The ugly truth in beauty magazines

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The eyebrows have it

eyebrows3There’s only one part of my body that I don’t want to be any thinner.

My eyebrows.

These bits of hair that sit above eyes are so important. It’s utterly correct when our eyebrows are called the frames of our faces.

For us women, our eyebrows are a hugely significant aspect of our appearance. They are one of the most defining features of our faces, and we pay a lot of attention to them. Keeping them in tip-top shape for me is an essential.

Especially because mine are blonde. So I spend a spend a lot of time and money getting them tinted.

And tattooed. Yep, I’ve taken the plunge. Those suckers sitting above my eyes are now inked baby. It’s kinda cool to finally, in my late 40s, be able to say “yes” when someone asks me if I’ve got a tattoo.

It all started about three or four years ago. I was getting my nails done and I made the most rookiest of rookie errors.

You see, I needed an eyebrow wax and tint. I do this every four weeks. Because they’re blonde, without the tint I resemble an alien with a pronounced forehead and mothership issues. If I don’t get around to having the tint, I am left with no option but to attempt to draw them in myself. This often results in hilarious outcomes, especially if I’m going out at night and am having a warm-up wine. It also doesn’t help that I usually need glasses for looking at things up close.

This also results in me wiping my brow because it’s hot or I’m laughing, and – whoosh – there go my eyebrows, or worse, there goes one of them and I look unbalanced. Which is easy to do when I’ve been drinking but not a look I’d aspire to longer term.

Now my usual plan of action is to attend with a supremely talented Chinese lady who waxes and plucks and tints with enormous concentration. There’s even some alignment thing with her ruler and the side of my nose. Not sure, but she says she does it to make sure they’re exactly even. That makes sense.

But on this particular day, at my nail place, I was desperately short of time, and desperately in need of eyebrow attention. As she’s filing and painting, my nail lady casts a casual wave to the corner of the room and says, “Bec over there can do your eyebrows.”

I said “sure”. And that’s where I went wrong.

Here’s a piece of advice that I really want you to take. So pay attention. Before you get your eyebrows done, take a long, hard look at the eyebrows of the lady who is attending to them, and let your feeling about that look be your decider.

Bec’s eyebrows weyebrows2ere thinner than Nicole Kidman. A fact I didn’t notice until after she’d done the wax and tint and joyfully handed me a mirror so I could admire her handiwork.

Pretty much three-quarters of my eyebrows were gone. Forty years of growing them, and in one heroic strip of wax, they were gone.

Now I also had eyebrows that were thinner than Nicole Kidman.

If this ever happens to you, let me be the first to tell you that your eyebrows never really “grow back”. You think they will – after all, the hair on your legs never stops sprouting, nor does that whisker that feels like a tree stump coming out of your chin.

Not so much with the eyebrows.

I laboured way with the tinting for a while. It failed. I tinted and pencilled and drew and whatever and it didn’t really work.

Of course my supremely talented Chinese lady was mortified. And a bit angry. Take Crayola to a Picasso and then get the artist to clean it up. That sort of thing.

So a year or so ago, I had my eyebrows tattooed. By the supremely talented Chinese lady. I can’t believe people do this for fun. That scratching, picking thing where the pain is so niggling I think I’m going nuts.

Then I’ve got three days of looking like Mal Maninga in his hey-day before I can put any sort of liquid over them and the colour begins to settle down.

But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Well, no… Marrying Alan was the best thing I’ve ever done. Oh and having Jade. And starting this blog.

Ok, it’s up there in the top ten.

Be kind to your eyebrows girls, because, like your knees, you will miss them if they’re gone.

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Hair crash investigations

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I’ve just returned from my hairdresser, $155 and four inches of hair lighter. The $155 I’m ok with, as this includes a colour, a toner, a treatment, a cut and a straighten.

The four inches of hair is another matter. It is a result of a hair crash.

I’ve always embraced long hair. Apart from that short period circa 1981 when I went all Diana-esque – if I couldn’t have a prince, I was sure as shit going to have a princess’s hair – it’s been long, long, long. Like do it up on your head long. Like plait it long.

And it seems that just when I’ve got it looking amazing, I do something brainless to ruin it and then spend the next year or two recouping.

