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January 18, 2013

Becoming High Maintenance

Serial beauty slacker Erin Flaherty experiments with priming, polishing, and shellacking to see whether flawlessness really has its privileges.

woman looking in mirror

Photo Credit: Sharland/Getty Images

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When's the last time you took a shower?" my well-scrubbed husband asks (from across the room). I not-so-inconspicuously sniff my armpits. "You're like that Peanuts character, the one with the flies buzzing over his head — Pig-Pen!" he says, grinning. I'm aware that this exchange usually plays out in reverse in most heterosexual relationships. But despite my day job as a beauty editor for Marie Claire, the truth is I'm rather, shall we say, bohemian. My blowdryer retired in the '90s; my short, raggedy-cuticled nails are rarely painted. Brows? I like them full. Waxing? Come on. My morning beauty routine: Brush hair, splash face, brush teeth. Total time? Five minutes. Recently, however, a survey done by this very magazine suggested people react more positively to those who literally keep up appearances. Is my neglect undermining my professionalism? I wonder. In the spirit of New Year's self-improvement, I vow to make the extra effort in 2013: I'll become a high-maintenance woman.

I spend one last deliciously dressed-down weekend dreaming of how glossy I'll look come Monday. But that morning arrives all too soon, and when the alarm goes off (I hit snooze once — OK, twice), the enormity of this lifestyle change faces me in the mirror. Glancing nervously at the ticking clock, I jump into the shower, wash my hair, perform a full-body exfoliation worthy of Patrick Bateman, and even apply lotion, which I never, ever do. Wiping the dust off the hair dryer that had been banished to a remote region of the closet next to old tax returns and my wedding dress, I dart back to the bathroom and find that, miraculously, it roars back to life! Less awe-inspiring is my inability to navigate the DIY blowout. Between the humidity from the shower and the heat of my ancient Sunbeam 1500, any progress I seem to make is stymied by the fact that I am sweating. In the end, this is not the work of Vidal Sassoon.

I hear my husband, Shya, wake and begin knocking on the door: "Hey, are you almost done?" I decide to do my makeup in the living room, then remember to check the time. How has an hour passed?! In full-on crisis mode, I hurriedly type a flimsy e-mail to my boss about needing to deal with a leak in my apartment, then slick on foundation, concealer, blush, and more as if my life depends on it. I throw on a silk shift, heels, even a necklace (Nice touch! I think), and hurl myself out the door, much to Shya's bemusement.

I may look fantastic — well, the hair is questionable — but I'm also more than an hour late to work. That's when I decide to start cheating. Later that afternoon, I announce to my coworkers that I need to run an errand. The task at hand, though, is scoring a real blowout at a nearby salon. It takes exactly 80 minutes, which is regrettable, but my bad behavior is justified when, back at the office, a colleague says, "Oh, Erin, you always look so great!" See? Even one day of looking fabulous can fool others into thinking that's always the case. Now I am really motivated: Facials, waxes, self-tanning sessions, hair color treatments — I get on the phone and start booking appointment after appointment. It's so time-consuming, I cancel drinks with a friend. Clearly, I'm too busy.

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