Once in a while, there’s the urge to grow wings and fly away into a different future-one where we’re happier and thinner, with better hair. But makeovers might not have the effect you’re after….
The ‘makeover’ is a very female phenomenon. Men make resolutions: they’ll give up drinking for three months, or get a hair transplant, but they don’t keep wanting to start over as a new person; they just want to be themselves – but more so. Women long for something more fundamental; to emerge from their dull chrysalis as a butterfly, and flutter off as a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Men do go on diets, but mostly when they’re so fat they can’t get out of the room. They’ll stop drinking when the doctor says they’ll die if they don’t, and not before. They’re mostly satisfied with themselves as they are. Whereas young women go to the other extreme: if they get their eyeshadow exactly right they think their lives will change.
We were born dissatisfied with ourselves. Have you ever met a woman happy with her body? My legs are too short or my bosom too small (or big), and my shoulders all wrong; why, oh why, was I born with curly, straight, thick, fine, hair? I wish I had a bigger mouth, bigger eyes, smaller ears, a longer neck, whatever. It’s a kind of inner restlessness, which we can’t help. Maybe it’s Darwinian; we’re birds building a nest, dreadfully busy, arranging the twigs this way, that way, always improving, trying to make thing better. It suits our young this constant attention: mostly it suits us, painting, preening, multi-tasking, forever agitating, trying to turn over a new leaf, become a new us. Quick, the plastic surgeon, a spot of liposuction, hand around the Botox! Here we are, slimmer, sexier, better haircut, better dressed, the envy of all our friends. We’re lucky if a man notices.
Today’s woman for some reason thinks there’s too much of her. She wants always to be thinner. Anorexics go too far and don’t want to be there at all. Girls compete in the least-there stakes at school – the one who can consume fewest calories, look most gruesome is the one who wins. Men like to seem bigger than they are: they’ll body-build to grotesque limits, wear shoulder pads, built-up shoes. They’ll go under the knife for a reason, in order to get a promotion or win an election: women do it to seek perfection. Years and years ago I was in Hollywood, and my (female) agent had a tuck taken in her eyelids. I went along and did the same. It really hurt. I told no one. When I got home all my husband said was, ‘You look very expensive’.
Makeovers are perfectly sensible if you feel something’s going wrong with your life, or you’re stuck in a rut, or you’re trying to put an unhappy past behind you. It may well be that the way you present yourself isn’t the ‘real you.’ Then by all means go on a quest to find her. And you might. You could stop feeling and looking needy, and that will magically bring others to your side, not your new hairstyle. In the days when I had small children, and au pairs came and went, two girls who worked for us chose to have nose jobs. Both had been disappointed in love, neither of them very beautiful-yet when a male surgeon had given them the gift of beauty (which was how they saw it) both were convinced of their own good looks and both were married within the year. Nothing had really changed, yet they saw themselves differently. So it’s worth trying.
And so few thing that you try need be permanent. Your short hair will grow again. You are not doomed to wear your new heels for ever. (Just don’t throw out your old flats.) Just because you started learning French doesn’t mean you have to go on. Gym membership is rather different-most of us start, don’t go on, but go on paying for the whole year. Get a sic-month subscription. The two stone that you lost may well creep on again. Well, it was worth it while it lasted, wasn’t it?
And it’s not just our bodies we want to attend to, it’s our homes. New kitchen, new bathroom, new bedroom suite! Why? What is all this keeping up with the Joneses about? Some dreadful sense of inadequacy? A fear that we’ll never get it right? Mother-guilt, because we go out to work? Or just plain Freudian – we’re trying to outdo our mothers. Or perhaps we imagine our menfolk will creep next door and move in with our neighbour because she runs a smarter kitchen? So we have to keep on our toes, fearing that her cave is better than our cave. Fetch the builders, call the plumber! All change! Or perhaps, worse, we’re the one doing it – trying to lure our neighbour’s husband? Tempting him with our smooth new granite work surface? Then we are in trouble. I suspect we just can’t get out of the habit of competition.
If I were to be my own life coach, I’d know exactly what to do about me. I’d set my alarm clock for seven, not eight o’clock. I’d go on a proper diet-not the excessive crash ones I’ve favoured all my life but the kind of slow-loss, keep-the-weight-off ones that require eating sensibly. Then I’d give up my own opinion and have my hair done as my best friend suggests. I’d throw away my make-up and let her do the same with that. I’d burn all the clothes in my wardrobe, buy a new me and superior me. But I don’t think I’d recognise me. It takes so long to piece a personality together over the years that I’m far too nervous to let thins change. Better the she-devil you know than the she-devil you don’t.
Tiny Ways To Change Your Life
Before you resort to drastic measures-such as going under the knife or gutting your house-try out list of little lifestyle shifts that might just make the differences:
- Throw away your tatty sheets and make your bed with bright new linens, to stave off the urge for total redecoration. We’re smitten with the duvet sets at Tonder & Tonder.
- Instead of a drastic haircut, simply change your parting. Altering the way you wear your hair gives it instant volume-and a low side-parting is really flattering.
- Have your eyebrows professionally shaped. This will instantly ‘open’ tired eyes, give you a life and make the most of your face shape.
- Spend a few pounds on a good vitamin D supplement, rather than a few thousand on a week in the Caribbean.