SCENE: At the office. As you arrive, you’re greeted by your best friend at work.
“Hey, good morning! Good to see you! You look great! Oh wow, are you having a bad hair day, though? Yeah, the frizzies get pretty crazy sometimes. You’ve heard about the Brazilian blowout, right? Just a couple of hundred bucks, and it totally straightens it out. For a month — then you have to go back. I’m pretty sure the industrial chemicals they use are safe. And while you’re already putting caustic substances on your scalp, might as well get some highlights, too. They make you look younger if you’re old, and older if you’re young. Or the other way around, I’m not sure.
“Come to think of it, I was looking at your forehead, and noticed that those wrinkles are getting kinda deep. Y’know, one shot of botox totally takes care of that for a few months. You won’t be able to raise your eyebrows, so your smile and other emotional expressions may be a little off. But who cares! You’ll look 3.5 years younger at least.
“Speaking of eyebrows — y’know, I noticed yours were looking a little bushy. Have you gotten them plucked and shaped recently? That’s pretty important. You totally want to get the perfect arch. I mean, I’m not even sure why eyebrows are there in the first place — might as well rip it all out with electrolysis and just tattoo in the proper shape. So much easier.
“And speaking of tattoos — you should totally get an eyeliner tattoo, too. Will save you so much time every morning. But I see that your eyelashes are looking pretty wispy. Maybe more mascara would help. And now you can get these totally awesome eyelash extensions! You just glue them on, and boom, they’re twice as long. Goes almost all the way up to where your former eyebrows were.
“Of course, you can also get Latisse. That stuff totally works! Makes your eyelashes, like, a third longer. And it’s only $240 for 3 bottles. Total bargain. Guys go ape over long eyelashes.
“And you’ve got such a nice, dark brown eyes. But have you considered those new colored contact lenses? They almost look realistic these days, and only cost $300 or so. With your skin coloration, which is frankly a little on the ethnic side, it would totally make your eyes pop. So much you can do with that — just for variety, y’know. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with them.
“By the way, do you wear sunglasses a lot? Oh, honey, you should. You’d have so many fewer of those little wrinkles under and around your eyes. And you really shouldn’t smile so hard — crow’s feet are a bitch. There’s this really nice eye cream I know which works miracles, though. The company’s in Beverly Hills. Only $75 for a bottle which has fully 4 tablespoons of the stuff in it. Lasts you the whole month. You should try it.
“You have a nice nose. You should powder it every half hour or so, though. It’s already starting to look a little shiny. And did you know that your nose and your ears are the only two parts of your body that keep growing till the end of your life? ‘Cause they’re made of cartilage and stuff. That’s why old fogies have huge ears and noses. Or just look at pictures of Madonna from when she was young, versus now that she’s in her fifties. Ooomigod. Anyway, when it’s time, I know this really great plastic surgeon who’ll shave off just enough to make it small and perky again. Nobody’ll even notice!
“You know, I’m pretty convinced that people’s lips just get flatter as they get older. I mean, yours look great and all. But a little extra poutiness never hurts! This doc I know is a magician with Restylane and Juvederm — he’ll just do a quickie injection, and 15 minutes later, you can float a boat on them they’re so puffy! And it’s only $750 a shot. For being noticed from across the room, it’s so worth it. Not that there’s anything wrong with your lips, of course.
“Now it does look like your parents gave you a really nice complexion. But we’ve all got those little acne scars from our teenage years, y’know? Why live with them when you can just to a dermabrasion and get it looking all glassy-smooth again? It’s not even that painful — they’ll just freeze the top layer of your skin with liquid nitrogen, then use this thing that’s kind of like a sandblaster to gently rip off that epidermis. It’ll look a little raw for a few days, but the results! Perfection. Gets rid of uneven pigmentation and stuff, too, and it’s only a couple of thousand bucks.
“Or you could go for the glycolic acid peel, which is cheaper. What’s that? Painful? Acid on your face? No no, it’s not like the stuff the Taliban throw in women’s faces or anything. This is safe acid.
“I see you’ve recently whitened your teeth, eh? So glad you listened to me! You missed a couple of them, towards the back, though, which makes you look a little like a hillbilly with missing teeth. Go get them done at a proper dentist — I know the best one in town, no more than 300 bucks — and then keep on buying those whitening strips. No, just because it’s called bleaching doesn’t mean they have Clorox bleach in them. Nobody’s died using them yet, so I’m pretty sure they’re safe. Probably.
“So have you heard of pouchy neck syndrome? It’s when the skin on your neck kind of pooches out, either because of rapid weight loss or just sun damage. I’m not saying you’ve got it, but, y’know, it’s just something to think about. It’s so unappealing when it happens, so it’s just good to be on the lookout. Put on lots of sunscreen, wear turtlenecks. You can always go to my surgeon and trim the turkey skin when it happens, though. Forewarned is forewarned, or something.
“Oh my, but you’ve got such great boobs! I’m so jealous. I just decided to take care of mine. Just got some general anesthesia, and put a couple of plastic bags of salt water in there. A few weeks later, didn’t even have any soreness. When they’re as great as yours, though, it’s just a shame for them to be asymmetrical like that. Oh, nobody’s told you that? It’s not a big deal really. So slight — almost unnoticeable. But yeah, my doc does those too. He’s really an artist. Sculpts in his spare time. You really should meet him. Because of our special relationship, he can probably do yours for only $5000. He’d totally do that for me. He knows how highly I think of you.
“Cause you know, darling, it’s all about proportion. So you’ve got this nice, um, womanly body, y’know? And if you were to just get a little liposuction around the waist — you know they can now freeze that fat off too, right? — you’d just get that va-va-voom hourglass figure that guys go ga-ga over. You’d be unstoppable. I mean, I’ve only heard of one person throw a clot to her brain while getting it done, and she’s almost talking and walking again after a year of rehab, so I don’t even know why people make such a big fuss of it. Totally safe.
