Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vanity, Thy Name Is...

by Caren Crane

...Caren? I often wonder if I'm as vain as I suspect. I am by no means a beauty, but I find myself spending inordinate amounts of time (and money) worrying about my hair, my skin, those fine lines appearing around my eyes. That one line that wants to surface under my lower lip. Well, you get my drift. There are at least a dozen - okay, maybe a hundred - things I could critique concerning my hair/face/body at any given time. If I'm not vain, I am at least a bit self-obsessed.

Vanity is a polarizing subject. We (women especially) don't like to talk about it. When asked, people tend to either 'fess up (like I do! *waves madly*) or deny they possess even a jot of the vile stuff. I mean, who wants to admit they are a know...stuck on themselves? That they measure their pores, carry out search and destroy missions on stray eyebrow hairs and scrutinize their scalps for signs of gray.

And yet...

Marketing firms know just how vain we all are. Why else would companies spend a gazillion dollars telling us how great we'll look if we use their product, drive their car, drink their fancy vitamin water? They know that deep down inside we all want to look like a supermodel, dress like a fashion maven, posess silky-smooth hair, a blindingly white smile, mile-long legs and ankles with nary a spider vein. Even if we have a Popsicle's chance in Hades of acheiving any of these things, it doesn't keep us from buying one more shade of lipstick. One more lash-extending mascara. A new wrinkle-diminishing moisturizer. An age-defying hair conditioner with hemp (okay, maybe that's just me *g*).

I wrote a book where the heroine had been a beauty queen in her youth. She was from a long line of beauty queens and was raising her daughter to carry on the family tradition. For Katie, beauty was part of life. She had always been beautiful and always expected to be, as far as her age and circumstances would allow. It was something she took for granted, like someone who has a lovely singing voice takes her voice for granted or someone with a facility for languages thinks anyone could learn Portugese if they wanted to. Katie had flaws like the rest of us, but not on the outside. Hers were deep-seated, internal issues.

I got a LOT of negative comments about this heroine. Women didn't like her, despite the fact that she had been a good wife to her late husband, was the best mom she knew how to be, was a loyal friend and was kind to animals. She had also been cheated on by her husband. Yet, readers had trouble sympathizing with her. Why? Because she was beautiful. We love beauty and we hate it. Or we hate those with it. When a beautiful woman is also nice, we are suspicious and want to pick at her until we unveil the monster she must be underneath. Why is that?

Some readers, I think, sympathized with the women around Katie who wanted to tear her down and knock her off her pedestal. I believed - okay, I still believe - Katie is who she is because she is lovely, not in spite of it. If I had grown up being told by virtually everyone how gorgeous I was, that would be the norm for me. (Um, that didn't happen to me. My next older sister called me Bucky Beaver. *g*) But I can imagine how it would be. Having effortless beauty would be like having green eyes or brown hair: just a thing that is. I think Katie, like any of us, would be keenly aware of the flaws no one could see but her.

And yet...

Knowing your flaws doesn't necessarily make you insecure or any less self-confident, but it does make you human and vulnerable. it conceited to embrace your outer beauty? Is it unpalatable to take what you have and make it the best it can be? Now that I am in my forties and have a son who is grown, I am fighting the good fight against both Father Time and Mother Nature. Does that make me vain? Or merely human? I tend to think I'm more vain than most people I know. Until we start talking about skin care products...

What do y'all think? Is it vanity to spend hundreds of dollars on makeup and skin care products? Are we self-absorbed if we buy in? Are we vain if we don't think we need them or simply don't care? And why DO we hate beautiful women so much, anyway? Please share!

Please note: It is with a hefty dose of irony that I posted MY picture on this blog with a gorgeous model, Eva Gardner and Sophia Loren. Yeah, that's me, Bucky Beaver!


Joan said...

Me! Me!

Joan said...

Caren, I am with you 100%

I do NOT consider it vanity to want to look the best that you can. I am much more aware of my appearance now than I was in my
20's and 30's.

I'm willing to invest in services and product that will help my skin stay firmer, that might help conceal that *$^$# line between my eyebrows (ok, so that occured because I spent 1 1/2 years squinting denying vehemently my need for {whispers} bifocals.) Now THAT was vanity!

<*> I <\*> feel better when my hair is shaded attractively, cut in a complimentary style. I feel invigorated after a facial and enjoy my freshly painted toes. (Current shade? Pompeii Purple in honor of my Romans. Despite its name a pretty pink.

To me, vain people do this to attract OTHER people's attention. I do it solely for my own enjoyment.

*Note my piccie was digitally altered. I tried to get the camera to alter it to Angelina broke trying to :-)

Joan said...

BTW, Caren. I think your pic is gorgeous!

M. said...

But it's a very nice picture of you! And I've always thought black and white (or sepia and white)are more flattering of everyone than color shots.

Anna Campbell said...

Caren, that's a gorgeous picture of you! What an interesting post. I don't know where I sit on this debate. I definitely know I just spent a fortune on makeup for San Francisco! Now if only I can remember how to put it all on! Maybe I should kidnap the Estee Lauder consultant and spirit her away to my hotel room so she can get me ready!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, JT, congrats on the chook!

flchen1 said...

Congrats on the GR, Joan!

