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It’s 6:30 am; I’m just finishing my first cup of coffee, and already my husband is asking what he should wear today.

My first reaction is, who cares? Face it, he’s a man and a lawyer. The options here are somewhat limited. White shirt, blue shirt. Suit – three options. Shoes – two options.

He looks concerned: “Do you think I need a haircut?”

And I’m worse. The only difference is I don’t ask for advice. Long ago I learned that “Do I look fat in this outfit, “ could have no answer that will satisfy me. Either he’ll be lying. Or worse he’ll tell me the truth. So if I need to ask the question then I know the answer is clear. I change my outfit.

Here is a brief list of the various beauty products I have bought in the past two months. Bobby Brown Shimmer Brick Compact, (no need to buy a brush – I’ve got dozens), Lancome Drama Mascara in black (actually this is a repeat item) Maybelline Super Stay 24 Hour Color lipstain, Rx Retinol Max, Fountain Phyto-Collagen Molecule, not to mention the ten or so vitamins I take daily.

Do they work? Maybe. But perhaps the better question is: do they make me feel better?

I think there’s a fine line between vanity and self-respect. The problem is figuring where that sucker lies. For example, you’re about to go to the supermarket or the gym. It’s a big rush and you have loads to do. Do you put on nice clothes? You know perfectly well if you don’t, you’ll run into your ex’s new partner. And there you’ll be, looking, as they say in England, like something the cat dragged in, or pulled through a hedge backwards, or even worse, a dog’s dinner.

Let’s say you look in the mirror and see those deep quote mark wrinkles around your mouth. They make you look just exactly like your mother or father. You stare into the mirror, then gently ease the skin around your mouth up towards your scalp. Just a little. Hmmm! You actually do look better. Do you take the plunge, full frontal face-left? Or do you try Botox? Why not? Men and women are doing it all the time.

I haven’t had any work, or as they call it in Los Angeles “freshening,” but I can totally understand the urge to do it. Pain and fear aside…well, no, there is no aside for me. But I don’t judge it.

When I was a kid, women and men gave in to age at around 40. The staff at my Primary School was out of a Woody Allen movie, an army of grey grizzled-haired, floppy breasted, hairy-moled, middle aged women. Men also had grey grizzled hair (such as they had of it) and paunches. And man or woman they all had that stooped weary body and set jaw that showed that the business of living was a weighty one and something that took every solitary bit of energy that they could muster.

Then somehow it all changed in the late 60’s, at least in Chicago – and undoubtedly even earlier in New York. That’s when my mom and her friends took to wearing modest, but definitely verging on, mini skirts. Instead of telling us kids to turn down that awful music, they were turning it up themselves. They wanted to be “hip.”

Vain? Sure. But rather than plodding around like old crocks, they were having fun.

Some of them were even turning on. Years ago my mother asked my first husband who was a close friend of an evening doobie, if she could try one. My dad and I were in the living room reading. Suddenly my mother burst though the door, clutching a hunk of Zabar's black bread in her hand and saying: “Oh, Lou, you must try this! We’re into raisin pumpernickel.”

It was like a New Yorker cartoon. Ridiculous and yet quite cute.

I guess in the end being vain is kind of like that, cute and silly. And maybe that’s where the line lies. Is it still fun? After all, living really can be a somber, sober business, so it’s only fair to try to grab some fun where we can.

Open the newspaper and every article spells doom. Chicken Little’s are everywhere, crying: “the sky is falling.” It’s become not all that far from the days when we were told to hide under the desk in fear of being nuked by the Ruskies.

Today it’s North Korea dropping the bomb, or Iran, or terrorists…oh yes and it just might be those damn pesky Russians again. The worst part is those doom-sayers might be right.

Prices go up. Stocks go down. It’s raining. You’ve gained weight. Your friend is sick. Your children unhappy. Or happy in a bad way. Life keeps lobbing those curve balls at us. And we have to keep ducking and diving to keep out of the way of the next shit-storm. And if putting on some rouge or wearing a new tie cheers up the proceedings even a bit, then why not?

I doubt very much that anyone will even notice if my husband’s shirt is white or blue or if I’m wearing mascara. But I will notice it myself. And at any rate I won’t look like I fell out of the ugly tree. If not to the rest of the world, then at least to me.

So this is in praise of vanity – at least in moderation. Because being a bit vain can be fun.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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