Monday, July 18, 2011

Enough, Already!

About four weeks ago, I got one of those middle-of-the-night phone calls that suddenly and forever changed my life.  This particular life change, involving a medical condition of my son's, required me to throw a few things into a small carry-on and catch the first flight out of Chicago for an extended stay in Washington, DC where my son resides.

How extended?  The jury's still out.  As of now, it looks like another 3-4 weeks.  And that's if things go well.

Vain and silly woman that I am, in the early days of this crisis, I allowed a few moments to smugly congratulate myself on being able to exist indefinitely out of a Vera Bradley tote bag.  Yes, during the emotional maelstrom of that terrible night, in spite of the uncertainty and fear I was feeling - and the martini I was nursing at the jazz club when the call came in - I managed to subconsciously call up my experience as a traveller to pack the perfect bag.  Five pairs of knickers, 2 maxi-skirts, 4 camisoles (with shelf bras), 2 lightweight cardigans, 2 sleeveless tees, 1 white blouse, 1 pair of Havaiianas, and an umbrella.  I wore the heavy stuff (jacket, jeans, t-shirt, cardi, ballet flats, and pashmina) on the plane.  You may sneer at the Vera Bradley tote bag, if you like, but not at me.

Hubris, pure hubris.  As the days wore on, I came to the conclusion that I had merely built a house of cards.

Not in terms of the clothes I brought.  Four weeks and still going strong with that mini-wardrobe, a tribute to the power of neutrals.

Where I crashed and burned were with my toiletries.  Even though I have a ready-to-grab-and-go toiletry bag (which there was plenty of room for in the Vera), somewhere around the third day of my tribulations, I found myself needing to make some purchases.

And around the seventh day, some more purchases and around the tenth day, some more...and there seems to be no end in sight.  No wonder I obsess over Walgreens.

Now, am I really in need or am I making these purchases because they're convenient and I required a shopping fix to lift my spirits?  Am I watching too much "What Not to Wear"?  I decided that this was a perfect opportunity to perform a long overdue inventory on the potions and whatnot I think I need to make myself a presentable human being, and to weigh their relative worthiness in my life.

The Basics:
  1. Soap.  Something that doesn't turn me into a snake (anything the hotel gives you for free) and/or smell like a garage mechanic (Irish Spring, Coast);
  2. Shampoo.  Once again, I avoid the hotel stuff.  There's a reason why it's free;
  3. Conditioner.  A MUST HAVE, now that my hair is getting longer (oh, yeah! almost there);
  4. Hair "mask", once a week;
  5. Body wash.  Also once a week, with a loofah, for fun;
  6. Razors.  If it were up to me, I would never shave.  Really.  I just don't understand it.  However, I am a Sicilian-American with an extraordinary amount of body hair (I get a 5 o'clock shadow on my legs) and my children already have plenty of reasons not to talk to me.  So I shave.
  1. Toothpaste;
  2. Toothbrush;
  3. Mouthwash;
  4. Dental floss.  No compromise on any of these.
  1. Night cream (retinol);
  2. Day cream (SPF 15, any more turns me into a beet);
  3. Toner (witch hazel is adequate);
  4. Apricot facial scrub, 3X/week.  I don't know if this stuff actually does anything, I just like it;
  5. Smith's Rosebud Salve.  Same deal as #4, above, I use it on my lips at night because I enjoy the way it feels;
  6. Body lotion (anything works);
  7. I had a brief flirtation with eye cream.  The romance is over.  Ditto for self-tanner.
Smelling good:
  1. Deordorant;
  2. Red Door Eau de Toilette.  I refuse to give this up.  Ever.  See you in court.
  1. Nail polish.  Colors for toes.  Clear for fingers.  I work for a living;
  2. File;
  3. Smoother.  At my age, my nails are as bumpy as my thighs.
  1. Foundation.  I tried going without it (not good), and "tinted" moisturizer which turns my face into an oil slick.  I'm sticking to foundation;
  2. Brow powder.  I am intrepid about my grey hair, not so much the grey eyebrows;
  3. Eye shadow;
  4. Mascara;
  5. Eye pencil.  I kohl my eyes.  Always have, always will, until the shaking of my ancient hands threatens to gouge them out;
  6. Blush;
  7. Tinted lip balm.  I've given up on lipstick, after spending at least the equivalent of the current United States debt in search of the perfect one.  I have finally come to the conclusion (it only took 40 years) that lipstick just doesn't work for me.  PRODUCT PLACEMENT ALERT:  I am now in thrall to Neutragena Revitalizing Lip Balm.  After some trial and error, I have settled on Petal Glow.  This wonderful balm makes your lips look lovely and rosy even after it wears off.  SPF 20, cheap.  What's not to love?
  1. Pumice stone;
  2. Loofah;
  3. Saline nasal spray;
  4. Vitamins (lots);
  5. Comb;
  6. Brush;
  7. Tweezers;
  8. Scissors;
  9. Frederic Fekkai Glossing Cream.  For emergencies.
That's what comprises my current arsenal.  Thirty-seven items, THIRTY-SEVEN, which I feel I must use on a regular basis to make myself presentable.  This, from a woman who considers herself "low maintenance".  And I don't dye, blow dry, flat iron, curling iron, bikini wax, bronze, or self-tan.  That's quite enough information for the moment.

Now I ask you, does this seem reasonable?  Not to me.  It's fucking ridiculous, is what that is.  Looking at the list above, I am appalled, and several questions come to mind:
  1. Where, in my underemployed financial state, do I find the money for all this stuff?
  2. How do I justify it?
  3. When do I find the time to use it all?
  4. And does the diligent application of these thirty-seven products really serve to keep me from turning innocent and unsuspecting observers of my person into stone?
Obviously, there is no way to stop using everything on my list and be considered suitable for human company.  However, I cringe at my dependence on so many things, and rebel at the investment of so much of my time and money into what possibly could be a complete fairy tale.

This is not the first time I have raged against this particular machine.

But then I watch "Legally Blonde" and all resolve melts away.  That movie is truly inspiring.  Come to think of it, I probablly just need to lie down and read a Vogue.

And maybe do my nails.


the nyanzi report said...

now i know what you ladies carry around. no wonder it takes ages to get through airport security...

Trapped in Chicago said...

Oh man-I am very very similar! I also let my hair air dry and don't do much with it aside from keeping it in serums and cremes to keep MAJOR frizz at bay, BUT I do require about as much as you do for my minimal "ready to face the public" look. Being female requires way too much upkeep once you're past puberty...and it never ends. Men have no idea how good they've got it. NO idea. On second thought- yes, they do.