Caren, what a very interesting post! I don't think it necessarily vain to want to look your best--I agree with Joan that vain people want to look good to appear better than other people. I think a lot of times we simply feel better when we know we've done our best for ourselves--part of taking the best possible care of who we are and what we've been given. We can't control the basics of how we look, but the buffing and products and all that we CAN control. And I know that I've often envied more attractive women--in reality, if they turn out to be nice people, it's kind of hard to hate them though! And if they aren't very nice people, somehow that puts a bit of tarnish on the outer beauty.

limecello said...

Hm - I think I'm vain, but I don't care much for my appearance - if that makes sense. Most women, much less a stylist or whatever don't believe me on the amount of time I spend on my hair - none. I will not gel it, mousse it, scrunch it, straighten it, curl it, use any product, or do any of those normal every day things. I grow it out, and when it's long enough, go to a fancy salon, chop it all off and donate it.
I think it's hard for women to sympathize with a woman who "has it all" - or has had a good life because of her great looks. I think it's really interesting how all of us are insecure. (Or, the vast majority.) And we pick. People can find flaws with the most gorgeous or close to perfect possible people. Angelina Jolie felt awkward and ugly - and cut herself at a young age. (Not sure how she feels about her looks now, but she's dealt with it) - and I'd say she's at the top of many "most attractive" lists.

Amy Andrews said...

On the surface I'd say I'm not a vain person. I don't spend much either time or money on myself. I'm pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of gal.

Having said that I know I cringe when I see photos of myself. And I think oh no, I can't possibly be that old/fat/ugly!
So yeah, I guess my vain-o-meter is alive and well and swinging with the best of them.

Helen said...

Well done Joan

Great post Caren and I too love the photo of you.
I don't think that people are vain just because they want to look good I am one of those people who really don't do much at all I wear make up to work and when I am going somewhere special but never at home or just to go to the shops I hardly ever even use moisturiser I have even stopped dying my hair I just accept that I am grey now.
I actually admire people that take the time to make sure they always look their best good on them.
Have Fun

Natalie Hatch said...

I am more confident now than I was in my teens and twenties, I just wish I had the firm skin and pert breasts that were mine all those years ago. Oh and I would definitely not hide my arse, I had such a good butt but hid it because I thought it should have been flat... Youth is wasted on the young I say... The older you are the more sexy you get but your body lets you down.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Joan.

I try to take care of my skin and body and wear makeup because I want to look good, but also because it makes me feel good. Some people are only seeking attention by looking a certain way, but I think most of us just try to do what's comfortable and attractive at the same time.

Maureen said...

I watch this show on TLC called What Not To Wear and they insist taking care of yourself and looking good shows you respect yourself and that you care about how you present yourself to the world. It is so interesting to see the women who come on this show and take care of so many people except themselves.

Buffie said...

Caren, I with you girl. I honestly think that everyone is vain. It's just the degree of vainness they show. But you know what? What does it matter how much you spend on product, just as long as it makes you feel better about yourself. Before I had my boys, I would not even dream of stepping out of the house without my makeup on and my hair done. But after the second child, I found myself taking my oldest child to school with absolutely no product on my face or my hair. I was doing good to get a shower and comb my hair!

Buffie said...

Anna -- LMAO! I am pretty much the same way. I can do the foundation, powder, and blush, but forget anything else. I have the most problem with eye shadow. I just can't seem to get it right, so I don't wear it at all.

Caren Crane said...

Joan, you clever girl! It sounds as if the Golden Rooster may have come to you chock full of wine and cheese. I predict a sluggish day for him. *g*

I also consider the money I spend on my skin and hair as an investment (though I'm not sure of the return rate). I am jealous of your facials! I have a friend who gets a peel every six months or so. I am a little afraid of that, but I think something of the sort will be necessary in short order. Age, you know.

My husband NEVER believes that I do my hair and makeup every day for me. I do! Even if I don't leave the house, my personal requirement is that I be put together. I may not be ready for any occasion, but I would not be mortified if, say, the FedEx man arrived at the door.

So yes, for our own enjoyment may take some of the "vanity" taint off. *g* And you don't need to look like Angelina. You're gorgeous as Joanie!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, and Joan, I don't think you are alone in the squinting. My husband has needed bifocals for a couple of years, but refuses to go to the eye doctor. He had lasik surgery about 8 years ago and is bound and determined to stay away from glasses. Vanity, I tell you!

Caren Crane said...

M., thank you for the nice comment! Yes, the black and white (and overexposed) is quite flattering. I think I have that one on my bio page. My son said it looks like a pic you'd see in a personals ad in the local college magazine. I don't think that was a compliment. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Anna, what is it about the makeup counter that is so seductive? Personally, I avoid it like the plague, but only because I know I have no will power. I would walk out with a tiny bag of products, almost no memory of what any of them are for or how to use them, and a lot lighter in the pocketbook. Nooo!

So I carefully skirt around the Estee Lauder girls. I'm sure if you grab one, though, she would be happy to travel in your luggage to San Francisco. And believe me, if you can't figure out how to use any of it, we can get a Bandita huddle together and figure it out. Many years of makeup experience in this group!

Caren Crane said...

Fedora, you're so right! I feel it's practically my obligation to do the best I can with whatever I have at the moment. Sometimes that job is easier than others. At the moment, I need to lose 20 pounds so it can be quite a challenge to camouflage my hindquarters. But I'm sure the world is quite relieved by my efforts. *g*

Yes, the tarnish. I have known people I initially found attractive who, on close acquaintance, lost much of their appeal due to unsavory qualities. Gossip and tearing down others is SO unattractive to me. Yet I have known women who had a knee-jerk, negative reaction to an attractive women, anticipating she must be ugly inside.

