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Whitney: Beauty Shop Hotline

07/23/10 5:55PM By Diana Whitney
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(HOST) Commentator Diana Whitney has been been thinking about the various beauty rituals involved in getting ready for vacation and the beach.

(WHITNEY) It's ten o'clock on a Saturday night and I'm leaning over the tub, my head coated in brown-green goop.  The henna smells earthy, like wet grass.  It stains the tub with gritty residue and makes my hair crackling dry.  

But it's all worth it.  For $7.99, I can cover my grays, those insidious little markers of aging.  Some women are content to go au naturel, transforming themselves into silver foxes.  I admire their Earth Goddess grace, but vanity won't let me abandon my youthful mane.  When it comes to my hair, I'm going to "rage, rage against the dying of the light."  If this means bi-monthly henna treatments, so be it.  

Some people claim having kids makes you go gray earlier.  "It's the sleep deprivation," laments one friend, a working mom of three, "It turns your hair white."  Another pal counters that while parenting may make your body age faster, it keeps your mind young.  All I know is my child-free friends are more youthful looking.  They also have better clothes and social lives.  

"It's all about the hair," says one friend, a 60-year-old knock-out with a yoga body, well-cut clothes, and glossy chestnut hair.  She exudes a confident poise that makes heads turn.   I can only hope my hair looks as good as hers in two decades.

My daughters don't watch my home-coloring performance, but they witness my other beauty rituals.  Back in college, I stopped shaving my legs as a feminist statement.  Now, fifteen years later, I enjoy sporting smooth gams, but struggle to keep up with all the grooming.

"Who wants to play Beauty Shop!?" I shout to my girls.  We get out the Mermaid bath toys and pile into the tub.  They're so busy shampooing their dolls that I'm free to loofah and shave.  Then I nick my shin, and the water turns pink with blood.

"Mommy, WHY did you do that!?" asks my 4-year-old.

"It was an accident, honey," I say.  "Sometimes it happens when people shave."

"But WHY do people shave?"

I have no good answer.  I fall back on:  "Because they like it."

For now, she is satisfied, but I worry I'm modeling for her the tyranny of the female beauty industry.  I want her to feel free to make her own choices about her appearance.  Then again - are any of us truly free?

Already, my daughters taunt each other by saying "YOU don't look beautiful!"  In our house, "beautiful" means wearing a fancy party dress.

It's easy to get stressed about their self-esteem, but then I remember the book, "Ruby's Beauty Shop." In it, bunny siblings, Max and Ruby, explore a Deluxe Beauty Kit, complete with wigs, makeup and stick-on nails. The girl bunnies give Max a blonde wig with mousse, then Max dyes his fur Lizard Green.  Max and Ruby know that playing with beauty stuff is FUN - a messy mix of art and fantasy.  Maybe I can feel good about trying to look good, after all.

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