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January 18, 2013

Becoming High Maintenance


Photo Credit: Ashley Macknica

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The next day, I find myself breathlessly racing from a teeth-whitening appointment (cleaning plus bleaching equals two hours!) to a nail salon to the office. Here's the crazy thing: As harried as I feel, looking like I've got it all pulled together does seem to make a difference. When I arrive at a soiree that evening, a colleague points out that my perfect nails match my shirt. "You look amazing," she coos in front of my boss, who beams. I am gracious.

Emboldened by the flattery, I make grander moves. I spend an entire afternoon at the Sally Hershberger salon. It's extremely boring to sit around under a heat lamp for hours, but I emerge gloriously highlighted as if angels and unicorns have gently kissed each individual tress. Another day, I visit a Park Avenue dermatologist's office for Pelleve, which is basically a facial on amphetamines. A warm radio-frequency wand massages my skin to spike collagen production, which leaves me slightly inflamed, but at least I look amazing and younger. One morning, I even give false lashes a go, but I'm met with strange glances all day, only to realize back home that one of my lashes has been hanging on by a corner.

In the following two-week blur of heat styling and lipstick stains, I skip workouts (Cardio Crunch would ruin my hair) and socializing — I spend more time with aestheticians than with friends. Luckily, Shya and I are invited to a weekend at a friend's country house upstate. But the morning after we arrive, instead of bounding down the stairs in my pajamas and tucking into a Bloody Mary, I find myself flat-ironing my drizzly-weather hair and curling my lashes as the aroma of bacon wafts up from the kitchen. By the time I make it downstairs, breakfast is long gone.

Being deprived of vodka beverages and pork products is the last straw. Because after a month of really, really trying, I'm absolutely exhausted. While the compliments stroke my ego, I'm not sure anyone takes me more or less seriously just because my hair is well-coiffed, and the anxiety of trying to look perfect all the time makes me weirdly self-conscious. The sheer amount of time and energy devoted to my appearance looms large. Similarly astronomical: the money spent. Let's just say I could have purchased at least two pairs of Nicholas Kirkwoods, with change to spare. I'm also certain my coworkers are annoyed with my constant "errands." And at home, instead of my spouse being dazzled, our relationship suffers from neglect due to my endless primping.

In the end, it's not worth sacrificing my carefree lifestyle. Looking flawless 24/7 simply isn't realistic — plus, it's liberating to shirk the pressure to be perfect, self-imposed or otherwise. Not so gradually, I give in to my inner slovenliness, with a few caveats: I'll skip the soap-star makeup, but I kind of like the idea of getting my hair blown out once a week and coasting on dry shampoo. Ditto for manicures, but I'll stick to nude polish for extra mileage. That's just about all the glamour I need.

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