My best friend in junior high and high school was beautiful. Like Snow White beautiful. A lot of girls we had known since kindergarten couldn't stand her simply because the boys found her so very appealing. And she was (and is) the sweetest thing ever! She has only grown more beautiful over the years. She works for Child Protective Services taking children out of dangerous situations and has to confront parents and law enforcement officers often. I can't imagine what sort of prejudice she meets trying to do that with her angel's face.

Caren Crane said...

Limecello, I think you've hit on something here. Is it vanity to think you don't need any fancy styling products or makeup at all? Personally, if I had naturally gorgeous hair (which I DON'T), I would probably still spend 30 minutes on it every day and leave the house feeling extra fine! *g*

I think it's wonderful that you donate your hair to Locks Of Love. Having an abundance of hair is such a gift, especially for children who have lost theirs to cancer treatments. You should totally be vain about your hair!

And feeling you are enough, without enhancement, is a gift as well. While we could all find something to tweak about ourselves (even Angelina Jolie!), being content with who you are and how you look is divine. You go, girl!

Caren Crane said...

Amy, aren't pictures cruel?! They were obviously invented by men. *g*

The picture I have in this blog post is one of 5 I picked out. They took WELL over one hundred. WELL over. The Incomparable Claudia Dain went with me to look at them and we were both amazed at how unphotogenic I am.

I have a great smile that only looks amazing IN PERSON. The photographer couldn't see that as she was merrily snapping pictures. She apparently also couldn't see the enormous width of my hips. I think she may have been partially blind or smoking crack when I went in.

In any case, I concluded it wasn't me that was the problem. It's pictures! Amy, I'm sure if there were smart cameras that only snapped at the most flattering angles and in the most complimentary light, pictures would be something worth paying attention to. They aren't!

As noted, being pleased with yourself as you walk around every day is a gift. Enjoy it! And, er, avoid looking at pictures. It's a soul killer!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, you must tell me more about letting your hair go gray. I am fascinated by this decision-making process. I know one day I will come to the crossroads where I have to admit it's time to stop coloring, but WHEN? How do you know when it's time?

I confessed earlier that I do hair and makeup every day. BUT, there are levels, you know? I slap on some eye shadow when I'm hanging around the house and do the minimum to my hair. An RWA meeting requires much more effort. *g*

And conference? It will be a battle for bathroom time!

I have a sinking feeling that even when my hair eventually grays, it will take me just as long to style it. And then I will need more color to offset the gray, so I will definitely be wearing makeup! Yes, I believe I really am as vain as I thought.

Caren Crane said...

Natalie, amen sister! I had a great figure once upon a time, but always found fault with it. And such clear skin! I always wanted to look different and, while I did work with what I had, I wasn't satisfied. So WRONG!

We definitely need to live in reverse. Then we would appreciate all that amazing resilience and bounce! *g*

Joan said...

Caren said: And then I will need more color to offset the gray,

I've been telling people for YEARS that they will never see a grey hair on this head. I started "color enhancing" my, er natural color years ago....and it will continue.

Make up is a lure....a STRONG lure...though as to product I am reeled in first and foremost by skin care. Cleanser, AM cream, eye cream, rejuevenating cream followed by PM cream.

Peels are harsh. A good exfoliating,moisturizing facial with an occasional dermabrasion does the trick for me. I don't go as often as I used to but couple that with fair, Irish skin that is ALWAYS covered with sunscreen and the fact that I never smoked and its given me a pretty nice complexion.

Which I then "enhance" with foundation and blusher.

I'm sensing a theme here, LOL

Gannon Carr said...

Congrats on the GR, Joan. Hope he didn't have any lingering effects after his day sampling wine. ;)

Ah, vanity. Yes, we are all vain on some level. My husband always teases me about my large collection of makeup, moisturizers and other beauty potions. I could supply a small drugstore. I have a weakness for products! I think that it's an investment and may help the effects of time and Mother Nature at bay, for awhile at least.

Your picture is lovely, Caren. I don't really like looking at pictures of me. Thank heavens for digital cameras when bad pictures can be instantly deleted.

Natalie, I'm with you. Why didn't we appreciate our youthful, perky bodies when we were younger?! *sigh* Youth is indeed wasted on the young. A couple of years ago, I was at the pool with a girlfriend and our kids. There were all these teenage and twenty-something girls running around in their bikinis. My friend, Jane, said she wanted to tell them to appreciate their bodies now, because after a decade or two and maybe a couple of kids, breastfeeding, etc., they just wouldn't be looking the same. :)

Joan said...

I also have a friend who to me, is drop dead gorgeous, who has a style and knack for looking like a million dollars.

And yet when I point this out to her, she tells me when she looks into the mirror, she sees a tall, gangly,skinny girl that everyone made fun of. :-0

jo robertson said...

Caren, what an interesting and eternal question you've put at the heart of your post!

I've always taken the oppostite stance. I've noticed that we give the beautiful people breaks, excuse their faults, and assume they're as good inside as they are beautiful on the outside.

I know one of the most gorgeous women ever to walk the face of the earth, and I have to force myself to remember that she is evil, evil, evil on the inside. I WANT to like this woman because the package is so appealing. But inside -- oh man, she's wicked to the core!

jo robertson said...

