Shattered Illusions*

06 May

About a year ago, a health care professional offered to glue artificial lashes to my lids.  Glue. Something. To. My. Eyelids.  This offer(?) wasn’t prompted by any medical need.  There’s been no adverse reaction to any treatment or genetic syndrome.  All of my eye hair is present and accounted for.  The woman in scrubs explained that ‘eyelash extension’ was the new big thing.  I replied that false eyelashes were in fact one of the oldest big things.  Ah, but false eyelashes are removed!  The glue she was offering was permanent or until the false hairs drop off (preferably not into something one is cooking.)

When the (head) hair extension phenomenon picked up steam, I found it amusing.  I’ve yet to spot an extension that looks even remotely organic.  I can still picture that mother and daughter having lunch.  They had identical yellow extensions all over their heads.  The shared the same length and shade and visible knots all over the back of their heads.  What kind of psychodrama was playing out that afternoon in which they wouldn’t tell each other that their slips were showing?

The zeal for spray tanning has not faded either.  If you’ve ever been overcome by a sudden mob of midwestern high school seniors on their school trip to Times Square, you might feel a bit like Willy Wonka.  These orange little people are everywhere.  Acrylic nails don’t seem to be going anywhere too soon either.  But if you’ve ever seen them on toes, you’d agree it’s time to ratchet it back a bit.  If people have the time, money and inclination to cover themselves in synthetics, so be it.  There are worse hobbies/vices.  But I would draw the line at gluing things to one’s eye!  What is so striking about all this artifice is how terribly retro it is.  It’s reminiscent of the 1950s; a time that was not all that great for a lot women.

Cone bras and girdles are now push-up bras (and surgery) and girdles with the naughty name; Spanx.  (It’s so much more empowering to have your innards squished when you can wink at the product.)  Hair was set in rollers every night and “done” at the beauty parlor once a week.  Today, hair may or may not be coming from your scalp.  Scalp hair is chemically straightened (because straight hair is fashionable right now) or professionally blown out several times a week (today’s women apparently lack the upper body strength of their ancestors.)  Fashion has a very retro feel as well, with strapless dresses being de rigueur for a decade or so now.  The 1950’s pointy toed pointy heeled shoe has eaten its Wheaties and grown big and tall.  (There’s nothing quite as sad as a woman who can not walk in her own shoes.)

I’m not ready to scream “conspiracy,” but there is something about keeping women in a 1950s mindset that is discomforting.  Do I think eyelash extensions are part of the war on women’s health care?  Not exactly.  Do I think selling young women on the idea of physicality above intellectuality is the backlash of the second wave of feminism?  Probably.  Let me be clear; fashion is fun.  But sometimes it can slide into raison d’etre.  It takes an enormous amount of time (and resources) to emulate Barbie.  When you’re not gluing on hair, you’re lasering it off.  There’s the plumping and the smoothing, the changing of eye-color according to the season.  All this while, finding the “It” bag of the millisecond.  There’s also the unrelenting pursuit of whatever brand is being sold by the celebrity of the moment.

Maybe there wouldn’t be even a whiff of political overtone if men were engaged in the same pursuits.  The majority of the (heterosexual) pairings I’ve witnessed indicate that men are caring less about their appearance as women are caring more.  Perhaps there is only a finite amount of superficiality which can exist on the planet?  Women seem to go to great lengths (no hair extension pun intended) to dress as men seem to look like a 12 year old who just got their wish from Zoltar to “be Big.”  There is certainly a budding relationship between these polarities.  Hopefully it won’t result in more distance between people.

*He thinks I’m lovely but entre nous,
My lashes and nails are stuck on with glue.
Oh, his shattered illusions

Fascinating Aida – Dillie Keane (1983)

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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Style


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