Personal Upkeep

Owning a house is a major source of upkeep—the yard and pool maintenance, the peeling paint by the garage,

...the busted screen door that our dog keeps thinking is a doggie door, windows so dirty that they dapple the morning like, and the gray stone patio (that I'm pretty sure is supposed to be white) is in desperate need of power washing.

And that’s just the outside of my house. How about our own personal upkeep?

Just being a woman and trying to keep up appearances is exhaustive and exhausting. The hair highlights and haircuts, the mani-pedis, laser or waxing, facials, clothes, dieting, working out, makeup…and middle age just adds more items to the to-do list. There is hair “mascara” to cover gray. There is liquid we’re supposed to drip onto our eyelashes so they grow long and thick. Unless we are brave and patient enough to sit for eyelash extensions where they tape our eyelids shut like a serial killer and make us lie perfectly still while they poke, pluck and glue for hours. I tried this once and nearly suffered a full-blown panic attack, and that was before I got the bill.

There is stuff to bleach our teeth, so we can pretend coffee and wine are not the bookends of our day. There are toxins to inject into our face so we freeze, corpse-like, in a line-free mask of calm and detachment. At parties, we say that’s hilarious instead of laughing, because our faces don’t move. Last I heard, we were not supposed to open a canned food item that had bulging evidence of this toxin, yet it is now somehow fine to stab it into our frown lines, foreheads, and crows feet (caw! caw! caw!). We get gel filler shots into our cheekbones, and saggy jowls, and I have to wonder. When we look back on our college party pics, our faces were swollen with keg beer, salty cafeteria buffet food, and high-octane birth control pills. Now we try to recreate that look. Beer and late night pizza would work better, but sadly everyone is gluten intolerant these days. Sneaking smokes and drinking diet sodas from straws comes at a cost, so now we shoot up our lips as well. Sometimes this looks like a bad allergic reaction—giant, raw, puffy lips like a glossy Hollywood blowfish.

The other day I saw a billboard for something called Smart Lipo. I’ve seen lipo on TV before, a sick cross between violent crime and injecting Cajun spice into a Thanksgiving fried turkey. How is this smart? But I still squeeze my outer thigh when I pass the billboard, frowning and considering. Then I saw another billboard for Cellulaze, and I thought I learned about that in high school biology, but I can’t recall the details. It either has to do with the transfer of oxygen and nutrients between cell membranes or else it is a middle aged marketing campaign targeted to shame us into lasering our lumpy, pock marked thighs.

I can admit I like how my face looks when I have my hair tightly turbaned in a towel, so I’m not sure what this means for me in the future. We do Brazilian blow outs, which sounds kinky, but really just means that you are willing to pay serious cash for the luxury of not having to flat iron your frizzy, humid hair for a month. We do gel nails, sitting with our fingers wrapped in aluminum foil like Edward Scissorhands, even though we know our nails are becoming thin and brittle underneath. A Brazilian wax is the standard for intimate hairstyling. I would like to see one straight man endure this torturous event. No. Way. There is going to be a "vafro" backlash, Welcome Back Kotter style, mark my words.

Many of us pay exorbitant attention to our exteriors. We really do. And though I am guilty of some of this nonsense, I can also soberly recognize that the Emperor of Beauty has no clothes. She is naked, marching in her parade. She is also wrinkled, pock marked, saggy and very picky about her lighting.

Her exterior, like ours, is merely a covering for the soul. And ultimately, what really matters is the interior. Whether it is the coziness of our home or the comfort in our skin, we are all designed to fully inhabit ourselves (ideally humbly and with humor) and provide shelter for others.


Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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