Here’s what I mean.

About 1985, I landed on the brilliant idea of having a “body wave” put through my hair. Think Farrah Fawcett. Lots of lustrous fat curls all sweeping and swooning about.

I instructed my hairdresser as to my wish. Pulled out copies of TV Week to demonstrate. And I walked out of that salon with hair curled as short and tight as the old lady who calls bingo on Tuesdays in the Valley.

I’d noticed he was cutting quite a bit of my hair off. I’d noticed that the rollers he was using were worryingly small. But I had faith. Belief. What a sucker. Turns out that LJ’s Hair Salon in Coorparoo specialises in perms for the lawn bowls set and I got caught up in their pensioner enthral.

I rushed home and washed it and blew it dry and washed it again. I kept it wringing wet for the next 24 hours. But just like a pensioner in the right lane, those curls weren’t moving.

I put my head down and waited for it to grow again.

Which it must have, because when my daughter was born in 1991, there are pictures of me in unattractive hospital gowns with metres of hair all down my back.

Not much went wrong in the 1990s, mainly because I was too busy working full time, raising my girl, paying back a home loan that Paul Keating had set at 17% and getting divorced.

So I was a bit late to join the Jennifer Aniston/Rachel Green hairstyle party. I’d known about it, I’d seen the invitations, but I’d never gone along. I was determined to change that.

So I rang my hairdresser at the time. Groovy lady, ran some uber-cool salon in that antiques precinct in Woolloongabba. Comes complete with Foxtel, champers, ensuite, gay assistant and scalp massages.

I must admit I sprung my visit on her. I committed that heinous offence of ringing in the morning for an afternoon appointment. So I wasn’t surprised when she remorsefully conveyed the news that she was, in fact, already booked (doh!) but if I really wanted to come, her associate Greta could assist.

I said that would be fine.

Not realising the catastrophic mistake I’d made, I arrived for my hair cut confident in the fact that if the lovely Greta is working under the tutelage of my fabulous hairdresser, nothing can go wrong.

So Greta is chatting to me about her adorable son, I’m throwing in appreciative quips and anecdotes about my daughter, her scissors are doing their thing, blonde hair (mine) is scattered across the floor, I’m paying little or no attention – until I glance up from my magazine to see a huge chunk of my long hair fall victim to her sharp scissors. From a place on my head where I had asked for it to please stay long.

It’s pretty hard to get upset at a hairdresser when you’re sitting in a chair with plastic wrapped around you like a straight jacket, and they’re holding sharp scissors, sometimes upwards of three pairs at once.

Instead of a gentle layering around the front of my face, she’s hacked at right angles, creating this harsh stepped layering. It was awful.

I grabbed her wrist, and pleaded with her to stop. “You’re ruining my hair!” I wailed.

“But it’s the Rachel cut,” she countered.

It seems that her version of Rachel was somewhat different to mine. I think the Rachel she was referring to was on work release and lived with her tattoos and rollies in a caravan park down near Eagleby.

I wore my hair up for nine months after that one.

Around 2007, I got myself in trouble again, and this time there was no one to blame but me. My GHD straighteners were less than a year old but were put to good use most days. No more hours of blow drying, no more clumpy “snakey” hair, just a perfect sheet of blonde.

On this particular day, I shooshed a bit of hairspray on the front strands to hold them in place. I examined the end result and wasn’t totally happy as my hair wasn’t as straight as I’d prefer.

Not to worry, I thought, as I fired up my straightener and swiped its paddles over my hair. A sizzling noise, not dissimilar to pork fat being thrown onto a super hot bbq griddle, was emitted. A hideous smell not dissimilar to rancid meat being microwaved was expelled.

I’d burnt my own hair. The chemicals in the hairspray clearly weren’t too happy when the heat was applied and they took it out on my hair. How could I be so dumb!?

It ended with me at the hairdresser in tears, watching my locks fall around me as this poor fellow muttered to himself in Spanish about how silly blonde women shouldn’t be given access to things that required heat. Or electricity.

Which brings me to my recent hairdresser visit. You see, one night a few months ago, it was quite late and I was in my bathroom taking out my hair. That morning, I’d tied it in a high ponytail, looped the tail part over the elastic and then messily pinned it to create one of those chaotic-on-purpose hairstyles.

