You’re So Vain- Part 2

Last week I talked about vanity.  As it’s still on my mind (which is probably some sort of vanity itself) I felt I needed to talk about it again.

I met up with my writing group yesterday, two women who were in my fiction class with me.  As you may recall, I was vexed by a comment calling one of my characters vain.  My friends totally disagreed with the comment, given it’s place in the book and what it was signifying, so I was glad that others shared my opinion.  But they enlightened me to something else.  We sometimes spend more time on ourselves as we get older.

I freely admit, it takes me longer to get ready now, than it did years ago.  To be fair, I’m not the sort of person who takes an inordinate amount of time- I’m pretty much a wash and wear sort of girl.  But now, I need an hour to get ready if I need to shower, 25 minutes if not.  My Husband doesn’t get this at all, FYI.  After 16 years of marriage he still thinks I can be ready in 5.  It takes me longer than that to put my moisturizer on.

See, that’s the thing.  Make up doesn’t take me a long time.  Hair doesn’t take me a long time.  It’s the other prep work- the moisture part.  As I’ve gotten older, my skin, my hair, my everything has gotten dryer.  I have separate lotions for every part of my body.  I start with an eye cream, then a face serum, then a moisturizer- and that’s just my face.  Heavier cream for my elbows and knees, cream with sunscreen for my hands, foot cream with vitamin E….I even put a few drops of oil in my hair….

This isn’t vanity.  This is just so my skin won’t crack and fall off.  This is now routine maintenance.  Without these creams and potions I would crinkle when I walk.  Seriously- it adds a whole new dimension to the term dust to dust….


I admit I stare at my reflection a little harder now.  My eyelashes are a little more sparse (I think there is a gel you can put on them to make them more luxurious.  the fact that I know this scares me a little).  My skin is a little less taut.  My undereye bags can now be considered a distinct part of my face.  It is hard to look at myself and not see the younger version of me, because in my mind I am still that younger woman.  In my mind I am still the woman who was just attractive because there is an attractiveness in youth.  Alas, none of us realize that when we are young- we’re to busy trying to grow up.  We take for granted the tight skin, the lack of spots and other weird things that eventually creep up on us.

Does this additional self reflection make me vain?

I don’t think so.  Maybe it makes me a bit wistful, makes me think of the past.  Maybe it forces me to think about choices I’ve made, for better or worse.  Sometimes you have to take a long hard look in the mirror, to both remember who you were, to see who you are, and to consider who you will be.


According to Miriam-Webster the top definition of VANITY is:

  1. inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance
  2. something that is vain, empty, or valueless

This is the fact portion of the blog.  Now I will proceed to the anecdote

I wrote a chapter for my book that I brought into writing class for dissection.  I wrote a scene where my protagonist is preparing for a date.  She tells the reader her grooming ritual and states that she is not vain.    One piece of feedback I received was “Character  seems vain.”

Character seems vain.

Is using make-up and moisturizing creams vain?  Are these grooming rituals that I go through myself considered vain?  Does the fact that I have a daily grooming ritual make me vain?

I wear make-up most days of the week.  I don’t do it for others:  I do it for myself.  I like eye shadow and liner and blush and mascara.  I enjoy this portion of my morning where I either listen to music of the news and get myself ready. I like when I am going out at night and I do something a little more dramatic.  I admit, I like the way I look with make-up on.  To be fair, I am also happy with myself without make-up.

Does my wanting/liking make up make me vain?

I also have a very elaborate skin care ritual.  I wear moisturizer and serum and eye cream.  I wash my face thoroughly at night.  I like clean, and I like when my skin feels soft.  My products all use some form of the words “anti-aging”.  I don’t buy these things to appear younger- I buy the products that are best for my skin.  I am oldish- I need different things than my teen daughter does.  But does my wanting to take care of my skin in an age appropriate manner make me vain?

What is the line between self care and vanity?

I think vanity means different things to different people.  If my Mother does not have a full face of make-up on, she will wear sunglasses.  Doesn’t matter the time of day, or if he is indoors, she will put on sunglasses because she doesn’t want anyone to see her without make-up.  See, to me, that is vain.  That’s my definition.  My Mother can’t understand how I go out without make-up.  I am 53, and she will still say to me “Lipstick.  Why aren’t you wearing lipstick?” (OK- here’s my thing- I wear lipstick at night, but during the day I wear tinted lip balm.  I don’t care if you can’t see my lips from across the room- I am fine with just a hint of color, but full on protection from chapped lips)

So, for my first real blog of 2018, I ask you all the questions:

What is vanity?

Is being vain bad?

Does caring about yourself reduce your “value”?

This is going to be a multi part blog, as I will look at different aspects of self care in the next few weeks, and look forward to different thoughts on this topic.




Vanity: Thy Name is Middle-Age

As some of you may know, I celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary last week.  What none of you know is that the husband posted a facebook notice about it.  The sentiment was sweet, and he posted two pictures of us. One pic was actually quite nice- we were dressed for opening night at Carnegie Hall.  Beautiful dress, make-up artfully applied, hair not only combed but styled. (for the record, we don’t usually attend opening nights of anything- the last one we were invited to was when they opened up an Arby’s down the street)  Then there was the other photo.  The one with me in a bathrobe.  A big, white, fluffy bathrobe that hotels artfully hang in the bathroom.  And before you think this was a provocative shot, I  assure you it was not.  Let me give you a mental picture.  Imagine a tall, willowy model showing off a bathrobe.  Now squish her down so she’s a foot shorter and half a foot wider.  That’s how I looked in this robe- anti-provocative.  And think about this- if you’re wearing a robe, are you wearing make-up?  If you’re me you’re not.  And is your hair neat?  If you’re me it’s not.  Yeah- good times.

When I saw the post- all I could think about was – really?  This is my visual legacy to the future- this picture of me unadorned in a white bathrobe?   Looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man?  I thought about asking the husband to take it down.

As I was about to call him, I thought about what I would be teaching the daughter if I took down this picture because I didn’t think it was a flattering portrayal of me.  What would that mean?  Was I ashamed to be short and curvy?  Was I ashamed of being seen without makeup?  Shouldn’t I be proud of my body and my appearance no matter what?  So I didn’t ask him to take it down.

I never thought of myself as vain.  I don’t obsess about what I wear. I use make-up because I like it.  My hair is in a simple, no fuss style.  I exercise and take care of my skin for the health benefits, not in a manner of trying to look younger than I am.  So why did I freak out about the picture?

I was proud of myself for overcoming my anxiety about my outer shell.  I felt good.  Who needs make-up?  Who needs a brush and hair product?  Not me.  I am happy with my appearance.  I look great just the way I am.  I am setting a great example to the daughter!   Long live the shot of me in a bathrobe!

When I saw the  daughter that night, the first thing she said to me was:  “Can’t believe you didn’t tell Dad to delete that picture.”