lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, May 12, 2006

I would if I could, but I can't

Women spend a lot of time prettifying themselves; indulge in a lot of rituals, acquire regimens, follow diets and exercise programmes. Cosmetics industry has made multiples of millions out of this trait of women.

Whether you are a plain Jane or a stunningly beautiful woman, you'd like to look as good as you can. There are zillions of creams and lotions, salves and gels, packs and masks and procedures and treatments all out there that promise to enhance your looks: make your skin smooth, face glossy and hair shiny. They swear they will zap your zits, clear your complexion, lighten your tan, tighten your pores, reduce your cellulite and magic away your laugh lines. All those promises, and all that allure... What's a woman to do but succumb?

A routine develops early, and by the time a woman hits her thirties, she has a set of rituals; of cleansing, toning and moisturising; not to mention make up, either as a daily donning of armour or an especial dolling up for the evening.

There are umpteen millions of women who enjoy dressing up and putting on the war-paint. They apply make up: bases, foundations, add blushers, concealers and rouges on; they line their eyes with liners or pencils the better to define them and add eye shadow; they line their mouths with defining pencils and fill in with lush inviting shades of colour. They add lip gloss, they add sparkles when they are in party mode.

Let those who can do, is what I say; not without a touch of bitterness and envy, if I have to be honest.

In his priceless anthology of limericks, Norman Douglas remarks about the young fellow called Grant who had a problem and his response to a question... " 'I would if I could, but I can't': there is pathos in that line." I fully empathise with that poor young man and endorse Douglas.

I would if I could, but I can't, too. When it comes to dolling up and slathering on war-paint. (Okay, that is a bit excessive, but make up of any kind.) It's not that I don't want to look good or that I am such a beauty that I don't need to gild the lily. Far from it.

It's simply that I am allergic to most of these products. Foundation brings me out in a rash of pimples, most lipsticks do the same, eye-liners or pencils make my eyes water constantly and I end up with streaks of black down my face. Over the years, I must have tried countless brands of so-called hypoallergenic cosmetics. They are not; at the least, they are not hypoallergenic enough for me.

But that doesn't stop me from questing away for make up I can wear, though. I know all make up makes my face shiny with sweat, not aglow like the promise said; and it will ensure my face breaking out in a crop of rash or worse, trigger fits of sneezing. Still, every now and then I try out yet another foundation or lip gloss or eye-liner only to give it away later.

It is not just cosmetics. I have the same problem with skin care products, whether moisturisers or shampoos, cleansers or toners. I once used a gel that promised to reduce dark circles and make my eyes radiant. It made them bloodshot, and I had to go around for a week looking as though I had been on a binge and was still recovering.

After years of trying to find safe make up or skin care products, I became resigned to my hypersensitive skin and gave up. I stuck to a basic cleansing routine and to the few products that didn't punish my skin. Soap and water suffice for men, so they can suffice for me, I decided. I made wearing no make up my trademark look.

The only cosmetic I could wear with impunity was mascara: but the incongruity of lushly coated lashes in an otherwise bare face and the fact that it just smudged my reading glasses meant that I never wore mascara either.

It certainly brought my expenses down.

Nowadays there are all these herbal cosmetics, full of 'natural' ingredients and 'organically' grown herbs. They seemed to offer a chance of indulging in some self-pampering routines. I tried them. Shahnaz Hussain, Biotique, Naturoma, Ayur, Lotus, the lot.

Guess what? I am still sensitive, and the natural organic herbal cosmetics and creams are still full of chemicals that seem to hate me and that my skin hated back, just as virulently. I broke out in rashes, my eyes watered, and I sneezed and wheezed my way through experimentation again.

But after an extensive search I found that there are some that I can tolerate and I gleefully developed a routine. At last! Cleansing, moisturising and using a sunscreen, just like everybody else. I even ventured as far as trying herbal, organic and safe lipsticks.

Years of being unable to wear make up did an odd thing, though. I'd feel overdressed and gaudy when I put on lipstick, and invariably wiped it off before venturing out. It felt funny and I felt I was masquerading. It wasn't me. So I went back to my nude look.

There are other things one can do to feel well-groomed, though, and I indulge in all of them.

I developed a foot fetish and fell in love with my feet. I pamper them endlessly. They deserve it. They carry me through the day without a complaint, they respond to the slightest pampering and only need a pumice stone and a decent manicure kit to look after.

And, Glory be, when I dab the whitening tightening goo that made my face sore and blotchy on my feet, they don't break out in rashes. They revel in the attention paid to them and look as good as my face was supposed to look after washing the goo off. :D



Anonymous Badari Narayanan said...

May 13, 2006
How women even think of dieting? I have never been able to resist stuffing myself and seeing women avoid something never fails to surprise (amuse) me : ). The best foods (read vitamin etc. rich foods) taste the worst and vice versa. Think of deep fried bread with a slab of cheese or ghee dripping sweets. 99% of men would rather enjoy all these and die early rather than diet till 100. Who wants a very long life anyway?

12:52 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

deep fried bread with a slab of cheese *shudder* I am sure I put on a kilo reading that. ;) Hi Badari, I missed your comments. Been busy with the elections, have you?

2:06 pm  
Anonymous badari narayanan said...

Election campaigning was rather fun. Lok Paritran did not win any seats. But still I feel for a party started in September 2005, the showing was rather impressive. As for kisses and mathematics, both are out of my scope : )

2:44 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Hey, they did very well for an infant party.And come on, it wasn't mathematics, it was mush, like Rimi said. :D

3:29 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Finally! Someone who understands. I'm all snooty about my no make-up look, but if people only knew why I sport it *sigh*

I still use Johnson's baby soap, do you know? And the local shopkeeper always gives me strange looks, the suspicious bugger.

(Please to elaborate on footcare. My feet are the single most unattractive bit about me. They're rough anc coarse and dreadfully overworked :-( )

12:13 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ah. A fellow sufferer! If I wrote about my footcare routine, all my male readers are going to swear off my blog, I'm afraid. :D

12:55 pm  

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