It had been a long day. I was heading overseas on holidays the following week and there was much to do at work to get things in order. I’d lurched home late, guzzled a glass of wine, reheated a plate of food, and then headed to the bathroom for a shower.

As I was taking my hair out, the elastic band got caught. The more I pulled and tugged the more my hair entwined itself around the offending elastic. Desperate for a shower and sleep, I grabbed some scissors and maleficently chopped at the elastic band.

Without a mirror.

After a glass of wine.

As I snipped, I heard a sound and remember thinking, “this can’t be good.” It wasn’t. I pulled away and in my hand was a good six inches of my hair, and no elastic in sight.

It was, of course, still caught in my hair.

My wailing brought my husband, who cut the elastic for me, after he had finished rolling on the floor in laughter. For better or worse anyone?

The next day I was at the hairdresser, having layers and layers cut all around my hair in an attempt to hide the cruelty of my home haircut, while my hairdresser and all her assistants rolled about on the floor in laughter.

Which brings me to this week, where I can proudly say that my hair has been behaving nicely and growing steadily, and the four inches I lost yesterday brings the layers of my hair closer together.

Once upon a time, I used to get my hair and nails done at the same place. Triple As for convenience in geographical location and efficiency in dialogue. I didn’t have to make separate trips and I didn’t have to give the same updates twice. They could cut, file and listen together.

Until the day dawned, about three years into this mutually festive partnership, that I was no longer thrilled with the quality of my nails. I knew I’d have to find another technician. Which women of the world will understand meant I had to find a new hairdresser as well. I could hardly waltz in there for a haircut and bypass the nail studio. I had to cut all ties (pun intended) and start again.

Here’s hoping I get to the end of this decade without another disaster. My husband has my hairdresser on speed dial, however, just in case.

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Girl, you’ll be a woman soon

Every now and then, I topple over and twist my ankle. Sometimes it’s because I’ve had too much to drink and my heels are too high and my husband is too far away for me to balance against him.

Sometimes it’s because I’m making like Elle Macpherson and jogging on the beach in a bikini and go A over T in a hole in the sand.

Sometimes I am just walking down the street minding my own business and over I go. My husband always tells me not to walk and text at the same time.

The result of this constant clumsiness is that my ankle invariably ends up tightly bandaged in this stretchy crepe material for a few days.

And on Christmas Day, at the buffet lunch at the Gold Coast casino, I found out that the same stretchy stuff is now being used for dresses.

Or so it appeared. [Read more…]

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Wax on, wax off

It’s like any form of female body hair is reviled these days. Viewed with immense disdain. A slight screwing up of the nose and an almost imperceptible shudder. Similar reaction to when I see, say, a dead cockroach on my kitchen floor or that Paris Hilton music video. Or when Lover Bloke asks me to get him another beer from the fridge.

Eeewwwwwwww.

Women have been shaving the hair off their legs for an eternity. Well, actually I don’t know whether it is in fact an eternity, there’s certainly no reference to it in the Bible, but let’s just generalise and say quite a while.

I know there are some women who espouse more liberal views and enjoy a more hirsute look. And that’s about choice. One woman’s Matthew McConaughey is another woman’s Kevin Rudd. Etc.

We shave it off from under our arms. How else can we be expected to grace the beaches, bars and boulevards of south east Queensland in our fabulous Escada singlets and Lorna Jane gear with under arm fuzz. Unthinkable.

The face is an entire stand-alone episode. A postcode if you will. Correct eyebrow shape and definition is a facial must. Ignoring your eyebrows is like ignoring a 75% off all stock sale at Tiffany’s-it’s something that you just don’t do.

Women will shell out $50 without hesitation to get the perfect eyebrow shape. Eyebrow salons now account for over half of this country’s GDP. Sydney eyebrow doyen Sharon-Lee Hamilton is worshipped globally. Even my adored Princess Mary popped into her parlour for a reshape last time she was in the harbour city.

A hairless top lip is also essential. No woman needs to resemble a walrus, even if it is that time of the month. I was holidaying at Coolangatta earlier this year and popped out for a top lip wax, as you do. The beautician was telling me that every three months she actually waxes the entire bottom half of her face. Now that’s commitment.

