I’ve found something that is harder and more uncomfortable than having the “human reproductive system” talk with your daughter. It’s explaining and justifying your decades of beauty crimes. On my daughter’s last trip to grandma’s she went through photo album after photo album of my teen and young adult years and came home with awkward and uncomfortable questions that she wanted answers to like, “Why did you turn your brown hair orange?” It’s at this point I had to sit her down and turn my years of grooming gaffes and fashion felonies into a hard lesson about life. A “teachable moment,” if you will. Yes, I did suffer for beauty and crimes were committed in the name of fashion. Yet, all these unlawful acts can and should be forgiven. Most of them were crimes of passion. Committed when I deep in the throes of trying to woo a boyfriend back or doing some serious “I’m going to change my image” back-to-school shopping. Some were inspired by various issues of the September Vogue magazine. I wanted to rock the New York look while living in Boots R Us Texas. I can admit that most, if not all, were miserable failures and, pay attention carefully here sweet, sassy mouth daughter of mine and repeat after me, “I should have listened to my mother a whole lot more.”
In order of severity here are my worst beauty crimes:
The Great Sun In Debacle of 1988
Sun In could be the grooming world’s greatest “Fashion No.” I considered it the devil’s urine. You might as well spritz your hair with Tilex and go lay out in the sun. Oh sure, it sounds great just spray it on your hair and presto chango you’re a beautiful Christie Brinkley/Kim Alexis blonde. But nooo, that is not how it works. It’s presto chango your Carrot Top. I had circus orange hair! The weeping, the wailing, the hours spent in the shower using my Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo trying to get the orange to wash down the drain. Finally after my mother had decided I had suffered enough (which was an entire week) she took me to her hairdresser (or as they said back in the day her beautican or beauty operator) for what we would now call a color correction. I got my brown hair back and have never, ever touched my hair with “at home” bleach products again.
Stirrup pants – Dateline: Austin, Texas 1987
Have you ever had an outfit that you just loved to wear, that you thought you looked really great in? Wearing the outfit actually made you feel good and boosted your confidence. That was me and stirrup pants. It was a tragic, heartbreaking day when I discovered that stirrup pants were never my fashion friend. First, the person or persons who thought up stirrup pants should be put away for life, forced to sew orange prison jumpsuits for eternity. I’m sure their offspring are the ones who are currently hawking the Gap “skinny jean leggings.” Hello, skinny jean leggings are just navy blue freakin tights that cost about four times as much. I was hopelessly in love with stirrup pants. They had everything I require for a long-term relationship. Lycra, extreme elasticity, a forgiving, non judgmental waistband, no ironing and very, very comfortable to be around. I worked those stirrup pants, wait it gets worse, with a shirt TUCKED, in almost everyday. It wasn’t until I saw myself in a mirrored wall as I was coming down the escalator at Foleys that I realized the crime(s) I had been committing. Since the entire escalator wall was mirrored you couldn’t escape looking at yourself. The visual followed you. It was unspeakable. Let’s just say unless you’re a supermodel with legs that resemble Slim Jims you should never ever pull on a pair of stirrup plans. The fact that I had my blouse tucked in gave me the overall look of a “fashion mullet.” Business up top, crazy fat chick on the bottom. I looked like a toddler who had pulled her tights on over her puffy diaper and crammed her fluffy pajama top inside her tights. Beware shoppers, stirrup pants are making a comeback. Stella McCartney featured the “pants” in her fall fashion show. You too can buy a pair for $655 at Bergdorfs. They’ve tried to class up the name a little by calling them “stretch stirrup leggings.” But, don’t be fooled they’re tights. Tights no one should be wearing without a dress. Preferably one that hits at the knee.
Eye Brows – Over & Under Tweezing
Your eyebrows hate you. Once you get them just the way you want them after a grueling tweeze-a-thon they start growing back in. Prickly, stubby hairs staring at you in your 10X magnifying mirror. My beauty crime is two fold. I have both over tweezed and under tweezed my eye brows. My worst over tweeze was in high school where I went all weed whacker on my brows and looked eternally surprised. It was so bad my mother made me surrender my tweezers and I lost all tweezer privileges unless accompanied by a woman over 35. My under tweeze experience spanned two decades. I, shell-shocked by my H.S. no brow look decided to go through college, my twenties and into my thirties trying be all Brooke Shields and not tweeze. I looked more like a Russian peasant from the age of Ivan The Terrible than any resemblance to Ms. Shields. Why don’t your loved ones tell you, “hey, you need to tweeze? Instead, everyone took the high road and said things like, “My you have such a strong brow line” or “Not everyone could pull off those eyebrows.” I thought they were compliments not polite hints. Is was not until my late 30’s that I even had my brows “shaped” by a professional. It involved a vat of hot wax and beach towels being used as wax strips to accommodate my huge brow size. By this time they looked more like bangs than brows. I kid you not, the “brow artist” had to bring in “colleagues” for a consult to figure out how to best wax my furry forehead.
Ah, th 1980’s the Golden Age of all things Preppy. Like any good southern girl I embraced the preppy lifestyle with gusto. Polo button downs, khaki pants, Bass Weejun loafers, I had it all. My fashion crimes during this period are so extensive that I have broken them down into subcategories.
(a) Bows (excessive bowage)
My go to accessory was the bow. I had madras bows, plaid bows, polka dot bows. I had belts with bows, hair bows, shoes with bows, purses with bows. Most days I had a bow in my hair, a belt with a bow and bow shoes. I looked like I was mentally ill with a gift wrapping fetish.
The aforementioned Bass Weejun Penny Loafer with navy blue knee socks was my everyday sock and shoe look. Flattering – not so much, especially when you add in that stretch nylon knee sock. Even better was that the top of the knee sock was creating a little upper calf fat muffin top. It was some serious frump-a-dump style. (And I wondered why I spent Friday nights in the dorm watching re-runs of the Love Boat.)
(c) Mexican Dresses
Nothing says Texas sorority girl like a vast array of Mexican dresses (crappy cotton sack dresses with colorful embroidery around the neck) in your closet. These dresses are what my daughter referred to as a nightgown when looking at my sorority yearbook photo. Her question was “Mom why are all those girls wearing nightgowns in that picture?” Why? Because when we paired those dresses with madras espadrilles and matching madras purses we thought we were the coolest girls on campus. Sadly, we were not. But, what good is the college experience if you can’t be a little delusional.
(d) Button Down Ralph Lauren Polo Shirts
The aggressively starched polo shirt was the foundation of any preppy outfit. If the shirts weren’t scratching and rubbing your skin raw then they weren’t starched enough. This shirt was matched with either pleated khaki pants or a pleated khaki skirt. Since everything was so starched your outfit could literally stand on it’s own. Imagine that flattering silhouette and the lovely starch crunching sound you made when you walked.
It’s a miracle that I have any skin left on my face. It should have just all melted off. I was an over tanner. SPF was for pussies. I used baby oil and iodine or if I was feeling a little bit cautious Hawaiian Tropic tanning butter. I was a lifeguard, so on my one day off a week, Monday, I used that time to not escape the sun, but to tan my back. The first day of school was all about who had the deepest, darkest tan. “Laying out” was my summer career. I looked like a chubby Malibu Barbie deep fried and then microwaved in bacon grease. Today, I don’t leave the house without my SPF 100 spray and I have a yearly full dermatologist body scan done. If only I had known the road to the fountain of youth was called sunscreen.
As for my beauty crimes, I’m pleading not guilty by reason of mental defect. What’s your excuse?