I WROTE THIS IN 1998, BUT NOTHING MUCH HAS CHANGED EXCEPT THE NAMES OF THE IDIOTS IN CHARGE OF THE WORLD.
She’s right there, sitting next to you, and she’s got all the answers. In borrowed pajamas, reading your magazines on your couch while your new Reckless Red polish dries on her nails. Slumped on a naugahyde banquette in a funky lunch place whining about her haircut. In the next cubicle cursing like a stevedore. In the window seat on a flight to Chicago. Trying to cry unobtrusively in the bathroom during a cocktail party at the home of people you barely know. From this woman, all these women, you will learn almost everything important there is to know.
How to change jobs. How to become financially responsible. How to turn your hobby into a career. How to deal with your mother. Where to find your dream home. How to raise your kids. What to do about a horrible relationship. How to get your tomatoes to grow. What really happens when a deal is made. How to get the perfect arch to your eyebrow. What happens when we die.
You learn all these things from your women friends. Long-time, through thick-and-thin friends. And sometimes, 20-minute friends. The more you grow to value these friends, the more they have to give you. Yet as much as we shower affection and thoughts and gossip on our female friends, we rarely acknowledge their value as resources, and the value of our unique ability as women to exchange information.
It happens so naturally and constantly and without guile that we really don’t think of it as something happening. And yet it may be the most important thing going on.
In 1967, when Deidre showed up at the “look-see,” I looked, and saw a pal. She was 19, fresh from Florida, and had the kind of beauty people used to call wholesome. Brown eyes, light brown hair. Sweet, but with thinly disguised wickedness behind farmgirl eyes. More to the point, she had great hair, and that was what I needed.
I was 21, and way over my head trying to fake it as Advertising Manager for Redken Laboratories, a small (at that time) but promising hair products company.
Neither of us was smart enough at the time to be afraid of much of anything. What happened between us is what happens between women every day. We took one look at one another and decided in that moment we would connect. Without explanation or reason or rationale, we trusted. We recognized whatever signals we were exuding — dilated pupils or skin variations or scent or feature patterns or whatever the heck it is that someone is doubtless spending zillions on research right now trying to find out — and in seconds, it was decided. Yah! I like her! She’s funny! She’s smart! Her nails are a mess!
Within minutes, at the first photo session we did together, she had played the record just cut by her new boyfriend, which was on its way to becoming a top 40 hit. He later became her husband, then her pal, then the husband of our best mutual pal and after that the employee of my husband, but that’s another book. We shared life histories, as much as we had at that point. We commiserated about hair color. And we made plans to do more of the same.
Which brings up something anthropological that must be discussed here, because it is a key element in chick culture.
The cosmetological theory of human civilization.
Chimpanzees know this. Two-year-old kids know this. Every hairdresser and makeup artist in the world knows this, and may be really cranked that we’re revealing the secret here. Huge careers have been built on this simple principle, and very little more. (Maybe we should have called this the Jon Peters principle.)
When you groom someone, or allow yourself to be groomed by someone, your relationship changes instantly and fundamentally. The groomee is exposed and vulnerable. The groomer is in a position of trust and power. The result, aside from the groomee handing over $150 or so for the pleasure, is that an intimacy is established the minute hands hit scalp which allows the exchange of information with virtually no boundaries.
We joke about it and make bad movies about it, overlooking the fact that this is the cornerstone of human existence.
Women consider this ritual grooming a part of everyday life so normal, so expected, it’s entirely unnoteworthy. We riffle each other’s new perms. We pick mascara bits off each others’ faces. We brush imaginary lint off each others’ coats. We are, in fact, in league, in the most profound sense. Yet we are just starting to recognize and understand it.
Imagine, if you will, how the course of human events would be different if this power were to be recognized as a global force. Saddam Hussein, say, in a room with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu. Everybody hugs. Not guy hugs, but chest-squeezing, cheek-smashing, squishy hugs. Benjamin, to Yasser: “My God, you look fantastic! You’ve lost weight, haven’t you? (They pat each other affectionately; Netanyahu straightens Arafat’s headpiece, and brushes his cheeks.) “And what are you doing with your skin, you adorable little weasel?” Bill Clinton chimes in, his arm around Saddam’s waist: “Guys, meet my new pal. Saddam. We’ve been talking for hours, and I can’t believe how much he knows about impotence! This guy is a walking encyclopedia! Not to mention that his tailor is a major genius. Do you love these epaulets, or what? God, I wish I could get away with this!”
Talk about new world order.
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- We came. We saw. We cantered.
- Grooming Gloria