Oh, Joanie, congrats on the rooster. Treat him gently on this quiet Sunday!

Joan said...

Oh, Joanie, congrats on the rooster. Treat him gently on this quiet Sunday!

Oh, I am, I am. First we'll start with feather revitilizer. Tweeze out stray pin feathers, take a relaxing Aviarian Ultra clay soak and finish off with deep chickie mosturizer.

There'll be no fine lines on our chook!

Now, what to do, what to do with color enhancer....

Terry Odell said...

A little vanity goes a long way, I think. Working at home, alone, means I can 'neglect' my appearance a lot of the time. Yet if I have to go out, I don't like to appear without the war paint.

When my son did my photo for my website, I told him I had to look 35 when he finished. I think that's partly because as someone who's still trying to land the "big" publishing contract, I'd rather not make it look like I don't have many years left.

And years and years ago, when my daughter stood behind me as I was sitting and watching tv and pointed out I was getting gray, I started going to the salon. But I prefer the easy-care, 5 minute style. (See my blog for more on that one.)

I work out -- as much for health as for appearance. I'm told I don't look my age, but there's a lot of genetics in that one. Lucky DNA hits.

I've had some 'vanity' surgery -- LASIK and a tweak to 3000 years of ethnic heritage, but that was because I was already having surgery for health reasons. I can't see botox or collagen or silicone or whatever they're using now.

I do use some creams, but they're the cheap versions from the Avon lady or the grocery store.

Anna Lucia said...

Was it really because she was beautiful that readers found it hard to sympathise with her? Or because she saw the pursuit and worship of beauty as a laudable thing... it's an interesting blog, Caren, thank you!

I think good grooming and presentation is to be applauded. It's when we set too much value on appearance over other things that we stray into dangerous waters...

I never wore any makeup for years - there was no point when I was more likely to get covered with mud and sweat in physical work! Now I wear more in winter, when my skin suffers from the weather, but minimal in summer.

I've been thinking a lot about my make up bag for SF - because I want to carry as little as possible, but have versatile products that do a good job... ggg

I'm starting to have grey hairs and wrinkles, and I'm happy with that. Remember when everyone was saying Anne Robinson had the face of a 20 year old, because of her cosmetic surgery and procedures? Was I the only one hissing, that's not a good thing!.

We are who we are. What's the point in rejecting it?


Deb Marlowe said...

Perhaps women go through phases of vanity? I know when my kids were little I had no time for it. I pulled my hair back, wore shorts, jeans and tees 24/7 and was just happy to get a shower by the end of the day.

When I worked in the medical field I wasn't allowed to wear make up or jewelry and my wardrobe was 90% scrubs.

Now I still wear a lot of shorts and tees to work in, but I'm trying to learn how to dress myself. I love What Not to Wear!

Deb Marlowe said...

And Caren--you are gorgeous every day--even on the roll out of bed Saturday morning walk days!

You have the best hair of anyone I know--but it doesn't hold a candle to the beauty on your inside!

Louisa Cornell said...

From the sound of the beauty routine at Joan's house I want to join the GR on his visit. Color enhancing? The Brunette Rooster? How about a peacock wash?

Caren, that is a great picture of you. Shame on your son! LOL My question is, did you get any calls from that singles ad?

My vanity goes through phases. When I was singing it was high. I had an image to project and I went after it with a vengeance. I was SO lucky in grad school in Mississippi to have this fabulous stylist / makeup artist at the local McRae's. Michael was a genius and always did my hair and makeup before a performance in addition to helping me accessorize my evening gown.

Then when I sang professionally part of my contract was a paid hairdresser, manicurist, etc. and a clothing budget. SIGH!

The doctor's wife had an image to project too so she dressed up and had her hair and nails done.

After the dh died I went through a long beauty drought. I was working all the time and did not care what I looked like. My latest job in the bakery entails a uniform AND no jewelry, makeup or dressed hair (no point when you wear a hairnet all day!)

with all of this sudden positive movement in my writing career the vanity quotient has kicked back in. The makeup stuff is coming back to me slowly. I am coordinating all of my clothes for the conference.

AND, Tammy at The Book Basket here in town is treating me to a haircut and color (my very first haircolor ever!) before we leave for San Francisco. The treat is my reward for babysitting her five kitties while she and her husband were away. The haircut is the scary part as I have not had my hair cut in almost 15 years. I am only getting six inches taken off as I do NOT look good with short hair. Some people do, I am NOT one of them! I look like an overweight Charlie Brown with short hair.

Caren Crane said...

Jane, I think you hit it. Comfortable and attractive - to US. Little in life is worse to me than being uncomfortable.

Things that make me uncomfortable:

- aching feet (MUST have comfy shoes!)

- bad hair (quelle horreur!)

- the WRONG clothes (under dressed, over dressed, wrong hem length or WRONG SHOES!)

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I am horribly, terribly vain. Is there a cure? *g*

Elyssa Papa said...

Hmmm... Anna, you can take me to be your personal make-up artist. Of course, you might look like a clown when I'm done but still, you'll be in the news!!! LOL.

Caren, your heroine sounds awesome. What book is that from so I can check it out? I was looking for it on Amazon but couldn't find it for some odd reason.

I finished my second manuscript at the end of May, and my heroine is very beautiful but also very flawed. She's got a lot of inner demons; which I love to write.

As to me... I have a routine. Of sorts. I've been threatened that people will nominate me for What Not To Wear but I don't dress bad... I just dress comfortably.