And so it has come to pass that the area our mothers told us to stay away from, the one we later found out is reserved for bedroom romps and birthing babies, is under scrutiny.

Let’s not beat around the bush. If you’re not sporting a Brazilian you’re no sport at all. And so somehow I ended up in a salon with my knickers on the floor, my legs in the air and my modesty out the window.

My good friend Hot Wax, which to date had spent its time amusing my face had found a new playground. My playground. Mei, this tiny Chinese woman unapologetically splashed the wax around my mound, then had the temerity to not only rip it off, but to show me the offending strip. There’s a few things in my life I’m not interested in seeing and that’s one of them.

Let me tell you about the rip. It goes like this. Turn up the music and let it rrrriiippppppppppp. Apparently it is customary for the waxer to throw your legs over their shoulder or ask you to moon them so they can get the strays. Without even asking me out for a drink first.

The pain was like nothing I have experienced. Well apart from that time I broke my foot and was in plaster for eight weeks. I told everyone that it was dark, the stairs were slippery and the strap on my sandal was a bit loose. The truth is I was pissed off my nut and forgot that walking down stairs involves the careful placement of one foot in front of the other. A simple mistake that anybody could make.

Or the first time I went to a sushi restaurant and thought the wasabi was avocado. And I really love avocado.

The worst part was knowing that the searing pain wasn’t going to happen just once, or, at the worst, twice. The whole rrrriiiiipppppppping process was going to continue, over and over and over, until the dear thing was bald.

I felt comfortable in letting loose with a few expletives because Mei, bless her, didn’t appreciate compound English words. I’m not sure if f*** is a universally interpreted word or whether each dialect has its own derivative, but I didn’t care. I let them rip. Or should I say rrrriiiiipppppppp.

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Making a formal approach

My current introspective retro phase would not be complete without sufficient attention being paid to formals. School formals. Grade 12 formals. Or Year 12 as they say in the new currency.

As a mum, I witnessed my daughter Jade’s Year 12 formal. She was an All Hallows girl, so those of you from Brisbane will know exactly what I’m talking about – a school on a large tract of land, smack bang on the river, good elevation, naturally freehold title to the Catholic faith.

Mind you, I was a Lourdes Hill girl – again, a large tract of land, smack bang on the River, good elevation, naturally freehold title to the Catholic faith. I was merely continuing the generation

That Pope of ours is quite asset-wealthy, I figure.

I’ll get onto Jade’s formal eventually, in a separate post. You need to hear about mine first. This story is too good to gloss over.

To start with, I did not have a date. I’d just broken up with a Villanova boy called David (for my out-of-town readers, Villanova being a boys Catholic school built on a hill in Brisbane; David being either something once in Royal City or so the Christmas carol leads us to believe; or my first true love – if anyone reading knows him, please ask him to drop me a Facebook friend request.)

Now, back in 1982, gays weren’t fashionable nor recognised, so I couldn’t use that card. We didn’t have boys as “friends”. We didn’t even consider boys as equals. Your brother was a close as you could get to “a mate”. Or a formal date

So in lieu of taking my brother, I pleaded with a girlfriend to cough up a mate of her boyfriend’s. Pathetic. I know. I was desperate.

His name was Louis and his car of choice to drive me to my formal was an open-topped Suzuki 4WD. Imagine what that did to my carefully coiffured hair. And my self-esteem.

Considering my self-esteem had already taken a battering. And here’s why. With my part-time income from Woolworths, I’d bought this hideous dress which I thought was the epitome of elegance. However, my darling mother and all her 1950s neurotic upbringing alerted me to the fact that only prostitutes wore black underwear. Therefore I was forced to wear a beige bra under this black chiffon creation. You can imagine the result. Or see it for yourself in the pic I’ve included

On top of that, I got it in my head that I would look elegant and sophisticated if I had my hair up. Back then, my hair was long and naturally blonde but I wanted it styled in a manner that made me resemble Princess Anne on a good hair/bad horse day.

I’ve never looked uglier.

The only concession out of this is that I continually win when we have “bring in your ugly childhood photo” day at work. The prize is that I get to eat the last Tim-Tam.

