I was looking at a friend’s wedding photos (c. 1995) the other day and she suddenly exclaimed! ‘God, why didn’t I pluck my eyebrows before my wedding, what was I thinking!’ and ‘Why did I go for that cut across the front neckline, so unflattering!’ Whenever I look at my wedding photo (c.1999) I think, ‘What dreadful mousey hair – why didn’t I think of highlights?!’ And when I look at my milky ‘February in England’ complexion, ‘A bit of fake tan wouldn’t have gone amiss either!’ The neckline of my dress was OK because I asked the dress maker to lower it three times whilst it was in production.
Now, ten years later, at thirty five I’m entering into my mid life crisis (which I may well indulge myself by continuing for some years) having just emerged the other side, battered and emotionally scarred, by the past nine years of producing and caring for three babies; getting them out of nappies and finally off to school and out of my hair. It’s time (or rather I now have time) to take a step back and reassess my careworn image of permanent exhaustion with accompanying dowdy clothes and perennial sloppy flip flops in the hope of exchanging them for something more svelte, youthful and fabulous. Perky body, white teeth, painted toe nails, blow dried hair, proper shoes etc. The Asian ladies at our school pick up always look a million dollars and the African women too. They spend time on their hair and clothes and I think that expats like me need to try to catch up.
Suddenly it dawns on me that over the last ten years fake tans, teeth bleaching, highlighted hair, boob jobs, botox and surgery have all gradually become socially acceptable whereas previously, the British view was that interfering in anyway with your ‘au naturel’ appearance was terribly ‘common’. Now it seems that everyone is doing it and the procedures no longer elicit gasps and sharp intakes of breath from onlookers. Over coffee, we don’t really bother gossiping over, ‘Have you heard the latest?! Mrs X has just gone down to South (Africa) for a boob job’ Because the shock factor has gone out of it and we’re now left wondering why we are not going ahead and doing it ourselves? If I had the money, I would be seriously tempted by the new inject able boob job that (temporarily) perks up post breast feeding mammarys. Highlighted hair that was considered extremely naff in the 1980s is now done by almost everyone I know.
When I was growing up in England we were fobbed off by NHS dentists, who in an attempt to keep within their Government budgets, said, ‘You can do without braces my dear, after all crossed over front teeth gives your face more character!’ Now, in an era of only perfect teeth being acceptable, I notice quite a number (I can think of three straight away) of 40 year old plus women going for train track braces on their gnashes and heck, I’m almost tempted to join them! When I asked a fellow expat Mum (American) who was a dental hygienist in a former life, about teeth bleaching she said, ‘Go for it! I think it’s a great idea! I last did mine just before my wedding!’ Those Americans are so ahead of us Brits!
A Danish expat friend who has just left Kenya to live in the States went to her first mums coffee morning in Virginia where two had had facial surgery, one arrived looking like she’d done a few rounds with Mike Tyson, and another planning to go under the knife in the next few days. She said that plastic surgery was the hot topic of conversation.
I know that you can overdo it, and none of us want to wind up looking like the bride of Wildenstein but I guess there is no harm in being open minded and un British for once about looking your best. (OK, I admit it, I’m just writing this to try and justify sitting in the hairdresser’s chair for more than three hours yesterday!)