The Beauty Allergen

Why do my cheeks seem to swell into ham hocks the moment I set foot into a salon? Is it a trick of the mirror, or am I allergic to prettiness?

Also, it would seem that I could empty a cosmetics counter on my face and still look plain, as though surely all experienced beauty-goers look gorgeous and blemish-free, chin-up with their head in the hair-wash sink.

What I thought was a casual-but-cute skirt-and-flip-flops combination becomes the definition of “dirty hippy.” Also, unless it’s 9 a.m., I am Captain Pitstains–which only gets worse as I sit clenched under the smock as though a hair cut is akin to a dental procedure.

I can do a fair impersonation of classy in a fancy restaurant, but beauty salons and spas are beyond me. I don’t know which came first, the pull toward tomboy or the push away from girliness, but I found confidence in sports the same way I found insecurity in, well, femininity. Early on, I learned to dread the reaction I expected if I wore a dress to school–not so much “Wow, you’re pretty” as “Hah! That’s different!” In other words, “freakshow.”

I actually like the idea of being well-coiffed and dressed to the nines, all heels and hems. I currently have three kickass cocktail outfits and about a dozen unused purses in my closet just waiting for a fancy night out. But the effort-to-reward ratio skews to “not worth it” after about 15 minutes of prep time. Because without a full styling team and two hours to work with, a cocktail dress and a little blush is only going to accomplish, well, “Hannah looking hunched and awkward in church clothes.”

To me, blow dryers and curling irons, eyeliner and lipstick–they’re like karaoke. Do I really want to draw a bunch of attention to the fact that I can’t quite pull this off? No, I want to sit in the back all, “Meh, I don’t sing.”

And so it goes for salons, my karaoke green room, surrounded by people who know all the songs.

I want to make the effort, I really do. But 15 minutes of juggling a soccer ball always led to 15 minutes more, with all the satisfaction of accomplishing something and still getting better.

Fifteen minutes in front of a mirror mucking with my hair just makes me want to grab a ball cap and move on.


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