Sweats are very a la Paris, aren't they? LOL

I'm into how I look but it's not the end all and be all to who I am... I really don't care if I match or if I have a spot on my shirt... and oh God, I'm realizing right now why my sister did threaten to nominate me. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Maureen, isn't that the truth? I think women, in particular, tend to put many things before themselves. I certainly do! I make myself get up early to have time not only for hair and makeup but also for ME. So I can read e-mail, visit the blog, check prayer concerns and keep up with the people I love.

I stay up late far too often trying to get things done. I've confessed before that I am an obsessive volunteer. I'm learning to say no more often, but I really want to help in any way I can. Just this morning in our Sunday school class, there were two different, really great opportunities to serve our class and the community (one coordinating of our church's involvement in helping refugee families) that would have been so rewarding. BUT, I simply don't have time!

It's hard to say NO to things helping others when I can carve out time for my hair and makeup, you know? But we must take care of ourselves. And, if the world appreciates the effort, so much the better.

I still feel like I should be helping with the refugee families, though...

Caren Crane said...

Buffie, I know exactly what you mean. I may have mentioned in my hair blog a few months ago that I went through a phase I call "the ponytail years". This was after the third child, when I had an infant, a toddler, and an 8-yr-old and lasted about three years.

It was all I could do to be clean, much less attractive. And yet...

I still blow dried my hair and "did" bangs. Wore eyeshadow every day, etc. Of course, I had spit-up on my work clothes and no telling what else all over me and the car. By the end of the day, I'm sure I was a hot mess, but I started out strong each day. *g*

The nice thing about the ponytail years is, it passes. I lament just how fast they passed, but my hair is SO much better now!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, and Buffie, I still don't wear foundation because my skin is so dry I have never found one that doesn't look like spackle. I've tried lots!

I do wear a foundation-like powder on my nose and "T" and cover that with actual powder. The cheeks, though, remain foundation-free. Eyeshadow, on the other hand, is mandatory. I can go without mascara, but a little eyeliner works miracles.

And really, I have NO COLOR at all. Unless I make an effort to make my eyes pop, I would absolutely blend into the scenery. So sad!

Caren Crane said...

So Joan, will you be that little lady at the nursing home with lovely blonde hair? There is always at least one, I've noticed, who never gives in. Maybe I'll join you! I'm waiting to hear what Helen has to say. Maybe she'll give us some insight.

Anyone else who has chosen to go gray? I want to know what it entails and how painful the "growing out" process is.

Joan, I am also a sucker for moisturizers. They are my downfall. My husband got me two high dollar ones for my birthday. I think he thinks it's all a big waste of money, but it feels proactive.

I feel like I should get some aging credits for all that sunscreen wearing and skin maintenance, you know? A points system. Like, I could cash them in for a year of no wrinkle accumulation or something. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Gannon, we could probably pool our beauty products and open up shop. *g* My husband is mystified by all the moisturizers and makeup and hair products. My daughters are teenagers now and he is appalled at how they glom onto facial scrubs and lotions, nail polish, lip gloss. He is convinced the marketing people have gotten to us. We keep telling him it's for ourselves, not others, but he doesn't buy it. *shrug*

Also, I think the first thing I figured out how to do on my digital camera was DELETE pictures. Horrible? Gone! Double chin? Poof! Now if I could just get some fancy software to help me "fix" my pictures. Ha!

Yes, my daughters and their friends are so effortlessly young and beautiful. They certainly don't appreciate it. Living in reverse, I tell you. It's the way to go!

jo robertson said...

Oh, no, Joan, a beauty make-over for the GR!!?? P226 will have to rescue him and toughen him up all over again!

Nancy said...


Caren, I tend to buy "product" and use it for maybe a week or two and then discard it. Yet I keep an arsenal for business meetings, especially RWA, where there are so many immaculately groomed and made up women, to use as protective camouflage. So I guess that's vain. Or maybe even hypocritical. In that setting, though not in many others, feel better with it on.

My favorite Queer Eye guy was Kyan, the grooming guru. Anybody know what he's doing these days?

Joan, my bifocals are no-line *g*

Amy, I try not to be vain, but I know where you're coming from on the picture thing. If I were the Supreme Soviet, I'd suppress all pictures of me I don't like. Which would be most of them. It may be kind of like the phenomenon I noticed in radio--my conception of my voice, filtered through the echo chamber of my skull (no jabs, please!), sounds different from the "me" voice on tape, which everyone assures me is the true tone. Photos are probably the same way. Of course, one such photo sent me to the gym and into serious weight loss mode, so that mighta been a good thing.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Congrats on the bird snag Joanie!!

Hey Caren! Lovely post, but it is a hard one for me to figure out as I have mixed reactions to it. A nurse years ago told me, remember women in labor are tired, sweaty and feel huge at the last stages of their pregnancy...if you come in with your makeup in place and looking like a super-model (duh, so not me) then they could get upset. SOOOOOOOOO for work I never wear make-up but I do make sure I'm clean and my hair is done nicely.

At home, I'm comfortable with just anti-aging stuff on my face, and recently have given in to having the white dyed out of my yes, I'm vain, too.

Nancy said...

Helen, I don't dye my hair. I'm resisting strongly because I don't have the complexion to go lighter and will eventually reach a stage where my original color will be clearly fake. I also don't like the message society sends that women MUST be young.

