You Couldn’t Make It Up!

7th July 2022 I was sad to see a video on FB the other day. The OP was a young lady who was filming herself getting ready to go out with her friends to celebrate her 20th birthday. Like many similar posts, she was putting on her makeup, showing and recommending the products as she described how she used them. Apparently, there can be a lot of money made being an ‘influencer’ these days. All power to her elbow, I say! 

And as she preened, she talked about her excitement at leaving behind her teenage youth and becoming a proper grownup. Oh, how I wanted to tell her not to wish her life away! I suppose what they say is true – hindsight gives you 20-20 vision and we never appreciate what we have until it’s gone. I know that many older women like me have a tendency to look back and regret the missed opportunities; the career paths we never followed, the travel we never undertook, the children we never had. I think we also develop the wisdom to see the important things that really matter, once we reach ‘a certain age’ and I’m glad about that. However, back to our subject… 

She was a very pretty girl to start with, and stunning when she’d finished – but it saddened me that such a lovely looking girl felt the need at such a young age to hide her natural beauty under the layers and layers of the cosmetics that she used. 

I’m not saying that I wasn’t the same back in the day – I wore makeup when I was young too – it’s only in the last 15 years or so that I can’t be bothered except when it’s a special occasion. Ironically, it’s now that I need it more than ever to present a reasonable face in public that I don’t bother, but even when I do, I use very little compared to what seems to be de rigeur nowadays. My make up is simple enough – cleanse, moisturise, foundation, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick is more than enough. End of. And the end result will just have to do. I remember my Nana getting ready to go out – it was a quick covering of loose powder from her compact and a smear of coral lipstick and that was it – she was ready for anything. I also recall that I was permitted to start wearing makeup when I was about fifteen – but it wasn’t much more than what my Nana wore – and I definitely was not allowed to wear mascara or deep coloured lipstick until I was over sixteen! Even then my mum would frown in disapproval. I was quite the ‘hippy chick’ though, and wore long straight hair, smock-tops and maxi-skirts, so wearing the ‘vamp’ look of black rimmed, smoky eyes, thick lashes and scarlet lipstick didn’t enter my consciousness until much later. Funny how 50 years on I’m back to that same style of long hair and smock tops and not much in the way of glamour! The circle of life continues…

I’m digressing as usual – back to the topic in hand. This young lady in question started with the cleansing and moisturising, then there was primer, blurring cream, concealer, foundation, contouring, blusher, highlighter, eyeshadow (3 or 4 colours blended together), eyeliner, mascara, false lashes, lip plumper, lip primer, lipliner, lipstick, lip-gloss and finally a spritz of water spray to ‘set’ it all. And the saddest thing was that it took away all the character and expression from her own face and transformed it into a mask that looked exactly the same as a million other social-media ‘influencers’ – all beautiful in their doll-like similarity. 

You might have noticed that in the regime described above I deliberately didn’t mention eyebrows. Eyebrows are certainly important since they add character to the face, but they seem to require a whole regimen of their own in today’s fashions. Back in the day you took a simple eyebrow pencil in a shade either as close to your natural hair or in black if you wanted to make a statement, and you drew an arch, somewhere along the lines following your actual eyebrow. 

Nothing so simple as that now – oh no!  Now you need a degree in maths and geometry because you have to measure distances and angles; there is even an app that you can use as a guide to tweeze, pluck, shave and decide thickness. You have to comb and brush and ‘tattoo’, ensuring absolute symmetry. You can have Fox Brows, Fluffy Brows – would you believe you can even get eyebrow transplants? Apparently, they take hair from the back of your head… I can’t imagine!

As one who, in my youth, would have given Frida Kahlo a run for her money in the monobrow stakes, I plucked my eyebrows to within an inch of their lives, but without the advice of TikTok or FB tutorials, of course I didn’t do it right. I was left, to this day, with a riotous growth of hairs growing in all directions if left unattended although now, thankfully, one of the very few benefits of aging is that my eyebrows have become lighter in colour and much sparser than before – so when I do make the effort and put on my ‘full slap’ I have invested in some eyebrow stencils so I can choose the width and thickness and fill in with a pencil. I haven’t tried them yet – I’ll keep you posted!

I’m so glad that once it’s done, I don’t have to look at my face! I leave that to be inflicted on those around me. So far, I don’t think I’ve frightened too many people away – I seem to scrub up quite well when I do make the effort.

