LOST YOUR VIM FOR SELF-GROOMING?
Miss Madame (and your mom-in-law!) helps you get your groove back!
Dear Miss Madame,
I have a touchy problem. My French mother-in-law simply refuses to stop asking me, “Tu vas te faire jolie?”
This translates to, “Are you going to make yourself pretty?” It started the day before my wedding and, alas, shows no signs of abating. She says it as we’re about to go to the grocery store, before heading out to fill up the gas tank, and when we’re invited to my husband’s grandparents’ for dinner. I’ve tried a litany of hints, subtle shrugs, polite smiles, and pretending not to hear a comment about the effort I should or should not put into my appearance. But now my grandmother-in-law has also started adding her two cosmetic cents. Yesterday, after asking the dread question, my grandmother-in-law handed me a photocopied print-out of cosmetic facial exercises, you know, the ones where you slap your chin fat and look surprised over and over into the mirror?
I do want to uphold the family peace, which does not need my help to disintegrate on a regular basis. Yet I also fail to understand how pointing out my failure to be attractive is in any way considered polite behavior. Is this a French thing? Am I missing the point? Is it really just a compliment in disguise?
I need to formulate a firm yet polite response to “Tu vas te faire jolie?” Do you have any suggestions, Miss Madame?
Dear Shallow Sal,
In my mind, I’ve hobbled together a vision of you I hope you’ll excuse. As I close my eyes, I see a hairy-legged-and-armpitted, naked-faced and eyebrow-bushed, flats-wearing figure-less work-in-progress of a daughter-in-law.
And you’re worried about what your mother-in-law thinks? What about the rest of humanity??
The dream of all mothers-in-law is simple. To be bequeathed a well-maintained, attractive new daughter to help motivate them, at their advanced age, to continue to make an effort. There’s nothing like a sexy young woman hanging around the house to make an older lady hayaku to the hairdresser’s!
So, dearest, your new mom’s probing is two-pronged. First of all, she thinks you’re a slacker when it comes to your appearance and are, frankly, bringing down the family average. Each morning, when you reveal yourself to your relatives (and the world at large!), you should not have to ‘make’ yourself pretty–you should emerge already pretty each day. Think of others, Sal. They’re the ones that have to look at you.
I have a wonderful issue of Seventeen magazine from 1971. Back in the advertizing section, below some truly sumptuous hope chests, is a lovely little passage. It’s so delightful I clipped it out, and as a matter of fact am contemplating it now as it dangles from my inspiration board. I think you, like myself, will find the wisdom therein quite helpful.
“Afraid to join the Women’s Army Corps because we’ll make you cut your hair? Don’t be! We’re girls, too, and we know it’s our patriotic duty to stay looking trim and attractive!”
You may have changed countries, Shallow dearest, but that doesn’t mean you’ve changed patriotic orientations. We Americans have a reputation to uphold! In case you haven’t heard, we’re the World Leaders in cosmetic consumption, though those cheeky liberated Chinese ladies are stealthily joining the self-improvement revolution with a thick stack of yuan!
Why not take a look at the French female indicators of success, liberated consumption, and that good old je ne sais quoi and try to fill a few of those criteria? Considering the astounding range of products on the market these days, making yourself “jolie” is a snap! According to the most up-to-date research, France’s Pretty Women are fixated on:
smelling good with a well-formulated perfume and, ah, lady-specific odor-disguising products. Because we all know that “jolie” starts in the southern hemisphere!
keeping their health disorders and ever-advancing age invisible! How? By investing in top-of-the-line chemicals for their face (and body!). If you let yourself treat the symptoms of your lack of pretty, Sal my sweet, you might be surprised by the superficially realistic result. We’re not beauty maniacs here–all it takes is a little time and money each day to ape good health and the skin of days gone by!
Botox! What a revolution! It’s one of the world’s fastest-growing and most effortless ways to completely change your appearance. Lunch break = new face! I just love living in the now, don’t you?
My second point is this: your new mom is just trying to understand you by helping you become more like her. Would it kill you to try a little harder? You want to help maintain the family peace, which is good of you, so why not extend that effort just a weensy bit further…and forge a real and lasting connection with your mother-in-law, based on the solid foundation of, well, foundation! Your lack of interest in your appearance betrays a certain emotional shallowness that, my dear Sal, also isn’t very attractive.
To answer your question, yes, your new mom’s preoccupation with your appearance is a compliment. She already loves you enough to criticize you, and that’s what moms do best!
Just for a giggle–in the time it took me to write this article, five hundred and fifty thousand cosmetics were sold in France! My dearest Shallow Sal, the bottom line is this: if you want to maintain the peace, get with the program. Everyone loves to liberate themselves through their appearance and a pile of cash–including your new mom. You’re not being persecuted–you’re missing out on all the fun! Jump in, the water‘s fine.
Happy Facial Gymnastics!
image credit Taylor Erwin