing a laundrette, or shaving Noel Edmonds. Better, yes. Attractive? Still no. And proportionate to my lame salary, the cost is huuuuge.

I was getting all Germaine by this time, fulminating against society, man, and how it makes me feel I should have groomed feet and it's all because patriarchy tells us women's bodies are disgusting and must be waxed, tweezed and exercised into submission. (I've never really got over reading The Beauty Myth a few years ago.) At this point, I had to have a cup of tea and a sit down.

Unfortunately, this gave me the chance to calculate just how much time goes into ensuring that I'm not a venomous hirsute harridan - and how much more time I'd have if I were a man, and my 'grooming' involved nothing more than a daily face-shave (optional), half an hour at the barbers every so often (optional, if you're an indy Razorlight type), and a few minutes of rubbing some sort of goo into my hair in the morning (also optional).

Obviously I'll exclude things like washing and teeth-brushing which are functional rather than cosmetic... OK, so - three hours at the hairdressers every month (half a day a year); twenty minutes washing, drying and straightening my hair every day, more if I want it not to look like a shrub (five whole days a year!). Make-up ten minutes (60 hours a year), depilatory maintenance half an hour a week, maybe more (26 hours a year). What have I forgotten? Well, if you chuck in nails and eyebrows, I reckon I spend more than one week a year trying not to frighten small children with my appearance. And I haven't even included clothes shopping...

Blimey. I want to make a deep and insightful feminist point about all this, but I'm in shock. A week! That's more than two per cent of my life! If I live until my fifties, I'll have spent a whole year of my life doing all that rubbish!

What could relax me? Ooh, how about a nice pedicure?


Anonymous paul haine said...

"Shaving Noel Edmunds"

Now that's a reality TV show with potential.

7/30/2006 9:52 pm  
Blogger Paul B said...

And people wonder why women are yet to make a significant impact at board level in major industry... they're just all too busy buggering about with their hair/face/nails/legs/etc.

But if you're ranting, don't forget the expense of it all. I'm always shocked and appalled by how much hair salons can get away with charging women. I've never paid more than a tenner (including tip) for a haircut. And while this lack of care and attention for one's appearance might be obvious to some, I couldn't really care less. Over-preened men (Beckham, C. Ronaldo, any one of those awful teeny bands) just look ridiculous anyway.

7/31/2006 3:59 pm  
Anonymous Law said...

Of course, my mother would just reply with "But 2% is nothing dear! You spend at least 20% of your time reading and no-one can even tell when they meet you. Remember, it's what's on the *outside* that matters dear....."

7/31/2006 4:37 pm  
Anonymous Law said...

Naturally she would then have to check whether she had that right and was 20% more or less than 2%.

I snigger and tell her to go look it up.

7/31/2006 4:38 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

"You spend at least 20% of your time reading and no-one can even tell when they meet you."

I would dispute this. I reckon you can almost always tell by meeting people whether they are intelligent or not.

8/01/2006 1:29 pm  
Anonymous law said...

Problem is, mum only cares what people think when they see her across a supermarket. And if they think she's stupid when they actually meet her then apparently that's "their problem".

Come on, you've spoken with the woman. Logic defies.

8/01/2006 4:44 pm  
Blogger Kieran said...

Paul b - You tip the hair dresser? This explains my haircuts.

8/01/2006 8:43 pm  

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