While in Beijing I was introduced to CE's friends, her favorite haunts, and the various spas that help her look good.
Dolly Parton said in "Steel Magnolias" - "There's no such thing as natural beauty." Not true. CE's a looker with or without her regimen. But apparently, the beautiful glamorous well groomed girls judge and live by standards well beyond my experience. Added to that, in Beijing labor is cheap cheap cheap and so going to spas and having things done and done well is cheap compared to what the cost would be in the States. One example of this is that for three dollars (probably less) you can have someone wash and dry your hair for you.
In Beijing (and also in Seoul) there is a candor in the way people will assess you. CE said that if she wanted to know how she was looking she had only to get a manicure. On entering the salon the manicurists would say "You've gained weight." or "So skinny!" (approvingly) or "You look tired."
I experienced this myself in Seoul when my aunt took me pants shopping. She warned the shopkeeper that I was kind of chubby and needed a large size. On measuring me out and having me try on a pair of pants the shopkeeper informed my aunt that despite my waistline, my rear and legs were of a reasonable size and therefore she would not consider me chubby. Yeah. Candid.
My second day in Beijing CE and I went to get foot massages. On entering the spa we were lead into a beautiful room with low light and two huge lounge chairs and handed pajama bottoms to change into. I had not anticipated taking off any clothes or a wardrobe change to get a foot massage. Added to this I had not shaved my legs. I had figured that feet were the focus and as long as mine were clean I'd be fine. Wrong. A foot massage at this place entailed shoulders, arms, back, spine alignment, foot and leg massage.
My third day we went to a different spa to get facials. On entering CE was informed by the girls that she needed a rejuvenating treatment. They informed her that my eyebrows were like catepillars and needed serious shaping and tweezing. Candid. They decided on a shape they called "flower style."
To get this shape they broke that cardinal rule of eyebrow shaping and tweezed from the top. *gasp*
The facialist motioned that I was to disrobe from the waist up. The facial, it seemed, included the whole neck to the collar bone. CE told me that at her friend F's favorite spa, one was expected to entirely disrobe for a facial. I don't even want to know why. After this, each day before leaving the apartment I asked CE if there would be any partial or full nudity required for any of the activities of the day. It just seemed wise to check.
My fifth day CE and I went to Nails+ to get a manicure, pedicure, and eyelash planting. The first two I had experienced before. Although in this case they were each done with considerable skill and attention. It took an hour and a half. My cuticles were frightful. The pedicurist chastized me and advised me to oil them. The pedicurist and manicurist both did a gorgeous and meticulous job.
I have thin, short, practically invisible eyelashes and have always envied those men and women with the full long lashes. There are answers to this problem. The most common one is mascara. A more challenging one is false eyelashes. And the alternative I was introduced to at Nails+ was eyelash planting.
A young women of considerable patience and skill named Maggie put me on a table (entirely clothed), placed a little piece of saran wrap under one eyelid at a time and then glued individual plastic eyelashes to my real eyelashes. It took a very long time to do. Briefly, it occurred to me that I was insane to let someone use sharp metal tweezers and scissors and glue so close to my eyeball. There was potential for a reenactment of that scene from Oedipus Rex, no? No. Maggie had the steadiest of hands. The hands of a brain surgeon. The hands of a Swiss watch maker. An eyelash artist, really.
The effect was quite dramatic.
The "lashes" of my left eye were so long that they bumped up against the lens of my glasses.
At least, the effect was quite dramatic without glasses. With glasses it was way subtle. Still, it was a thrill to me, no question. I had lashes to flutter. In the words of that song from "Oklahoma," I would take time to "sigh and gaze at me," rather, gaze at my lashes in every mirror I passed. Even in the throes of sick I would look up and admire them. (more on that later) But I don't think all that many folks besides CE took notice.
They have about all fallen out now. Which is okay by me. It has curbed my urge to preen like a parrot: "pretty bird, pretty bird." *skwaaa* Plus, they were uncomfortable.
I cannot figure out how to preserve the "flower style" brow on my own. So with time I am entirely reverting back to original form. Beauty is a discipline that requires constant attention.
CE practices the discipline of beauty for herself. She enjoys it and enjoys its results. Whereas in my experience whatever beauty effort I make doesn't seem to do all that much. Contrary to what the beauty magazines imply, it's not like I change the shape of my brows and I start getting free drinks and random marriage proposals at the bar. Whatever I do, I end up looking like me. Some days that drives me nuts. More days I'm fine with it. My exile from Girlville frees up my energy and attention for other things like loitering in grocery stores and libraries.
That said, my favorite beauty tip from CE is a comment on symmetry. While we often think that it is in the eye of the beholder, scientific studies show that one of the traits admired almost universally is bilateral facial symmetry. It is thought that this might stem from some kind of association between symmetry and health. In gentle rebuttal to this theory, we have the following graceful sentiment related to CE by the woman at the Laura Mercier counter: " Your eyebrows are sisters, not twins." They share a resemblance. But one should not force them to try to be identical.