Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I can no longer afford to be me. At least not the me I wanna be.
All those luxuries I've added to my life over the years—the highlights, the pedicures, the nice nails--were all rooted in a little dabbling here, some experimenting there. But now they've become needs, adding up to more than my limited budget can tolerate.
The hair coloring began innocently enough, ages ago. As I sat with my hair cooking in a bath of chemicals to achieve that "natural" wave my Irish setter-like hair lacked, I stared across the salon as a mousy-haired woman transformed from caterpillar to butterfly with just a bowl of colored paste, a handful of foil, and an skilled hairdresser. While I ended up with yet another bad poodle perm, this woman was leaving the place looking like a million bucks.
"Oooh, I want that," I told the girl doing my hair, pointing at blondie. Maybe my stylist should've kept mum, cause I soon "divorced" her in lieu of the one who did good color, and--realizing that God invented hair coloring for a reason--I became a devotee for life (or so I'd hoped). I justified the quarterly expense, because I'd have been paying for the poodle perm anyhow, so I just traded one set of chemical costs for another. But no one told me the older I got the more I'd need to "use." Yeah, like a junkie with an expensive habit, this four time a year gig needed yet more upkeep. It didn’t help when a drunken guy at a party called me out on my emerging roots while towering over my scalp at the bar, waiting for a drink he clearly didn't need.
"Whatsh with the giraffe look?" he slurred, pointing at the definitive color change at the top of my head as he spat in my direction, unable to control his spittle.
"Um, I think you mean skunk," I snarled, wishing I had the moxie to toss a drink in his face for his rudeness. Nevertheless, I took the hint: I could no longer conserve cash by holding out on highlights a few extra weeks.
Then came the pedicures, which started innocently enough. And took on a great urgency after considering my husband's grandmother's feet. I'd be lying if I said I didn't recoil in horror just a bit the first time I saw Grandma Jo's untamed honkers, feet that clearly had not seen a day of maintenance in at least a generation. After regaining my composure, I duly vowed to never neglect my feet till they crusted up and had to be jammed awkwardly into orthopedic shoes like hers. Surely a pedicure could help to avoid such a downward spiral.
Little did I know that the older you get the more a regular pedicure is essential for both body and spirit (okay, maybe in a vain and superficial way).
Then came the nail gels, which started innocently enough. A couple of years ago, my daughter tried to quell a nail-biting habit by getting gel nails, which are impossible to bite. When she began sporting attractive fingernails like you'd see on a hand model, I couldn't stop the nail envy that crept in, because I'd always had weak, wimpy nails. An added bonus? That wonderful nail-tapping ability I was sorely lacking in my life. So I got a little hooked.
Then came the brows (to avoid the brow-less look), which started innocently enough, at the behest of a neighbor. My eyebrows are fair (proof I really was once blonde), and so you can barely see half of them, leaving the other part to look like Hitlerian mustaches perched above each eye. The results of that first brow tint were, uh, eye-opening, like a mini stitch-free face lift. Cue the waxing, which really did become a necessity as my middle-aged vision deteriorated--who can see to tweeze those tiny stray hairs above your eyes if you can't wear reading glasses? And then my eyebrow expert suggested the eyelash tinting. I was a skeptic. But not keen on mascara. In fact, you know I've gone all out if I show up at your event with mascara on. So the idea of dark and luxurious lashes without annoying mascara was very tempting. And wow, what a difference! Is this starting to sound familiar? I won't even get into the gym habit at this point. Suffice it to say it's hardly in my limited budget.
I actually have a serious point to convey while poking fun at my vanity. My expensive habits make me especially sad for so many other people, and not because they might soon witness the unadulterated (i.e. more like Grandma Jo) me. But because my costly indulgences are superficial ones. So many others these days who once could afford groceries, mortgages, even health insurance are having to make hard decisions—like whether to "splurge" for food or shelter--in order to keep their lives together. I've seen them waiting patiently in line at my church's food pantry, and lined up for dinner when I help with meals at the Salvation Army.
So while I hate having to make choices that mean I might not be the me I want to be on the outside, I remain mindful that these are small sacrifices by comparison to many others in these tough economic times.
Of course the hard choice now will be whether I want to more resemble a giraffe, or Grandma Jo.