Like many women though, I buy far too much makeup, probably more than I’ll ever use! The last time I sorted out my makeup ‘bag’ (which is actually more like a suitcase!) I threw out countless dried-up mascaras, liquid eyeliners and shadows, and the rest. I was disgusted with myself to find bottles of ‘Eye Dew’ drops; they were so old they didn’t even have use-by dates! And so many different types of foundation, ranging from the old faithful ‘Pan Stik’ to the latest ‘coverall’ concoctions that promise to transform wrinkled old crones (like me) into dewy-skinned debutantes half our ages. I found sets of lipsticks, unopened, going back thirty years!

But it’s strange how things that were normal for one age-group are considered appalling by younger generations. I remember a conversation not all that long ago with my lovely friend Ann-Marie, who is only in her forties, and we got talking about make-up. I recalled when I was little that when my mum was a young woman getting ready for an evening out, her mascara was a tiny palette of dried black powder, which you had to wet with spit before using a tiny toothbrush-shaped brush to apply to your lashes. Ann-Marie cringed in horror and disbelief exclaiming ‘That’s disgusting!’ and quite rightly so! But that was how it was in the 60s – perfectly normal.

If I could change anything about my looks, it would be my eyelashes. Mine have always been very sparse and short, and no amount of serum seems to help them to grow and thicken. I so envy my sister Mel, who has beautiful long eyelashes naturally which look amazing when she has her make-up on. All my life I’ve been searching for the perfect mascara, that will increase the volume and length without having to put on coat after coat of the stuff, that make my eyelashes clog together and irritate me so much I end up pulling off little balls of black, which more often than not include the actual lashes! I’ve tried using false eyelashes but I can never get them on straight and sooner or later one of them will start to resemble a small tarantula clinging on like grim death to my eyelid. I had some small measure of success with magnetic falsies, at least they’re easier to manage. But a selfie I took whilst wearing them was rejected for my passport photo because whatever program decides these things thought my eyes were closed! I ended up sending a photo completely sans makeup when I recently renewed my passport and on it, I look absolutely exhausted and as miserable as sin and every one of my 64 years and more – so now I’m stuck with that for the next ten years!

To return to the original topic yet again, it really does sadden me, that young girls feel they have to go through all this rigmarole to be accepted in social media circles or suffer negative feedback from their ‘followers’. In a world where very few people are naturally thin and beautiful, in what constitutes the accepted social measures of beauty, we have become very hard on people who don’t fit those measures. Thankfully, there seems to be a movement now that praises and encourages youngsters – and some of us older people too – to have confidence in their looks and bodies, and promotes self-esteem. The recent Dove ad campaign shows the ‘reverse-selfie’ claiming that our youngsters are under such a lot of pressure to meet the almost impossible standards required to be considered beautiful, or even acceptable looks-wise. I like that the Dove ads have always seemed to incorporate ‘real’ people of all shapes, sizes and looks into their ad campaigns. Just looking at their website, they have been promoting ‘self-esteem’ since 2004 and claim to have helped around 82 million people accept themselves as they are and boost their self-esteem. That can’t be a bad thing. What’s bad is that it’s so necessary!

It’s the same with hair removal. Again, with the age thing, all of my hair is now growing thinner including my body hair. Thankfully, my lady-garden doesn’t have to pass any sort of inspection so I leave it to do its own thing. I would never dream of wearing a bikini, hence no need for waxing. But when did it become law that women ‘must’ remove all of their bodily hair except for their brows, eyelashes and what’s on their heads? I know that I have previously bemoaned the fact that when we reach a certain age it triggers superfluous hair to sprout in the strangest places. I freely admit that I remove those whenever I need to look presentable. But why should the rest of our bodies be denuded until we look like pre-pubescent children? Time was, not all that long ago, one cultivated a tidy bush in the lady-garden area – let’s face it, no-one needs thatching crawling down one’s upper thighs and peeking out of our knicker legs! But it was considered quite normal to be somewhat hirsute in that region. In those days if you mentioned a Brazilian, you were talking about Pele or the rainforests. And don’t get me started on the ‘vajazzle’!