“Now this is girl talk, right? We can talk about these things. Have you heard of labioplasty? I mean, in the health club locker room you’ve probably seen women with these huge labia flapping all over the place. It’s just so — inelegant. Anyway, these surgeons specialize in turning those ungainly meat curtains into dainty little flaps, like miniature saloon doors or something. And while you’re at it, they can do a vaginoplasty, too — tighten up the whole machinery, y’know. For a month you’ll be sore when you pee, but then — you could turn rock coal into diamond down there. For a just a couple of thousand bucks, you could lock down any guy.
“By the way, have you heard that they do butt implants over in Brazil? My god, they’re obsessed down there. And they actually want to make them bigger! You’d be totally popular there, though. Not that you should worry about it or anything. In a pinch, though, Spanx can be a solution, and it’s not totally uncomfortable, I hear.
“Did I mention that I really like your outfit, by the way? Everything just works together so well. One thing, though — the shoes have got to go. You want Jimmy Choo, Louboutin or Manolo Blahnik only. Best 600 bucks you’ll ever spend. So what if your feet will be killing you and you’ll get blisters tonight and bunions and back problems down the road. Stop being such a sissy! When you wear these puppies, you are ready to conquer, girlfriend! They will hear the clackety-clack of your heels and just make way like the Red Sea did for Moses. You should be fine as long as you don’t walk on grass. Or soft ground. Or over a grating. Or train tracks. Or on pavement cracks, or uphill, or downhill. Or dance. Or run. And if you need to run away from someone sketchy, just take the shoes off — not only will you run faster, but you won’t ruin the shoes.
“Well, anyway, I’ve got to run now. Just one more thing: I was noticing your toenails, and I’m thinking we should totally go get a pedicure at this new place on Main St. Yeah, the one with the Vietnamese ladies wearing the masks! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that totally protects them from the fumes they’re inhaling all day — I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Anyway, it’s not like I’m saying there’s anything wrong with your toenails, but a little buffing up, a little pampering — never hurts to look your best. Love you! Don’t change.”
Or maybe, just maybe, instead of there being something wrong with every single one of your body parts from head to toe, there’s actually nothing wrong with you.
That’s the version I prefer. Because if you started out as a single cell and are now 60 trillion of them all working at the same time — that’s 50,000 times the population of China — then I’m going to say that’s miracle enough.
If you’ve survived every bus barreling down the road, every crazy freeway driver, every childhood disease, junior high, high school, college, jobs, crazy coworkers, and are here to read this letter on your computer, with working internet and electricity and running water and a roof over your head, that’s miracle enough.
See, if you were to attend to every perfectly functional body part’s perceived flaws, and listen to what advertising and social pressure ask you to do to make them ‘right’, there would be no time or energy left to give your gift to the world.
Because your gift to the world is your energy, your presence, your ability to elevate, to nurture, to create, to build, to heal, to connect. Your gift is to be Marie Curie, Clara Schumann, George Sand, George Eliot, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Florence Nightingale, Zaha Hadid, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, Yoky Matsuoka — to fully express your gift in service to the world.
Girlfriend! You are too busy to have time to worry about your forehead, eyebrows, eyelashes, makeup, wrinkles, butt shape and toenails all at the same time. Sure, a shower every once in a while is a fine idea, and brushing your teeth, and trimming your nails. We’re all for basic hygiene.
But you have to realize that this madness has been going on for too long. There was lead-laden kohl that Egyptian women put in their eyes 4000 years ago and millions of women still use and poison themselves with. There were whalebone corsets in Victorian times that were cinched so tight that they actually punctured women’s livers and killed them. There was foot-binding in ancient China that was not only excruciatingly painful, but also left the foot a rotted, stunted, tangled mess unsuitable for walking.
The madness certainly hasn’t abated, so ask yourself: what form does it take in 2013? I gave a partial list above, in the form of the monologue from your best friend at work.
And do you know who she is? She’s the cosmetics and advertising industry. In the guise of being your best friend, trying to make you look good, she’s subtly cutting you down, costing you time, self-esteem and a crapton of money. She does not support you. But you, for some strange reason, have agreed to support her.
So here’s the experiment I propose: for one week, opt out. Just refuse to wear any makeup. Refuse to put industrial chemicals in your hair, on your skin, on your nails, anywhere. No prosthetic anything. Soap, shampoo and toothpaste are fine, but no conditioner (do you even know what is in there?). No Spanx, no push-up bras trussing you like a dinner turkey, no heels altering your gait and destroying your feet.
In other words, a week of natural beauty. You can return to your old ways on Valentine’s Day.
Now, I’ve never been a woman, but I have a sense that this no makeup thing must be hard to do. No makeup at work? At a party? Are you serious?
Yeah, the first day’s going to be tough. You’ll probably feel naked without your foundation, mascara, blush and lipstick. But that’s why it’s so important to at least give this a shot.
Because I want you to feel what it’s like to be free of this stuff for a week. To have 15min extra in the morning to sleep, or meditate, or read. To not have to worry about painful feet, or reapplying your lipstick, or powdering your nose.
I promise you the world will not come to an end. I’m pretty sure they won’t fire you at work unless you’re a TV news anchor or a member of Cirque du Soleil. And I promise you will feel things you haven’t felt before, and make realizations you didn’t have before. It just might be a little liberating.
So there it is — The 7-Day Natural Beauty Challenge. If you’re doing it, say so in the comments so others know they’re not alone. And spread the word. The more women do it and support one another in it, the more effective it will be. Let’s see the real you, shall we?