More (or less) Glamorous?

I still remember the first time I heard mention of More magazine. A relatively new publication in the early 2000’s, it’s name was invoked during a meeting with a publisher I was working for at the time.

“I want our new magazine to have the look and feel of More” he said, scanning the room for some sort of a response from his nearly-all-female editorial and design crew. Being unfamiliar with it, I rushed to the nearest Barnes & Noble during lunch, bought a copy and quickly discovered that it was a women’s periodical aimed at the over-40 crowd.

I hung on to the issue for months while we developed concepts for our newest publication but admittedly… I never actually READ the articles. Personally, I was barely squinting at the big 3-0 on my horizon line at the time so the notion of topics such as wrinkly neck skin and finding the perfect “age-appropriate” power suit weren’t even remotely on my radar, much less my mind. 

Having indulged—for almost two decades now—in Glamour as my go-to guide for style, advice and articles to which I can relate, I remember sitting in my office (on my perfectly-sculpted, gravity-defying derriere) and scoffing at the idea that I would ever want or need to refer to “that” particular periodical in order to find some form of common ground in printed media.

However in the last two years, whilst flipping through issue after issue of what appears to be an ever-growing population of 20-something models of perfection, I have begun to notice a few disconnects between myself and my Glamour

For one, the faces peering out at me from between the pages look younger and younger with each passing month. Also, when I see a color, outfit or style that I like my first thoughts are NOT… “How can I re-create that look?” Or… “How can I get my hands on that?” But rather… “Could I even pull that off? And if I could somehow manage to pull that off… would I look ridiculous like I’m trying to be 25 again? Where would I even find it?” And… “How much does it cost? Couldn’t I buy a nice new piece of lawn furniture for that price?”

Another clue indicating that perhaps I am no longer Glamour-girl material is that the articles are increasingly failing to meet my editorial needs. Instead of learning how to properly exfoliate, get him to call the next day, manage a monthly budget or balance a checkbook — I’d like to know how to keep the skin around my knees from sliding any further toward the floor, help him to appreciate the true value of feng shui living and effectively manage a 401k in a volatile market.

See what I mean? Disconnects. Me and my not-so-much-gravity-defying derriere are no longer scoffing. For we are slipping further and further from the carefree, I’ve-got-my-whole-life-ahead-of-me-so-who-cares-if-I-make-a-few-stupid-mistakes-and-poor-decisions, youthful grasp of the bronzed, toned, air-brushed zygotes now gracing the pages of Glamour and slowly—but surely—being beckoned by the section of the newsstand that houses More.

THEN…

… AND NOW?

Slow Learner

I rolled my eyes in bitter disgust at my reflection in the rearview mirror. I was, as many women do, taking in one final overview before heading out.

And let me tell you that yesterday’s “overview” was not so bright. In fact, if ever there were a day to Photoshop one’s own face… this was it.

With one blemish on it’s way out but still lingering over the threshold of my cheek and a brand-spanking-new shiny one announcing it’s rude and unwelcome arrival, I was not in the greatest of moods.

Add to those two little dermatological gems the half-inch evidence mark of what is now being referred to as the “curling iron incident” from two days prior and yes… I was disgusted.

Really? I am 37 years old. I am starting to get laugh lines and on occasion, a few grey hairs at my temples. I SHOULD NOT still be getting pimples and I most certainly SHOULD know how to handle a searing-hot hair implement by now. In fact, shouldn’t there be a law that zits and wrinkles NOT be permitted to occupy the same space? I know I’ve brought up that issue before! UGH.

Strolling down the center aisle of the local drug store I spotted a former classmate I’ve not seen in at least 18 years. I immediately became entranced by a bin of $4 DVDs — sifting through them with great care and reviewing the plot summaries with unbelievable laser-like focus.

Once he passed by I moved down the aisle in search of what I’d come for. “THAT was close!” I said to myself and pressed on. “Hopefully I can slip out of here unnoticed and spend the remainder of the day locked up safely in the house, praying for the pimple cream and neosporin to work their medicinal magic.”

On my way to check out, a woman about my age caught my attention. The first thing I noticed about her was her height. (Standing at a whopping 5’2″ I am intrigued by any female over 5’7″) The second thing I noticed was the manner in which she was holding her head up high as though searching the store for her spouse or child.

It wasn’t until I got much closer that I noticed the skin grafts. They covered her entire face. I was quick to look away as I did not want to stare, but as I turned away I felt heat spreading up through my neck and cheeks as I flushed at my own ridiculous vanity.

“Reality check girl.” My inner voice then said to me. How dare you be so self-absorbed and obsessed with a few stupid temporary blemishes that no one would even care enough to notice when it could—in reality—be so much more than that!

I’ve shared posts similar to this one in the past… but obviously I am a slow learner. I’ll likely never know her story or her name, but hopefully the image of her standing tall, head held high and fearlessly facing the world around her is one not soon to be forgotten.

“Youthful beauty fades with time, but, with cultivation, inner beauty grows richer.”

The Cost of Convenience

When I told people that I was moving away from my small town in northeastern Ohio to the big city of Columbus everyone said to me the same four things. They were (in this exact order) “Oh that is so exciting!” then: “I LOVE Columbus, it is a great city!” followed by: “There will be SO many more opportunities for you there!” capped off with: “Too bad the cost of living is so much higher.” And I proceeded to nod and smile in agreement to all but ONE of their statements.

The cost of living is actually no higher here than it is in the region I was moving from. Lee, having lived here for over 15 years has observed on a regular basis that this truly is the case. Wages are higher—which is fantastic—but the overall cost of living is quite comparable. Or so I thought.

This week I discovered a few ways that a larger city is actually much more expensive than a small town. Lee, being a male, could not possibly have known about the disparity of which I am about to speak. I am talking about salon services. My recent post about beauty and perfect eyelashes accompanied by the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been having drove me out of the house in search of information on the local offerings in the personal beautification arena.

Although I have not yet secured full-time employment to help pay for these rituals, it never hurts to look… or to be prepared for that wondrous time when regular paychecks start rolling in again. At night I checked online for hair salons and during the warm, sunny afternoons visited a couple of nearby tanning and nail salons. Much to my shock and chagrin — it was officially time for my reality check and a reassessment of my rebuttal of Statement #4. Damn.

A cut and color costs twice what it did in my precious, little hamlet up north. And the ditzy, bronzed fetus seated behind the desk at the tanning salon looked at me like I was speaking another language when I inquired about anything at their facility. The only thing she knew how to do was blink, crack her gum and point to the giant, illustrated chart on the wall behind her… apparently showing all of the different options.

Without a little explanation, the chart, to me, may as well have been written in another language. I took a brochure (planning to decipher it later on) and passed by the lotion display only to learn that their least expensive bottle cost a mere $62 bucks. Top shelf lotions? Well over a hundred. Ouch.

But alas, my skin is pale, I need a trim and my roots are showing. I’m starting to look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo AFTER he has seen the ghost. And I don’t care whether you’re a small-town gal OR a big-city broad… That is never a good look for a woman.

I think I’ll start looking for Easter or Spring Break specials. Or perhaps they need someone to wash hair, sweep floors or clean the tanning beds in exchange for services while I wait for my dream job? Meanwhile, I’ll be calling my small-town stylist for an appointment the very next time I make it back to visit the family and slathering on a good self-tanner.

Lashing Out

From the beginning of time women have been doing things to improve, enhance, augment or completely alter their appearance. I for one regularly highlight my dishwater-blonde hair, whiten my teeth and have been known to frequent tanning salons in the warmer months to maintain that “healthy glow” (and also to keep from blinding the neighbors at the sight of my ghostly-white thighs). 

Add to that a few things that I used to do that I no longer do… such as: maintain perfectly-polished, lengthy, acrylic, french-manicured nails, receive regular pedicures and attend appointments for massage therapy and laser hair removal. Why (you might ask) did I stop doing those things? Well, I wish I could say that I saw the light and learned to love myself for the beautiful, natural way God made me. But I would be lying. I stopped because either I or my bank account grew weary of keeping up with all of those costly and time-consuming procedures.