Y'all have probably seen articles about how male movie stars get more work as they age, while female ones get less. I stopped watching The Love Boat because I grew disgusted with the weekly pairings of sixty-ish male stars with twenty-ish, babely ones and the message that sent. In real life, of course, May-December couples can be way cool and often incredibly romantic. Those couplings come from the heart, not from Central Casting. Week after week after week on the tube, with December always the guy and never the woman, it feels to me like propaganda.

There's societal pressure to look young, to look fit, to look hip, to look cool, and it's really hard to resist. Getting back to your question about your heroine, Caren, I think it's easy to be jealous of someone who has more of anything than we do, and never mind that there'll always be someone.

Kathleen Gilles Seidel wrote a wonderful romance about a former beauty queen, Don't Forget To Smile. It's long out of print, but I loved it.

Beth said...

Wow, what a great post, Caren! I guess I am vain because I do love clothes and make-up and looking my best. The older I become, the more I believe that taking care of myself (inside and out) shows I respect myself. Just like What Not To Wear says (thanks, Maureen!)

I think your beauty queen heroine sounds wonderful! In the YA I'm working on, the protagonist is beautiful, smart and rich - lots of things to envy. She's also confident and knows she's beautiful which is making her...interesting to write :-) I hope I can make her likable and real.

Caren Crane said...

Jo, that's really interesting. I have noticed what they call in our church youth group "Pretty Power": the power of the attractive to get away with lots of things. However, usually adults see through that.

I must confess that my son is one of the most attractive people I know. That's not just mama talk, either, but a fact. People used to stop me out in public and say, "Oh my gosh! That's the most beautiful child I've ever seen."

Thank goodness, he's basically a humble person and this has never gone to his head. HOWEVER, he was not above using his cuteness as an elementary school student to win over teachers and get his own way. Forgotten homework? Oh, just turn it in tomorrow! Late paper? Oh, you can get it to me by Friday!

We would take his teachers aside every year and ask them, quite sincerely, to NOT give him any extra latitude. This worked better with male teachers than female. All I know is, it's a good thing he's so nice or he would be one of those EVIL people like your beautiful acquaintance, Jo!

Caren Crane said...

Terry, isn't it humbling when your children point out signs of your aging? Ack! Whatever happened to us being beautiful mommy and knowing everything? Humph.

I'm afraid there's something to looking as attractive as possible when meeting with publishing professionals. Like the What Not To Wear people say, you have to show you respect yourself. For publishing, looking professional (and attractive and YOUNG) also count. I don't know whether it's conscious or unconscious (probably UN), but it's a thing.

Now, if you are selling from afar, they can simply be swept away by your marvelous talent. But if meeting you in person, we must each be aware of the impression we're leaving. *sigh*

Caren Crane said...

Anna Lucia, I agree that aging gracefully is the way to go. I certainly don't think Sophia Loren looks 30 or even 40. Maybe 50. But whatever age she looks, she looks beautiful.

The modeling competition "She's Got the Look" seems to place a lot of emphasis on how "young" the models look for their age. It seems to give them a leg up. However, even there, their skills mean more than their perceived age. I find that interesting. No matter how beautiful a person is, it comes down to talent and skill in almost any occupation.

I think you may be right that my poor heroine got no love because she was a pageant hound and expected her daughter to be. I tried to present it as something that was a family tradition and an expectation. The pageant itself wasn't the point, but upholding tradition was. I think many people have a knee-jerk, anti-pageant reaction. I can understand that, but hope people can keep a broad enough mind to set aside their personal prejudices and see someone else's viewpoint. *shrug*

Caren Crane said...

Deb, I love the phases of vanity! It's true. Witness The Ponytail Years. *g*

Thank you for seeing my inner beauty on Saturday mornings, 'cause that's all that could possibly be showing when I roll out at the crack of dawn. *g* And you should know The Hair is a lot of work and a great cut. My hairdresser, Jesus, is not the Messiah but does work miracles!

Caren Crane said...

Louisa, isn't it funny how writing is pulling you back into the beauty rituals? I love it that your friend is treating you to a hair treatment. Now *that* is a good friend!

Maybe it's a sign that all you left behind is coming back around to you. After all, Lower Alabama may not be your last stop. You may end up back in the city yet. Maybe even with a clothing allowance and a stylist!

Confession: I really want a stylist and a clothing allowance!

Caren Crane said...

Elyssa, I think as long as your style works for you, it's working! There is also a big difference in working on makeup and hair and working on clothes. Clothes are a whole 'nother animal!

I will say it is possible to be stylish and also comfortable, or I would wear sweat pants every day. *g*

Thank you for your interest in my book. Unfortunately, it has not yet been published, so you won't find it on Amazon. Keep your fingers crossed!

Helen said...

I started going grey fairly young in my late 20's a family thing I was so busy having children and raising them that I never had time to think about my hair I just put it in a ponytail and got on with life, then when I was in my 40's it was really starting to get very grey but only in the front a friend actually gave me a dark brown hair dye and I used it, it was a shock my natural colour is mid brown but I liked the change after that I started to dye my hair blonde everytime I had a hair cut about every 5 to 6 weeks but I foud that the grey was coming back quicker for about 5 years I dyed it and then I just deceided that this wasn't good for my hair I have thick hair and it grows quickley so I made the decision to age gracefully and although the back part of my hair is still btown all the front is grey but a light grey and I am used to it now and very comfortable.
I guess one of the reasons I stopped dying it was I thought I might be damaging my healthy hair and didn't want to do that.
Have Fun

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I know what you mean. At the RWA conference, one would stand out much more with NO makeup than with - or even with a bit too much. (I have the Anna C with clown makeup on stuck in my head - thanks a lot Elyssa!)

