October 16, 2009

High Maintenance

I was walking down the street one day and coming toward me walking in the other direction was a woman.  A perfect woman.  Her clothes fit her perfectly.  Her hair was perfect.  Her purse hung perfectly from her perfectly square shoulders.  Her make-up was perfect.  Her teeth were perfect.  All right, you get the idea.  This woman was perfect. 

I was a little surprised at my response to this vision of perfection.  Envy?  No.  Resentment?  No.  I let out a sigh of relief that I do not have the pressure on me to be that perfect.  Realizing I didn't feel that pressure took me aback because I grew up around several women who placed a great emphasis on appearances, and for many years I also felt appearance was of the utmost importance.  Like that Billy Crystal character who claims "It doesn't matter how you feel darling, you look marvelous" I emphasized the surface.

Now before you go thinking how I'm going to stress inner beauty and how what's inside is more important than what's outside, let me just assure you, I'm not that deep.  Plus I'm just not in that touchy-feeling, share-your-feelings, I'm-OK-You're-OK kind of mood.  Yeah, yeah, inner beauty is good and everything, but that's not the point.  The point is, appearance perfection requires high maintenance.  Even mere good appearances requires medium-high maintenace.  Here's what I have to say about that: if you want to spend your time maintaining an appearance, go for it.  Put on your foundation and your powder, your eyeliner and mascara, your ruby red lipstick.  Then take out the curling iron, the straitening iron, the curlers, the conditioner, the gel, the hairspray.  Spend your thousands on custom clothing and tailoring.  Submit to the dentist for a bleached smile.  You go girl.  You look marvelous! 

But what happens on the day(s) when you just don't feel like it?  There have got to be days when that just seems like too much work.  What happens then? 

Here's the thing.  I was one of those people who does their hair every day and puts on make-up and wears clothes that have been ironed.  Then one Saturday I was at Target.  I had on my cargo pants and a baggy sweatshirt.  I had applied no make-up.  My hair was so bad I wore a dorky hat.  I'm at Target for crying out loud, picking up toothpaste and tampons.  In and out and back home again.  Oh, except for there's a woman who works in my office.  She sees me, and doesn't really know if she recognizes me or not.  Her expression is kind of squinty, like if she focuses more she'll see the make-up that supposed to be on my face.  I felt so embarrassed, not because of how I looked, but because that's not how I look to most people most of the time. 

It's all still about appearances, but when someone can't recognize you on Saturday after they've been working in the office with you week in and week out for years, perhaps your daily appearance is a little less than genuine.  No? 

Another embarrassing case of presenting a false image:  A long time ago Boyfriend and I went on a date.  We had just started dating but knew we were destined for something big, and we totally had the hots for each other.  There we were, making out on my couch.  His hand was on my back, sort of assessing the situation with the bra.  You know how they do that.  They try to be all nonchalant but you can tell they're totally counting how many hooks they have to negotiate.  Then I thought OMGhe's going to find out!  Thing was, I was wearing pretty substantially padded bra.  Because I had deep feelings and respect for Boyfriend, I felt obligated to tell him before he went one step further that once the bra came off he might be surprised at what he finds.  I just don't want you to be too disappointed, I said.  Well, how could he not be disappointed?  Luckily it turned out the Boyfriend is more of a leg man and my little mosquito bites didn't bother him in the least.

All I'm saying is, I'd rather have people try to recognize me when I present myself as stunning rather than when I'm just myself.  I'd rather put huge effort into my appearance once or twice a month rather than every day.  If I'm going to surprise someone with my appearance I'd rather have them be astonished at how well I clean up rather than back away in horror when they realize I actually look like Quasimodo. 

As the perfect woman passed me on the sidewalk all I could wonder was, what do you look like when you're cleaning the toilet?  Cuz that's the real you.

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