I had a visit from my two least favorite friends today. Loreal and her best friend forever Vanity. They are crafty folk. They come, they taunt, and they over stay their welcome.
Vanity is the worst of these two evil witches. She shows up first. She looks you up and down and points out every flaw you have. She finds your weaknesses and preys upon them. If you have been worried about a little weight gain, she makes you feel even worse. She can make five pounds feel like fifty. Make ten pounds feel like one hundred, and anything more than that, you need to be lifted out of your house with a helicopter. Noticed a few new gray hairs, she will make them glow in the dark. One or two multiple to one thousand and exponentially reproduce before your very eyes. That little wrinkle by your mouth, the grand canyon, getting deeper and deeper with every uncomfortable smile. She is very sly with her criticisms. She hones in on your deepest, darkest fears, sweeps in and devours what little confidence you may have. She leaves you feeling empty, deflated, a popped balloon after a fourth of July parade.
Today she started with my hair. "Your roots," she started, "your roots are showing. And that frizz, really, what are you thinking." I tried not to listen. I hate dying my hair. It is stinky and messy. "Really, isn't it time to hide those age spots?" I try to not be a vain person. I hate wearing make up. I hate the way it feels on my skin. My eyes tend to be itchy and watery, putting make up on them just seems to be asking for trouble. Besides, if God wanted my eyelids to be smokey, he'd set fire to my cheeks. Yet, Miss Vanity finds a way to make us think that if we don't look exactly as she says we should, we fail as human beings. Fail miserably, beyond any hope for recovery.
That's when BFF Loreal sweeps in. Loreal is pure beauty. She is flawless and perfect. Not a blemish or gray hair, never an ounce overweight. She looks at you with a "poor baby" smile, and strokes your cheek. "Oh, Honey" she coos as she shakes her head. She lures you closer. She draws you in. On the outside she is perfect. She leads you to believe that with her help you could be too. On the inside, she is the definition of faux. Her soul empty, false, chemically reproduced. Her goal, get you to cover everything that makes you, you and get you to try to be just like her. She sets this goal very high. High enough that you can never reach it. Her beauty is airbrushed, not real, lofty. It is manufactured, not natural, phony. We are still to reach for it. If we don't we are unkempt, frumpy, a loser. If we do, we are disappointed, making us try harder, just to be disappointed again. We get sucked in. We buy into the impossible dream, again and again. It is a viscous cycle of humility and shame.
I gave in to Vanity and Loreal today, fixed my roots and spent a ridiculous amount of money on makeup. I have an interview on Thursday and Vanity convinced me that if I don't look youthful, I won't even get considered. She convinced me that pushing fifty is a sin against nature, and it must be covered up.
I like to say that if growing old gracefully was good enough for Katherine Hepburn, then it is good enough for me. Most of the time I truly believe that. Most of the time I am comfortable in my own skin. Most of the time. Grace is normally my shield against Vanity and Loreal. Today, grace fell by the wayside and the sinister sisters found their way in. They succeeded.