Monday, April 23, 2012

You did ask

We did some travelling recently, and I found myself in the heavenly fluorescent maze of duty free, manned by an army of overly made up young and not so young women and men. This is a very difficult situation to put me into. A bit like fetching someone from rehab and swinging past a bar on the way home, hoping they won't mind. I think I actually break out into a mild sweat - so little time and so many possibilities of acquiring what my visage absolutely doesn't need to make it younger, plumper, and encourage a strong resemblance to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. All of this while my husband (who has the patience of a saint) sits in the lounge with the kids tapping his fingers anxiously because our flight is already boarding.

The thing about cosmetics is that I know in my heart of hearts, as I'm sure most people do, that it's 10% efficacy and 90% bullshit. Those percentages can vary, granted, depending on the product, but ultimately whether the bullshit is the effectiveness of the product, i.e. what it says it does versus what it really does, or the bullshit price, it doesn't matter. At some point, whether it's the wrinkles that fail to 'appear visibly younger after only 30 days' TM, or the insane, and it really is insane, amount you pay for a 30ml moisturiser (you know the one I'm talking about), you get screwed. Bullshit and getting screwed - that's my take on cosmetics.

Oh, but I still love them, I do.  I have used every and any product on my skin, and some of them do make my skin soft and lovely, but I'm not so sure if they really are reducing redness or fine lines, or plumping, filling, or eradicating dark circles.  But with chronic interrupted  sleep over the last four and a half years, thanks to two small children, who am I kidding right? Even with the most miraculous creams it would take a miracle for me to get pre children skin back, not to mention the fact that ageing is ageing - time does indeed march across your face.

I believe good skin comes down to a combination of factors, not all in our control: Staying out of the sun, using a protective cream (I doubt price variations play as big a factor as we think) a healthy diet, laying off excessive booze, laying off the fags, and drinking a lot of water. But I strongly suspect 90% of it comes down to good ol fashioned lucky genes. And collagen is produced inside of the body -  I really don't see how something you put onto the skin's surface is going to effect that. And I told that to the sales assistant who tried to swizz me with the line, "This revolutionary serum (the one you put on after your moisturiser), works on your genetic collagen makeup". Me: "Really? That really is revolutionary in that it's completely impossible, but thank you for making me laugh, I was having a tough day."

A good friend of mine, and fellow slave to cosmetics, recently told me that when she first started using one of those uber expensive so called 'revolutionary's creams, it claimed it was so special and all encompassing that you had no need for an eye cream. These days the company make, you guessed it, eye creams and anti ageing serums. After all those years of using the product and knowing its efficacy, she is still going to buy the eye cream and serum, as thousands of other people will I'm sure. She knows she's being swizzed, but she also believes, on some level, that her skin needs it. I can see why we are such good friends.

One can blame it on advertising, and having worked in advertising I agree it does deserve its share of blame not least of all for coming up with such stupidly annoying terms as 'Pentapeptides', and making you believe that you actually need some of those, whatever those are.  But ultimately, it's us as humans once again searching for god and salvation, and in this instance salvation from ageing I guess. And as for younger women, it's selling them the idea that the new pricey lipstick in Rouge will somehow make them happier, thinner, richer, with better hair, and living in Paris in a loft with an underwear model called Luke. 

It sounds crazy, but it's not, it's genius, because it generates billions of dollars. Forget Bill Gates, he sincerely missed a trick by not coming up with Creme de la Mer or La Prairie.  That is liquid gold, literally.  It's all part of the same thing - that business called life that you fill with things you think are important, which aren't really, to distract you from that one certainty which none of us really want to think about. 

I am currently investigating schools for my 2-year-old son.  This morning I called a nursery that effectively feeds into  a well regarded school we like the idea of. The person told me, matter of factly, that it would help if his father or an uncle had attended the school before him - having a family connection. You hear about this sort of thing but I'd almost always assumed it was unspoken, and featured only in films based in Boston about old money and people called Chuck.

I get the whole tradition and heritage concept and there is a part of the aspiring snobby Anglophile in me that responds to it, but I am also firmly of the opinion that a place in life should be earned by ones effort, intellect, talent and charm. Oh, and I guess there is ability to pay school fees too, lest we forget that. I'd like my children to grow up and know that their efforts are what pay off rather than having a sense of entitlement. I want to say to these people, "Hang on a second, meet my child, talk to him, find out that he doesn't have taxidermy aspirations that involve the neighbourhood cats, then decide."

Someone asked me this weekend what I have been up to recently. A polite question really, because they know I don't work (outside of the hellishly exhausting and all consuming business of raising two small children) and that the answer is probably going to be boring. But people ask, it's the right thing to do. Picture a comical void of silence with only the sound of birds tweeting. In that moment, which felt like half an hour, I sat there with my mouth open unable to think of anything, when actually there is a fair bit of stuff going on. For one, I'm hosting an upcoming pirate party and having to source all things pirate, not an easy task let me tell you.  A local cat has adopted us, then there's a possible new business venture, and house hunting, and of course my place on the board that decides the Pulitzer prize winners. OK, not really, but it does look good capping the end of my list. I suspect that having two small children really does fill up your head space. Either that or the brain cells that are responsible for my complex thinking have taken a vacation because they were bored of sitting around doing nothing.

I don't remember when I last read a book from start to finish while scoffing chocolates. Both of these things would be nice in an uninterrupted sort of way. But the first requires one to actually have a moment to oneself and not be passed out on the sofa by 8pm, or if I'm honest, to not have a fixation with Draw Something. And in the case of the chocolates, my son doesn't allow me to eat anything without confiscating said item and consuming it within seconds. I've also given up on taking books on holiday with me, it's pointless. On our recent vacation I landed up reading bits of a Middle Eastern 'Hello!' magazine that the hotel had lying around, while keeping an eye on our son who seemed intent on ferrying food groups into the paddling pool. 

It would appear that Middle Eastern women are very keen on grooming.  I would like to be keen on grooming too. My lovely Polish beautician has her hands full when I make my quarterly visits - but she's always terribly polite. With each visit I promise her I will make the next one monthly, but it never happens. However if that school gives our son a chance and he enrols with the likes of Chuck and Biff, who knows the possibilities.


Gregory said...

Re the school thing; it's not (just) about snobbishness of class when they say it helps if you have a relation as an alumnus - it's just that these kinds of schools like to maintain a tradition, and it's also hard to turn down the off-spring of an alumnus and choose a complete stranger instead. In any event, the more challenging the requirement to get in, the more sincere the parents for going through the hoops. You should see what Zoe and I are doing to get Hannah into our first choice of school...

letters from london said...

The selection process is very tough in these schools, and it's stressful. I spoke to another school this week that we are going to visit, and she told me they only take 16 kids in their morning slot and 16 in the afternoon one - and have over 200 people applying. Again the application form asks if there is a family member who attended the school before. And in the case of this particular school they don't even meet your child for an assessment (I think there are two) if they don't like what you have written on the application form. Why am I bothering? The school has amazing results, our kids could both attend (it's mixed) and they can stay all the way through - no need for further assessment exams down the line. I am all for hoops, but ask only that my children have a chance, rather than being written off because we don't have a history with the school. I think if this is the case one has to seriously consider if this is the sort of establishment you want to be a part of in the first place, rather than a school that takes children on their individual merit.