Likewise, I have been known to shave my legs, though I don’t these days because no-one sees them. I’m either wearing leggings or skirts down to my ankles, so what you don’t see doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned. When I was younger it was more of a necessity – if I didn’t shave regularly, you could be forgiven for thinking I was wearing furry plus-fours! And as for the armpits – do you remember not all that long ago there was an enormous hue and cry when Julia Roberts raised her proudly won Oscar and displayed her absolutely normal growth of underarm hair? The poor woman was practically vilified. I personally have not shaved my armpits since I was 21 years old, and there is a very good reason for this. In those far-off days I did so regularly, until the one time when one of those nasty ingrown hairs that result from shaving caused what I at first thought to be a little pimple. A few days later the pimple had grown into a lump that was very tender and very painful. When I when to the doctor he said it was a small abscess and gave me a course of antibiotics, but before they had chance to kick in the lump had grown even more and was so excruciating that couldn’t lower my arm to my side. So, I went back to the doc – he took one look at it and sent me straight to North Lonsdale Hospital. I had emergency surgery that afternoon and an overnight stay. Before I was discharged, I was told that the growth was so unstable that they didn’t dare lance it in case some of the poison went into my system, so instead they had to cut it out to make sure they got it all – it was an abscess the size of a man’s fist, so they said! Had it burst before the surgery, I wouldn’t be here today. I haven’t shaved my underarms since; Immac became my friend, but again, my natural hair is now so sparse as to be unnoticeable.

For most of her younger life, and like most women of that generation, my Mum visited the hairdresser once a week for a ‘shampoo and set’ and the occasional perm. In later years, she kept her hair mostly short but went for regular ‘cut and blow dry’, same style, same hairdresser each time with an occasional colour to keep the grey at bay. If you’ve seen any recent photos of me, you’ll know that I’m embracing the grey when it comes to my crowning glory. In my time I’ve been mousy, blonde, auburn, red, pink, blue and green, but not anymore. I would love to have a head of silver-grey hair all the same shade, but although my ‘Mallen Streaks’ (Google Catherine Cookson for reference) are white enough, the rest of the top of my head is salt-and-pepper whilst the length is still growing out my last colour. I keep my hair long (I can just about sit on it) but far from mucking around with straighteners and such like I just keep it plaited between washes or maybe the occasional ‘bun’ and that will do. I haven’t used curling tongs for at least 35 years since the fateful day, when getting ready to go nightclubbing I was in a hurry to change. I stripped off and sat on the bed to change my knickers – my right buttock landing right on the tongs I had plugged in earlier to style my hair. The pain felt like a thousand piranhas biting into my most tender flesh, resulting in not being able to sit down properly or wear knickers for the following week! I still bear the scar, as far as I’m aware – it has been many years since I looked!

I’m also aghast at the many on-line demonstrations of nail decorations these days. All the young girls seem to favour 2-inch-long talon-like ‘gel’ nails, painted in every kind of colour and pattern that you can think of. Which is all very well if you don’t have anything practical to do with your hands except to tap the keys on your mobile phone. How do they manage to cook, clean, scrub, chop, slice, change a nappy, dress a toddler, or even wipe their own bum, without stabbing themselves or ruining the nail art? I’ll admit to using the occasional ‘stick-on’ falsie for a special occasion, but otherwise, forget it!

I think I’m definitely a low-maintenance woman – I blame it on my age, as I do everything else. Not for me the hours of plucking, waxing, shaving, dermaplaning (what does that even mean??), massaging, moisturising every inch of skin, hair-dyeing, highlighting, curling, straightening, etc, etc, etc. I get up each day and wash my face, brush my teeth, get dressed (in my comfies), brush my hair and that’s it! I allow hair to grow in places not visible to the outside world, and now and again I’ll paint my nails and put on make up if I’m going somewhere – which these days is very rare indeed.

But I’m happy, and I don’t give a bugger what anyone else thinks. I’d rather spend all my time doing something useful or enjoyable, like writing my books and reading, than to waste precious hours primping and preening. And, yes, I am proud of that!

Maybe one day when I’ve sold a million books and I have minions and secretaries to do everything for me, I’ll sort out my wardrobe and put in a bit of effort in my self-presentation. Until then, I’ll stay in my comfies and live a low maintenance life.  What do you think? Are you a high-maintenance Goddess or like me, a low-brow slob? Is there a happy medium? Why don’t you let me know your opinion? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next week,

LH

By lizziehughesauthor

Hello! I'm Liz, a writer from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, although I'm originally from t'other side o't hill as they say around here. I'm from Barrow in Furness, which was in Lancashire when I was born - still, whether it's Lancashire or Cumbria, it still makes me a Northern Lass. That means I'm honest, straightforward and feisty. My current book is (very) loosely based on my family history, though the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!) I'm hoping to publish in April 2022, or possibly earlier. Watch this space!

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