As a little girl, I read plenty of fairy tales and watched lots of Disney movies. Often these stories included a mysterious female character, a fairy godmother or witch, who would brew and create secret potions and lotions. She would work in her kitchen or lab mixing ingredients from colorful jars and bottles. These brews would cause any number of wonderful things to happen to the other characters – like unparalleled beauty, eternal youth, and deep love.
At the time, I was enthralled by the mysticism, enchantment and mystery surrounding these women, and believed them to be born from the creative imagination of the writers. However as I’ve become an adult, I’ve realized instead that the foundation of these images is rather deeply rooted in the reality of a Real Woman’s bedroom bureau or bathroom vanity – or even a modern day pharmacy.
We can simply stroll down the aisle of a local CVS or Walgreens and scan the rows and rows of unique bottles, jars and tubes of lotions and potions, all promising the stuff from which dreams are made. For the most part, rather than ingesting these potions as our storybook witches wanted the hero of the story to do, we smear, rub, and bathe in them. And we hope, even believe, that they will give us the very same attributes as our childhood princesses: beauty, youth, energy, and desirability.
This morning I was wondering which I’ve become… the hapless heroine of the story, weakly accepting the magical mixtures, or the wicked witch combining concoctions in my home laboratory. Either way, I have developed a fairly complex routine around the application of various creams and lotions. Even as a girl, I had dry skin, so virtually bathing in moisturizer daily is nothing new…but the older I get, the more I seem to have added on to my regimen… even using products that may or may not truly have any beneficial effect. I think some of these nifty containers hold a placebo of sorts, just making me believe that I look better.
One of my BFF’s at one point gave me, as a gag gift, a tube of “under eye dark circle and puffiness solution”. I smear that little gem under my eyes on a fairly regular basis – hey, it can’t hurt, right? Next comes the anti-cellulite cream for that scary area from my butt to the back of my thighs. Does it work? I at least pretend it does. Not to feel left out, product is then applied to my hair – again, full of promises of long lasting conditioning and volume boost.
But wait, there’s more. Before getting dressed, moisturizer is generously applied… selected by scent of the day and area of concentration. Body lotion, facial and neck creams, and foot treatment. Let’s not forget the sunscreen…. or the eczema cream if needed… or the tanning lotion…or the hand repair… THEN we move on to the face and start the base coats before make-up is applied. Concealers, wrinkle reducers, pigment levelers – the opportunities are endless.
What I’ve noticed lately is not only do we want our secret potions to perform magic, but we want that magic to happen immediately. Waiting 6 weeks to look 10 years younger is no longer good enough. I caught an ad on tv recently that asked “Are you growing old waiting for your wrinkle cream to work?” The ad then promised “Rapid Wrinkle Repair.” So not only are we asking the impossible – the reversal of the signs of age –but we are asking it to happen virtually overnight.
When we were little, we wanted to believe if we sipped the Fairy Godmother’s tea, moments later in a swirl of smoke and rainbows, we’d emerge a gorgeous princess.
Not so much has changed after all, has it?