The Straight Skinny - No Pain, No Gain

Beth WiesemannMarch 7, 2013 

After World War II, several treaties - known as the Geneva Convention - were put in place to ensure that prisoners of war would be treated humanely. Since that time, there has been much debate about what constitutes “torture”. Obviously, the drafters of these treaties never used an Epilady®. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is a little gadget that has a rotating, vibrating coil that’s sole purpose is to grab the hair on your legs and viciously pull it out. In clumps. By the root. It feels like several little cartoon fairies swarming around your legs plucking your hair out with hundreds of tiny little tweezers. (Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Disney animated movie?) I had one of these devices - the technical term is epilator - about 20 years ago. I gave up after about two months, and since the commercials eventually stopped, I understandably assumed that the Geneva Convention had finally stepped in. Certainly, they couldn’t sit by and allow millions of women to subject themselves to something with such an ominous name as EPILATOR. Alas, the device does continue to live online. Since women willingly do it to themselves, that means we’re pretty much exempt from any type of protective legislation.

This would be less ridiculous if the idea of the Epilady® hadn’t come about as somebody’s idea of a more efficient alternative to waxing. Waxing, of course, entails the application of hot wax being applied to unwanted hair, where it adheres to every last strand, at which point someone can then rip it off, pulling each hair out by the root. Are you sensing a theme here? Evidently, it’s that pesky root that’s causing all the problems. And the only means of combating it entails the use of ripping, plucking, burning and otherwise assaulting your poor skin. Just think how easy men have it when they go bald. Hair just painlessly falls out of their heads and disappears quietly without a trace. How lucky.

But the amount of pain that women will endure in the name of altering their bodies for the better really knows no limits. How about dermabrasion and chemical peels? I’ve seen methods of paint removal that involved chemical peels. Is that the same principle? And if not, what exactly was the inspiration for modern exfoliation techniques? How long did someone walk around with this brilliant idea in their head about using harsh chemicals to literally peel a layer of skin off of someone’s face? My guess would be someone who watched a few too many bad ‘50s sci-fi flicks. Botox is another facial alteration that seems a bit out of this world. Personally, I don’t feel any type of beauty treatment is worth giving up my ability to raise my eyebrows quizzically at people when they irritate me.

Immediate and intense pain are only part of the story though. There are many consequences that won’t appear until well on down the road. High heels in particular, cause significant foot, knee and back pain in time. Quite often I warn my boss, who I’ll call “Melissa”, about the dangers of Stiletto Overuse Syndrome. That’s actually not a real condition, but if you’re going to pick on your boss, it helps to wrap it up inside of an impressive sounding malady. For some reason, calling it Barbie Doll Foot really annoys her.

Judging by the number of books, magazines and chunks of home shopping channel airtime devoted to the topic, it’s clear that women aren’t going to give up on painful beauty practices. Burn scars from careless curling iron episodes fade, and I can’t prove that I’ve ever actually contracted chemical pneumonia from my hair dye. So it looks like we’re in for a few hundred more years of burning, peeling, sandblasting, nipping, tucking, bruising, scraping, squeezing, tweezing, wrapping and permanently looking dour. Incidentally, that last sentence is also the name of the theme song I’m currently writing for my Disney animated film.

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