Though I'm not exactly a salon regular (yet), it's really discouraging to see women in an environment where we have defunct relationships with our beauty habits. It's so easy to dismiss the work that goes into our morning routines, lest other women find it ridiculous — and judge us accordingly. What's the real consequence here? We are expected to meet certain standards of appearance, especially in the workplace, but simultaneously feel like we can't be allowed to acknowledge the effort it often requires to look that way. Women are ashamed to be considered high-maintenance. It's an "I see dead people" situation, where we regularly see ghosts but can't talk about it. Yes, I went there.
There are two sides to this argument. The high-maintenance girl will claim, “I have to do these things. I have to keep up my appearance for my job.” The critic will respond, “Your extreme makeup and grooming tactics are regressive. You’re keeping women from taking the social and professional steps forward by prioritizing your appearance.” Though both sides certainly make valid points, the latter has a fatal flaw: It is not our aesthetic maintenance that keeps us from progressing, but it's comments like these from other women. To quote the ever-applicable Mean Girls, "There’s been some "girl-on-girl crime here."
Sick of the negative connotations around being high-maintenance? I'm here to reclaim it.
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Drybar sees 75,000 customers each month nationwide — and I'm most certainly one of them. Have you ever tried to give yourself a blowout? Maybe you're good at it, but despite my long arms, my attempts at home hair care are like a T-Rex trying to do, well, anything. I simply don't have the motor skills to manipulate a round brush, but that's okay, because the fine people of Drybar do. I will happily pay them to style my head, sans dinosaur arms.
Some may say that a too-regular indulgence of beauty treatments, such as a tab at Drybar, is vain or narcissistic. I'd like to suggest that the critic is the vain one here. It's vain to think that anything involving my beauty routine somehow involves you. And before anyone suggests it, my routine doesn't have anything to do with men, either. Sure, a woman may alter her beauty maintenance to make herself feel more attractive, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about yourself.
The point is that I know how I want to look, and so do plenty of other women. Even though I can't hit up Drybar every week, I certainly want to. Knowing what you want means knowing the ways in which you feel most comfortable and, therefore, most confident. Even women with the most minimalist beauty routines would have to agree that confidence is everything.
According to a study from Mint, the average woman spends approximately $15,000 on beauty products during her lifetime. Of that, $3,770 goes to mascara alone (I mean, it does brighten your whole face). Mint also says that four in five women wear makeup. I mean, how could we not? No matter what your skin type, complexion, or palette preference, there’s a beauty product out there that feels especially for you. Oily skin? Use this foundation. Thin, sparse eyelashes? A volumizing mascara will sort you out. It’s nearly impossible to feel excluded from the makeup world.
There exists, however, an idea that if a woman is drop-dead gorgeous, she must be pretty dumb. So, the argument against wearing makeup is that placing too much emphasis on appearance will make you appear less intelligent. This is a perception based entirely on notions from a long, long time ago: The smart girl is ugly, because she's too smart to dabble in the triviality of makeup and such. Ladies, it's a new era. An era in which being a total babe doesn't mean being a dud — but there's only one way to prove it, which is to do it. And to stop bringing down women who choose to wear makeup.
Plus, 50 percent of American women believe wearing makeup gives them a leg up at work and helps them feel in control. My good friend JJ, who happens to be super-high-maintenance and owns it, says this is especially helpful when she’s having an emotional day and has to go to work. "I like that I can cover up a really bad day with some bronzer and blush."
In 2011, The New York Times published the results of a study that, for the first time ever, concluded makeup makes a woman perceived as more capable, reliable, and amiable. Nancy Etcoff, the study’s lead professor, says the significance is not just in perception, but in what it really means for females who are choosing their own makeup looks. “Twenty or 30 years ago, if you got dressed up, it was simply to please men, or it was something you were doing because society demands it. Women and feminists today see this is their own choice, and it may be an effective tool.”
As a snooze-button enthusiast, I know that I need to set my alarm clock 20-30 minutes early. Opting for "snooze" rather than "alarm" each morning eases me into my day, and I can think of no better way to spend those minutes than to tease my brain and body into thinking I'm getting more sleep.
As I mentioned earlier, I also live above a nail salon (and a bakery, but that's a separate battle). Every Sunday, I head downstairs to get a manicure and pedicure. Though many would certainly classify this as a “high-maintenance" practice, I think it’s totally worth both the time and money. It’s like an hour-and-a-half of total relaxation. There’s usually something amazing on the television, like figure-skating competitions or Beaches, and the massage chair shakes me to sleep like a baby. This routine makes me happy. I do it for no one’s sake but my own, and I often don’t even go with friends. I can think of no better way to spend $30.
The criticism I face here is something along the lines of: Why aren't you out saving panda tigers? Why aren't you feeding the hungry with your extra money? Why don't you donate to a charity? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Judgey Wudgey was a bear.
In reality, the $30 and 20 minutes belong to me. We make time and finances available for the things that matter to us. How I choose to spend either of them isn't up for debate. I don't feel the need to justify them and neither should you. We should be celebrating the fact that time and money (especially money) are both ours to use as we please. Remember when Lucy used to have to get her salon money from Ricky? And because some of the best advice is doled out via '90s music, I defer to the venerable Destiny's Child: "Ladies, it ain't easy bein' independent."
A report from the YWCA claims that “If a woman invested the average amount of money she spends on a monthly manicure-pedicure treatment ($50) into her retirement account every year for 10 years, she would have almost $10,000 in her account at the end of that time.” This point is infallible, especially during a time when young people are urged to contribute as much to retirement as possible. But, when it comes to luxuries, why are women's practices targeted? Why is it that we choose to criticize only when it comes to beauty? And not, say, when an overpriced sports car is at hand or a luxury hotel with amenities we'll never use? Why is the critical conversation centered around women?
And (I'm going to really push it here), a woman may have $10,000 in savings if she skips out on some of her bigger-ticket beauty buys, but would she be happy? Our beauty routines are something we own; something we create. JJ likes to say, "I may not have been born with glowing, clear skin or luscious, long eyelashes, but a few tweaks can help me feel like I was." Amen, sister.
High maintenance has all sorts of connotations, among them that it's something to be ashamed of. I may not be very high-maintenance right now, but I definitely plan on being so in the coming years. And I certainly don't want to be made to feel embarrassed about it. If women aim to create a new conversation around our relationship with beauty, then we can stop living within the idea that an attention to detail equals superficiality.
Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier