I watched a TV reality show a few weeks ago that congratulated a woman on winning a “Total Beauty Makeover.” She was apparently the ugliest one of the contestants, and the judges decided she was most in need of a complete overhaul.
At the end of the show, there was, of course, a giant blowup of her “Before” photo, used as a backdrop as she walked out onto the stage, beaming with smiles, flashing her perfect, white teeth and tossing her shiny, newly blonde hair (complete with extensions) and wearing a wildly expensive outfit (including stilettos) that I’m assuming she plans to wear every day for the rest of her life.
Then they brought up a new backdrop that showed what the makeover cost. Oh. My. God.
My mother always said that the difference between a beautiful woman and a plain one was either God or a ton of money. Well, what God didn’t give this women, she bought (or won) for herself.
This got me thinking about how much women can spend trying to look “better.” Thinner, prettier, younger. We live in a society that worships youth, and the further it slips away, the more we’re willing to spend to get it back.
Flipping through several women’s magazines at a local grocery store, I mentally tabulated the fashion styles or beauty products they were pushing to midlifers who wanted to look younger. It’s a zillion dollar industry, and it became obvious that we don’t balk at higher price points if said products will git ‘er done. And the gap kept widening between what we spend on ourselves when we’re young and perky, and what it costs us to stay that way when we’re…well, not.
Jeans then: $20. Levi’s 501 button-up. Everybody wore them. The Ray Ban of jeans. Cool factor off the charts.
Jeans now: $145. They need to fit our mature curves, boost our sagging butts, and flatten our post-baby bellies, all without smooshing everything over the top like a giant banana-nut muffin at Starbucks.
Shoes then: $19 at Ross. Sexy, fabulous, killer heels. Uncomfortable as hell, but we looked so good, we didn’t care.
Shoes now: $120, with cushioned insoles and arch support, in low heels or flats. We look like Hobbits, but we need comfort, damnit. Especially on that side with the bunion.
Handbags then: $39 for knock-off Kate Spades or Louis Vuittons. We own six. Our friends don’t know for sure, and we’re not telling.
Handbags now: $300+ for one authentic Coach bag that we carry with everything. Girlfriends know at a glance, and we’re too old to pretend.
Underwear then: $8 at Target for a three-stack of lacy panties and $10 apiece for matching bras designed to hold up two Chiclets that could stay up on their own accord.
Underwear now: $85 at Nordstrom for industrial strength bras with Kevlar underwire that can hoist those babies up where belong. $78 at Spanx for tiny spandex tourniquets designed to compress, flatten, and reposition recalcitrant body parts that have gone rogue from gravity and questionable lifestyle choices.
Bathing suits then: $19 for a tiny tube top and a brightly colored piece of dental floss to tie around our perky hips. We’re Bo Derek, running on the beach in a bikini, still firm enough that our boobs don’t flop out and whack us in the face, and the imperceptible jiggle in our butts is still considered hot.
Bathing suits now: You’re kidding, right? $75 for mom-shorts, a tank top for tanning, an oversize straw hat, and a white shirt to pull on if we’re actually going to ever get up off the chaise to go to the bathroom, lest anyone see our flying squirrel underarms, the cellulite on our thighs, or our southbound cleavage.
Hair care then: $30 for the Herbal Essences combo-pack of shampoo, conditioner, and hair gel. $10 for pink leopard blow dryer from Claire’s.
Hair care now: $59 for 3-month supply of Rogaine for Women. $42 for shampoo and conditioner to restore thinning, color-treated hair. $30 for gel and styling paste to make hair look fuller and shinier. $60 for ginormous blow dryer that filters “ions” and protects aging hair from falling out entirely. $82 every six weeks for hair stylist to revive our faded hair color and hide the grey, while still looking “natural.”
Skin care then: $20 for Proactive Kit or Neutrogena cleanser and lightweight moisturizer.
Skin care now: $40 for cleanser and exfoliator. $60-$100 for moisturizer that promises to tighten, brighten, lift, nourish and renew our tired, middle-aged faces. $75 for the serum to put under the moisturizer because it can apparently only do so much and we need concentrated help. $18 for sunscreen during the day. $87 for collagen-boosting night cream, because we’ll believe anything. $400 for quarterly Botox session to remove what our $90 moisturizer couldn’t fix.
Body care: $15 for soap, deodorant, and toothpaste.
Body care now: $55 for soap, in-shower body exfoliator (that dead skin doesn’t slough itself anymore), body lotion for dry or damaged skin, and deodorant. $12 for whitening toothpaste (more red wine, anyone?), $400 for whitening trays from the dentist, and $50/month for bleaching gel to put into the whitening trays.
Makeup then: $18 for tinted moisturizer. $25 for a cute kit at Sephora that includes mascara, lipgloss, four eyeshadows, liner, and blusher. With brushes.
Makeup now: $60 for anti-aging foundation. $140 for eyelash growth serum. $60 for eyeshadows and blushers that don’t look like a child’s glitter craft project. $25 for thickening mascara. $35 for lipstick and matching liner, because we no longer have lip lines. $18 for eyebrow pencil (to put back what we’ve been plucking out since we were 16).
Tanning then: $40 for a summer pass to local tanning bed. $3 for tanning bed protective goggles. $8 for tanning oil accelerator.
Tanning now: $26 for 30+ sunscreen for face and body. $48 for “natural” spray-on tan that doesn’t streak. And because everyone knows that tan fat looks better than white fat.
And we wonder why we’re always broke.
The other morning, Hubs suggested we get up and go look at houses to buy. I told him to give me an hour or two, because I need time to find another job. Maybe he’ll consider a yurt.