Nancy knows I am almost NEVER seen, ever, without lipstick on. I don't know if that's a Southern thing, but my mother ALWAYS wore lipstick. And the woman had five children and no time! She's always been a wonder.

No info on Kyan, but I'm sure he's making lots of money somewhere. *g*

And YES, pictures are E-VIL. As in, the Fru-it of the De-vil (for Mike Myers fans *g*).

Caren Crane said...

Beth, it sounds like you're having the same challenge I had with my heroine! I think readers like a big flaw, like the heroine has no self-confidence or is terribly self-conscious, because it's easier to get in her head. It's much harder to get into the head of someone with loads of self-confidence, apparently.

I have trouble writing characters with no self-confidence because I have truckloads. I even had it as Bucky Beaver! No idea where it comes from, but it has gotten in my way at times. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Helen, it sounds like you found an optimal way to segue to gray. I'm waiting to see how mine grays before even considering it. I still only have a stray here or there, so I won't have to make that decision for a while. I know where to come for direction, though. Thank you for sharing!

Joan said...

Joan, my bifocals are no-line *g*

Mine are too, Nancy (shhhhhh) though if I'd fessed up sooner THAT LINE would not be there!

Anna Sugden said...

Caren - first of all that is a super-gorgeous picture. I'm so glad you put it up there!

If only I looked like Audrey Hepburn *sigh*.

I'm vain enough to want to look good, but too lazy to do much about it. I have various things about me I don't like and will often start on some regime to get things sorted, but rarely stick it out to reap the benefit. Apart from fitness boxing *grin*.

These days I don't remember to put make-up on unless I'm going somewhere really special.

I do dye my hair to cover the grey (actually, I put low-lights in so you can't tell if there's any grey!) and I enjoy pampering spa treatments. Oh and I distract people from the wrinkles by wearing cool shoes and ear-rings!

Of course it helps to have a husband who thinks I'm perfect 'just as I am'.

BTW I love the sound of your book.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Oh and Caren...I love the sound of your book, too! Sounds like something I'd read in an afternoon!!

Christine Wells said...

That is a wonderfully posed, dramatic photo of you, Caren. Love it! You look fantastic.

Vanity? I don't know. I think I certainly need to concern myself more with my appearance. Children kind of sucked up all the time I used to spend in front of a mirror. I got dressed up to go to an author lunch the other day and when I did the kindy run everyone's jaw dropped a little. I'm no oil-painting, it's just they were amazed to see me with makeup on.

Interesting question, Caren. I think vanity is fine as long as it doesn't stop you doing more important things or hurt anyone. Why not try to look nice?

Amy Andrews said...

LOL Caren - I hear you about the photos. The little thumbnail I have of me on e-harl is a great shot, think it was the one that appeared on the bandits blog too but I swear my husband took about 200 photos that day and 3 turned out really well. The others? Well let's just say thank god for the digital revolution and delete buttons!!

Actually, I'm far from pleased with myself and the way I look. I have a skin condition called acne rosecea which gives my facial skin a red tinge. It's horrible so 9 times out of 10 I'll wear make-up, foundation and lipstick (takes 30 secs) when I go out. If I'm going to pick the kids up from school and I've been at the computer all day then I might venture out without it. Sometimes I might even dash down to the local shops or newsagent without make-up but I usually don't. It's more actually to save the inevitable questions. Why is your face so red? Goodness, you're sunburnt. Etc etc.
Luckily, like you and despite the rosecea, I'm a fairly confident person so I can shrug off anyone's disparaging comments or looks without too much of a dent to my ego.
And I do colour my hair.
Oh and whoever said youth is wasted on the young - amen to that! To think how I disparaged my figure back then. I'd kill for that figure now! If only I realised the power a 20 something woman holds in her hands. Sigh...

Pat Cochran said...

Many years ago, I really got tired of
coloring my hair and decided to go
natural. The same for make-up. At
my age, natural is kinder to hair and
skin. Just go with what's best for

Pat Cochran

Caren Crane said...

Joan and Nancy, all this talk about bifocals makes me think about how hard it is at times to see, say, my cuticles. I'm doing the over-the-glasses view these days. Bifocals, my ophthalmologist assures me, are in the not-so-distant future.

Nancy, do you recommend the no lines kind?

Caren Crane said...

Vrai Anna, so nice to see you back! Of course, I've been gone so you may have been back for days while I've been missing. *g*

I like the distraction technique. Never forget that keeping fit and trim doing all the fitness boxing ensures you have distractions other than your shoes and earrings. *g* That's probably the answer to my ginormous backside woes. Fitness boxing! I'm not sure they do that in Raleigh. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Suzanne, I never would have thought about the beyootiful nurses being a downer for women in labor. I recall being so relieved to FINALLY be giving birth (all three times) that I would have welcomed any supermodels who could help me out! *g*

Yes, the anti-aging products. I don't even want to know if they really work. They make me feel better! All four of the nighttime ones and the daytime couple as well. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, you'll never believe it, but a couple of friends and I were discussing The Love Boat tonight at dinner! I told them after Julie had her cocaine problem and was replaced by her "cousin" or whoever, then came back after rehab, I had to stop watching. Doc was SO not sexy and they were trying to make Gopher over into a chick magnet. Puh-lease!

