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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Face Off

Grooming routines seem to be getting more extreme by the day; how does yours match up?

I am always intrigued by the grooming habits of the female characters on our TV shows and movies. They wake up with lashings of mascara in place and perfectly plumped-up lips, with a sheen that owes nothing to nature. Even when they are pottering around in the house, their lipstick is perfectly applied, their cheekbones are impeccably contoured and their hair is all swishy and shiny.

Every single time I sit down to watch one of these shows – Modern Family, Divorce, Life in Pieces, This Is Us, McMafia, to give you just a random sampling – I wonder if any woman in real life ever resorts to such extreme grooming within the confines of her own house, on a trip to the supermarket or pharmacy, or even while dropping off the kids at the school gates.

Well, if such women do exist, we clearly move in entirely different social circles. Most of my friends think that running a brush through their hair is a pretty big ask if they are not stepping out of the front door. A dash of lipstick and a slick of kajal is all it takes to make them ready to face the world. Mascara and eyeliner are only pulled out for big life events like an anniversary or birthday celebration. And only wedding parties merit full-on foundation and blush-on (yes, they still call it that).

My own grooming routine tends to vary depending on the kind of the day I am having. There are some things that I just do on auto-pilot, like slathering on sunblock after my shower. It doesn’t matter if I am going to spend the entire day writing at my desk. The sunblock still goes on, even though my face will never see the sun in the course of the day. Ditto, with my kohl pencil. It doesn’t matter that nobody other than me is going to see it; I still slash a thin line on my upper eyelids. Why do I bother, you ask? Well, it’s because my face looks naked to my own eye without it.

If I am headed out of the house, then a dab of concealer to hide my dark circles is mandatory. There have been occasions when I have forgotten to do so before leaving the house and been shocked at suddenly catching sight of myself in a mirror. So, I can only imagine what a fright I look to others on these occasions. That’s when those sunglasses come in handy, no matter what time of day it may be.

How much of an effort I make also depends on whom I am meeting. If I am having lunch or dinner with my low-maintenance girlfriends, then I don’t bother glamming up. I am quite happy to go along with their uniform of jeans and a shirt with just a dash of red lipstick to liven things up. But if I am meeting some of my more glamorous mates, then without even realizing it, I end up focusing a bit more on my own appearance, falling in line behind them with a professional blow-dry, a light dusting of powder over the tinted moisturizer, though I draw the line at mascara during the day.

Similarly, if I am meeting my husband’s male friends at dinner, I don’t really bother to dress up. But if any of the wives are also putting in an appearance, then I try a little harder. And that’s only because they do, and it seems faintly insulting to not make a similar effort when I meet them. So, that’s when I bestir myself to wear a nice sari, stick on a matching bindi, and even eschew my usual flats for a pair of heels.

Of late, however, I have noticed that there has been a significant uptick in grooming standards in the different worlds I inhabit. Women turn up for early morning flights with a full face of make-up, perfect manicures and pedicures and hair blow-dried to perfection. Wine dinners are awash with ladies who have had their maquillage applied by professionals, complete with false eyelashes and hair extensions. And weddings have gone mental, with everyone and her aunt going full-on Kim Kardashian with extreme contouring, glow-in-the-dark make-up, fake hair, fake lashes, and fake just about everything else.

I am not sure what exactly is going on here. Are we reverting to the 1950s when extreme grooming was expected of all women, both within and outside the house? Is the Stepford Wives model of dressing up being revived, incongruously enough, by younger women in the 21st century? Or else how do you explain the pains young women take these days over extreme depilation, with every stray hair on the body being attacked with every weapon at their disposal? Their obsession with exfoliation and moisturization, the twin pillars on which their beauty regime is built? Their insistence on a full face of make-up before they step out to face the world?

There is a reason why all those make-up tutorials on YouTube knock up so many hits. Extreme grooming is at an extreme high these days. So, maybe I shouldn’t be scoffing at all those actresses in the TV shows I watch. Maybe these ladies were just ahead of the curve, and now everyone else is busy playing catch-up.

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