Sunday, 27 April 2008

Grooming April 27

Every woman has one moment in her life when she rates herself a 10 out of 10. Usually it’s at her wedding, when months of planning and hours of grooming have gone into the perfect image. For me it was neither wedding. It was the other day when I got out of my car at the Foodtown carpark having been shooting for TV all day. I had spent several hours in front of the camera filming some chat segments for April in the Afternoon on the Living Channel and I don’t mind telling you things were looking pretty good. Full make-up, straight hair, silk shirt care of top designer Claire Kingan Jones. As I strolled through the automatic doors I caught a glimpse of myself and thought: “Wow, where did that old chick with the frizzy hair go?”
As did the check-out operator who refused to engage in our usual daily banter, obviously not recognising the TV me. “Takes some getting used to, I guess,” was all I thought as I strolled confidently out into the carpark.
“Maybe one day someone will actually check me out after these shoots,” I wondered as I walked to my car. Even the most married of women appreciates the odd glance of interest. It had been years since anyone had looked at me for more that the standard perusal but I remember it being quite reinforcing the last time it happened, when I was 21.
And then it all went horribly wrong. As I unloaded my shopping I noticed a man sitting in the car next to me chugging a can of beer. He was old, bald, overweight, drunk and to top it all off had a unique growth obviously enjoying its stay on his cheek.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he yelled out his car window. “Wanna root?” At me. The one standing gob smacked in front of him, fixed to the spot in horror.
Great. I was looking the best I could for a 45-year-old woman, thanks to the ministrations of many. And the best I could do was an old, drunk Petri dish.
As I gathered my glamorous self up and carried her off, before my admirer worked out how to put two fingers in his mouth and wolf whistle, I heard a shriek from behind me.
“What the f…do you think you’re doing chatting up that old cow,” yelled a woman who was everything evolution’s little mistake was, minus the cheek growth.
“Wouldn’t you like to know you fat slut,” came his spirited reply.
She held up traffic at this point, hands on hips glaring at me, then him, then me again like John Wayne having a show down in the middle of a bad Western.
And there I was, the centre of a domestic incident in my local Foodtown carpark and I wasn’t sure which event was more offensive. The screaming drunks or the fact that I had just been described as an “old cow.” But there was no denying that in an instant I had become the other woman in a ménage a trios of bad genes, alcohol poisoning and a facial growth from outer space.
Which is when I craved the anonymity of bad grooming. It would seem that “looking your best”, as my mother used to say, comes with the dire consequences of an open invitation to be noticed. The old me wouldn’t have raised a glimmer of notice let alone hope from fungus face as I shuffled past beneath my hair.
Grooming also demands a high price. The necessity of having blow-dried and straightened hair, manicured and painted nails and make-up on most of the time has added an extra two hours to my day. Just to be able to face the cameras. I realise that for many people who aren’t on the TV being that groomed is a normal event. But for me it is a terrible effort.
And then there is the pressure of the show itself. The day I found myself looking down a camera and recommending a quick shot of hairspray to the buttocks to prevent undies giving you a wedgy my 25-year journalism career flashed before my eyes and glared at me with abject horror. The spirits of my mentors circled, laughing uproariously at what had become of me. The ghosts continued to follow me home cackling with glee from beyond the grave. I think it was the late Neil Roberts I heard saying “Stick to print.”

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

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