My school issued a set of rules for our formal, a 1982 code of conduct, if you will. One of the rules: “girls are encouraged not to smoke at the formal”. As opposed to the 2010 version: “girls will be instantly expelled if caught within four metres of someone who used to smoke 10 years ago”. Look at this pic – yes, he’s smoking!

There were nuns a-plenty at my school, meaning there were nuns a-plenty at the formal. If you were sitting on a boy’s lap, or having a bit of a canoodle (what a gorgeous word) they would barge right up and melodically say “telephone book, telephone book” which was code for “get off that boy, you are one second away from getting pregnant, I don’t care that he goes to St Laurance’s” (insert Melbourne Grammar, Scots College, Eton etc, whatever your geographical equivalent).

Even back in 1982, we still had “post formals”. My daughter would like to believe that her generation invented this concept. Like they believe they invented sex, getting drunk and lying to your parents. It was with great glee that I told her she was about 25 years in arrears.

My mum and dad, bless them, had prepared chicken, cheese and champagne as our after-formal supper. Again, the height of 80s sophistication – a BBQ chook chopped up, some cubed Coon and a bottle of the frightful Asti Riccadonna.

Except in the 30-minute period they spent standing at the front fence waiting for their young charges to arrive, our dog, a loyal but hungry cattle dog, happily jumped up on the table and devoured the chicken and cheese, bones included. I think he was almost waiting for my Dad to fill his water bowl up with Riccadonna. Not a bad move. Less for me.

And you have to remember, this was the Brisbane days of no pizza delivery, everything worthwhile shut at 8pm, no 7-11 or Night Owl.

Mum, ever the stalwart, found us some pickled onions. We didn’t care. We were already pickled.

Louis and I had a “pleasant” evening. He and his pale grey suit truly wanted to get out of the disaster zone and away from my freakish hair as quickly as possible.

To this day, I still wished I’d got a “disco pash” at my formal. Even if the dog was watching.

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Anti-waist matter

Sometimes, when I’m watching re-runs of Kath & Kim, I get a bit nervous. Not because I’ll start referring to my lounge room as “the good room”. Not because of the sight of Kim’s offensive g-string or the atrocious way she speaks to Brett.
It’s Kath’s high waisted jeans that scare the pants off me. They are seriously one of the ugliest fashion fallouts I’ve ever seen. Along with Peter Pan collars, bubble skirts and Whitney Houston.

I fear that high waists will again become a prime target on the fashion radar. That head Vogue-ette Anna Wintour will come back a bit pissed one day from lunch at The Plaza and think, “You know what would be funny? To send out an email to my mates Oscar, Cristóbal, Ralph, Caroline etc saying it’s time to pull their designer pants up.”

The fashion world follows La Wintour’s advice the way the Pope follows Jesus. Religiously. Before we can say “where the bloody hell are you”, Australian shops will boast piles of jeans, all with 25 centimetre long zips. I’m convinced style mavens will also insist we tuck in our tops.

Our shapely bums will be lost on a vast canvas of denim and our tummies, post partum or otherwise, will do that bulging thing making it look like we’re masking a water feature or Roseanne Barr.

I’m the sort of girl who will sit in coffee shops and nudge my girlfriends while surreptitiously casting my eyes in the direction of a passing unfortunate who clearly hasn’t been into Just Jeans since the mid 80s. She’ll be wearing jeans that threaten to snuggle in under her armpits and that rudely stop just above her ankle. Teamed with high heels. Ouch.

We collectively mutter “can you b-e-l-i-e-v-e it?!” and sneak a look at the length of our own hems just to make sure there was no pot calling the hem length black hypocrisy.

Jeans are the cornerstone to most of my ensembles. Have been for years. Born in France and raised in America, denim jeans came of age in Australia when we realised they weren’t the sole proprietary of jackaroos and The Fonz.

Wear them with a fitted white t-shirt and Dunlop Volleys, or a lace top and silver pointy toe stilettos. Wear them to work on a Friday with black ankle boots and a fawn coloured Witchery jersey top.

Just never ever wear them if they’ve got a high waist. I don’t care how fabulous your silver pointy toe stilettos are.

I’ve got my hands on my hips about this one.

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