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 little...you 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.
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.
Knowing your flaws doesn't necessarily make you insecure or any less self-confident, but it does make you human and vulnerable. So...is 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!