So I’ve learned to simplify my needs/expectations of myself and work with what I’ve got by seeing what I can find in the cosmetics department. This can be a worthy endeavor if you’re careful not to go overboard, buying every beauty product on the market just because tv/radio/magazines tell you that you should. Some products seem to do what they claim while others just plain disappoint. Usually I’m pretty good about not falling for every marketing ploy by which I am bombarded. 

However, there is one particular product that is my cosmetic kryptonite. I fall prey to the advertising schemes for this item with stunning regularity. The article to which I am referring is mascara. For some reason I am a sucker for long, thick black lashes that sweep so high as to reach one’s own eyebrows.

Beauty barons like Cover Girl, Loreal, Maybelline and Rimmel London are amazingly adept at getting me to believe in their product. I really do think that I can achieve thicker, fuller, longer lashes just by shelling out $10.99 and brushing their magic, inky-black potion on the lashes that I’ve got.

Problem solved.

But enter a new wave of cosmetic trends and treatments now available to appeal to our insatiable lash lust. I’m talking about eyelash extensions and products to help you grow your own “better” lashes. Salons are popping up all over the place in order to meet the demand and you can now ask your family physician for a prescription for medication that will cure you of your unfortunate affliction.

Yes, marketing departments for lash-extension salons, services and/or products have given the desire for “better” lashes an actual name: “Insufficient Lashes” … And no, I’m not kidding. Retailers and manufacturers want us to believe that our own desire for prettier, more appealing lashes is a now a legitimate health problem!

Even a long, lush lash-lover like me isn’t falling for this one. Perhaps a few years ago I might have bought into it… to the tune of $90 per visit! But the newer, simpler me knows that here is where I must draw the line. Although tempting, my natural lashes lathered with a little of that lengthening livener a.k.a. old-fashioned mascara will do just fine.

Supernormal?

I am not this woman. Nor will I ever be. I could torture myself for not having her 5’11’’ willowy frame or for the daylight that cannot be seen streaming between my thighs when I walk. I could curse my reflection for a lack of sinewy arms and a concave stomach. I could beat myself bloody for the dewy, pore-less skin and silky, disgustingly thick hair that I’ll never have. I could pout endlessly that I am not a supermodel…

OR…

I could accept that I was born a normal girl to a normal middle-class family in the middle of normal America. It was not my lot in life to strut down catwalks in the latest fashions, party like a rock star drinking champagne until 3 a.m. and sleep past noon for that necessary “beauty rest.” Personal trainers, chefs, estheticians, dieticians and all kinds of other “ticians” are not at my beckon call.

It was my lot in life to go to college, get an 8 to 5 job, slurp my coffee from a travel mug given to me by the bank when I opened my meager account, grab Subway on the go for my “power lunch” and watch episodes of The Office while folding laundry in my modest 2 bed/2 bath house. This was my lot… just like the other 90% of America. OK, I don’t honestly know the actual statistics. But there is some kind of ridiculous majority out there living exactly like I do.

Our idea of a good time is tailgating before watching a baseball or football game and eating pizza and drinking beer with our equally normal friends after its over. If we’re fortunate, the occasional tropical, exotic or adventurous escape is something to enjoy and forever cherish… all the while knowing—as we sit at that charming café or under that umbrella at the beach—that this is, in fact, NOT OUR REALITY. Our reality is lurking just around the corner… waiting to kick our ass upon our immediate return.

But it’s not all bad. I get to exist on more than egg whites and sugar free Red Bull for a daily diet. There is no punishment or excommunication for gaining 5 pounds while on vacation and not taking it off for another 6 months. There is no paparazzi camped outside my home waiting to snap a picture of my all-of-the-sudden-suspiciously-fat butt or catch me in some compromising situation. And no one looks at me cross-eyed for sporting last year’s trends.

I don’t know why we as women are so hard on ourselves for not looking like we stepped from between the pages of Vogue. No one asks us to. No one expects us to. We do it to ourselves. Maybe some of us do it to each other. But really… It is NOT our job. Our job is just to be “normal” so that they can be “super” — and what in the world could be wrong with that?

Now… would I trade places with her if given the chance by my fairy godmother? Probably. But until then… I’ll just get the towels out of the dryer and reach for another slice of pizza… and the remote.

"Normal" me... in a "normal" seat... at a "normal" Red Sox game.