We had a whole conversation about Barbie Benton. I couldn't recall where she got her fame from and my friend's husband remembered she was Hugh Hefner's main squeeze for a long time, then was on Hee Haw. Then she was a guest on The Love Boat. Ah, the fickle path of "fame". *g* But I loved TLB before it got skanky!

Caren Crane said...

Christine, that pose was TOTALLY Claudia Dain's idea. She was at the photo shoot and some of the best shots were ones that she suggested. Claudia is THE BEST!

I think you are firmly in The Ponytail Years, Christine. *g* Being clean is an accomplishment at this stage of life. Managing to WRITE BOOKS while dealing with the kindergartner and the baby is astonishing! I worked full time during the PTY, but I'm not sure what kind of job I did. I think I was an engineering team leader then. Who knows? It's all a big diaper-changing, bottle-making blur.

Career? I'm sure I worked it in there somewhere. Again, who knows?

Caren Crane said...

Amy, one of my dear friends also has rosacea and is fairly self-conscious about it. I don't think it's as noticeable as she does. I think it's similar to having acne or any other skin condition: the sufferer is acutely aware and others less so. But all it takes is one comment and BAM! it's all you can think about.

Kind of like when I'm having a bad hair day and I catch someone looking at my hair. AAAHH!! I knew it was horrible, just KNEW IT!!

Oh, and I would KILL to have the hindquarters I had at 20 - or even thirty! Heck, it was better at 40 than it is now. Aiyee. The battle of the bulge grows more tiresome each year. *sigh*

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Pat, I dream of possessing your level of acceptance. I keep telling myself that one day, maybe when I have spent many years in meditation and have ascended to some higher plane of consciousness, I will no longer care what the shell of my body looks like. I don't think I'm anywhere near there as of yet. *sigh*

Sad conclusion after a day of discussion: I AM as vain as I thought, but it's okay and I won't feel bad about it. I'm fighting the good fight and will continue to do so as long as it requires no blood sacrifices or pacts with the forces of evil. *g*

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Caren--
This is a great topic, especially as we're all preparing for San Fran & actually meeting people with whom we've chatted every day who are expecting us to actually bear some sort of resemblance to our delightfully enhanced (to use a Joanie-ism) photos. :-)

So I'm going to share something with you all. Here's my dirty secret: I don't groom myself.

Oh I shower, brush my teeth & hair. I floss. I just don't wear makeup. None. I don't even moisturize. I don't like to clothes shop & I hate fiddling with my hair. I just don't much enjoy grooming myself.

And don't go thinking I'm some sort of natural beauty with the bone structure to pull it off either(snork), because I'm totally not. I'm small, freckled, pale & of distinctly average looks. I could look better. I just don't look better enough to justify the torture of fiddling with my face every morning.

But it's not because I have something against makeup. It's because I can't do it & stay healthy. I'm a perfectionist. I have a tendency to be hard on myself, & the more time I spend looking at my face/body in the mirror, the less satisfied I am. The more time I spend shopping for clothes, the more I have to dwell on the fact that my body doesn't measure up to today's definition of beautiful and/or sexy. And then I feel bad about myself. I start to dislike myself when I should be thanking the good lord that I'm strong & healthy.

So I avoid makeup, malls, dressing rooms with unforgiving lights, & fashion magazines. Every time I think my butt's out of control or my face is a ghastly joke, I go to a public beach or an amusement park. And let me tell you, my perspective comes back on line pretty quickly. :-) On the bell curve of what real women look like, I'm doing fine. You'll never see me in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, but whatever. My naked face & I are doing just fine. And as long as we stay out of the beauty aisle, we'll stay that way.

But I deeply admire those of you who can indulge & love yourselves more instead of less. I wish I had that strength of character.

Joan said...

Nancy knows I am almost NEVER seen, ever, without lipstick on. I don't know if that's a Southern thing, but my mother ALWAYS wore lipstick.

Caren, so did my mother! She never wore any other makeup but she ALWAYS had a cheery red shade of lipstick on.

And Susan, Susan, Susan...come here and let me try this anti-pin feather lotion the GR is using. :-)

Esri Rose said...

D'Oh! I can't believe I missed out on the day of Caren's blog!

Caren, I think you're lovely and that's a wonderful pic of you.

I'm an only child and my mom told me I was beautiful even when I clearly wasn't. I learned how to make the most of my looks at about 30, and do pretty well.

During the last five years, I've had a bit of basal-cell skin cancer and now have quite a few scars on my face. It sucks. Thank goodness for the make-up skills that let me hide them reasonably well. I want to be pretty, and I'll always want that. I wouldn't even rule out plastic surgery, although I notice that the more recognition I get for non-appearance things (i.e. writing), the less my looks matter to me.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Esri, we HAVE to talk at conference. My pale, freckled self (waving at Susan! *g*) lives in fear of skin cancer. I want to go have one of those scans done so they can assess all the sun damage - I am terrified!

You are lovely, Esri, and would be no matter what happens with your basal cells. I am put in mind of Jo's poet on the next blog entry who wrote a poem for his wife whose face was scarred by small pox. Love does make us blind to all imperfections. Our love of ourselves should do the same. Meanwhile, the Oil of Olay people are laughing as I line their pockets...