When my sis and her husband come to visit us at the beach, she and I stay up way past our bedtimes, to do constructive things like talk about our insomnia. We also discuss sexy topics like our twinning at teeth-grinding and then deprive ourselves of more sleep because getting on a pool float fully clothed at midnight is a great idea.
As we float around and stare at stars and pride ourselves on not getting a single article of clothing wet, we catch up on family and mutual friends and properly discuss work (hers) and how I’m structuring my days with a blank screen in front of my face.
This past weekend, we somehow landed on insecurities and stupid decisions we’ve made in the name of them. I told her I was ashamed of myself for getting hair extensions in late January and went into detail about the process and cost, which, when I am telling a story past midnight, includes me acting it out. The extensions came all the way down to HERE (points to lap) and then I had them cut up to here (points to shoulders) because I am not a pop star, I had an office to be in Monday morning. My fake hair needed to look real.
What drove me to pay more money than I want to admit to myself to have thicker hair for four months? Sure it was vanity, but also insecurity. Maybe they are cousin emotions. My hair was thinning and I’ve always had extra thick hair. A way that I had come to view myself was changing. My hair has fallen out everywhere so much that I will tell you that I could never ever commit a crime for you because I would leave DNA at the scene but this next level of hair loss was new to me and I was not having this ‘read the newspaper through my hair’ look. (Who are we kidding? I read the news on my phone, thank you Apple). Insecurity and Vanity-the terrible cousin duo, led me to those hair extensions and I followed them like a dazed cult member.
We discussed the rabbit hole that Instagram can be if we compare ourselves to other women we do not know, may not ever meet, and yet are our age and seem to have perfect bodies, hair and faces. I have this compulsion to be her sherpa, explaining what I’ve seen over the crest of the hill and suggesting ways to avoid the traps. I mention the app that can make anyone look leaner and thinner and advise that people who spend their lives taking selfies of their bodies are sad and boring and probably have that app. It should be called Vapid App. Why was this app even invented? Because the terrible duo shows up at everyone’s door.
Years ago, a new colleague and I were having drinks and she asked me if my boobs were real. Blunt is how I like my friends so I smiled and without missing a beat, I answered, “they were really expensive and they really hurt.” We bonded after that conversation. When I was ready for the surgery I’d been contemplating since I was a teen, I was grateful for women around me who talked about their procedures, what to expect, what to plan for, what would change (the tops, sweaters I needed to buy and the sit-ups I could not do for weeks) and what would not (Income, love, relationships and happiness). I’ve been asked by other young women if this changed my life and I quickly and honestly answer, “Nope.” I had that procedure when I was 36 and if you have a friend who tells you her life changed because her bra size changed, you need to rethink her has a friend because that is just extra sad.
My hair is naturally a dark blond or a light brown and while it has been this lovely shade we call “dishwater blond” since I was 15 years old; I was a blonde child and I am convinced I should be a similar shade as I advance toward Fifty. Highlights feel like basic grooming in the way that getting a manicure and pedicure are basic grooming to me. It’s NYC after all, and there is a nail salon on every single corner of Manhattan and they charge almost nothing!
Manicured hands, brushed teeth—they’re the same to many professional women. Same with highlights in the hands of a pro. Those don’t feel fake to me.
When I had the extensions removed I felt lighter. (Metaphor, party of one) My hair looked healthier, just not thicker, but that changed with more Biotin in my diet and when I made my plate more than 80% vegetables at every single meal. I had a flirtation with eyelash extensions and I ruined my own lashes but a HS friend told me about Babe Lash serum from Amazon and all is right again. I am not proud of my fakery. Facials get to stay- they fall under the same category as not letting my fingernails look like I bite them like a prisoner. Entirely too many women think that injecting their foreheads to match Nicole Kidman’s immovable face is their first move. A stiff forehead with a dull pallor and pores visible from space is not a cute look. Nine glasses of water, every single day, some exfoliation a few times a week (when traveling for business, use the sugar next to the coffee pot in your room or on the room service tray. Wash your face with that and thank me later) a mask, and those pores cleaned by a woman with a tool are my friends.
My sister is beautiful and young and I can feel middle-agey and not glamorous around her some days. This being honest and vulnerable with each other was freeing. We admitted the ugly cousin duo was robbing us. It was leading us to take our focus off of what was good and right with our lives. We already knew how to be real with each other about important things like feelings, marriage, family, depression, and anxiety. We finally set down the fake around our appearances and feelings about them.
Taking an inventory on where in my life I can be more real has been on my mind this week. When one of my closest friends confides in me about her children or we discuss our sex lives, I am grateful. Dropping the facade with the safe humans is how intimacy happens and connection is crafted. I’m not the first person to point out that we can now be connected to anyone anywhere at any moment and yet we’re doing it all wrong.
Feeling pretty is not a sin and I don’t think it is the same as vanity. Taking care of oneself is not wrong and the right shade of Tom Ford lipstick can work miracles. I want to hug the collective humans of NYC for making therapy a normal thing to discuss. A big cheer to the women who taught me about acupuncture as a way to fix anxiety, because benzos on the daily are not a good idea. Thank you to the women who admit, over a glass of wine, that their marriage has had deep grooves of loneliness and fights. Love to the friends who have told me about their childhoods with physical abuse, when all I ever saw was total perfection. It’s harder to admit the invisible stuff, the stuff no color, polish or surgery will change.
In the first few months my sister lived in NYC, her finances were stretched so thin from NYC rent, she was not able to go out with a new friend who’d asked her. We both happened to work with this friend and when she mentioned my sister not feeling well, I shook my head and corrected her. I explained that finances were the issue because I knew that a NYer would hear “not feeling well” and immediately think the other person is lying to spare feelings and that would drive a wedge between them. When my sister learned what I said, she made a list of all the ways she could kill me and not go to jail. The woman ended up becoming my sister’s her sister from another mister because she called her and explained that she too understood stretched finances in NYC but that all she wanted was to enjoy her company. She suggested they would just share a bottle of wine at her apt until they both got raises. Insecurity showed up and told my Sis to not be forthcoming about the invisible stuff. Intimacy and a deep friendship were born from not being fake.
I’ll still fall in the trap of thinking I can look as young as Gal Gadot but for now, I’ll just read Goop for the recipes and I’m glad I know that $14 carrot seed oil from Amazon and is more effective than any pricey serum. Look at your healthy body and marvel at your able and strong legs which carry you everywhere, your arms which hug friends and your hands which touch loved ones or turn the pages of books. Use those hands to text a friend and thank her for being real with you and maybe get a manicure with a fun color, just don’t get a French manicure. It stopped being 1991 a long time ago.