I have to say that Nora Ephron’s I Hate My Neck pretty much disappointed me. It was the Maintenance essay that did it; Ephron talks about having two salon blow-outs per week (this means they wash and blow-dry your hair, for those who don’t patronize slons much); sopending three hours every six weeks getting her hair dyed, weekly manicures, regular pedicures, any number of expensive lotions and creams, Restylane injections, and and and …

and no.

If she enjoyed all this maintenance, then great. We all have our hobbies, and they don’t have to make sense to anyone else. What bothers me is that she claims these things are enforced by the simple fact of aging, and in my experience they’re not, except maybe for the four hours of exercise a week that she mentions. I don’t think it’s a requirement to look good, but my experience thus far suggests than it is needed if you want to continue to be able to lift heavy things, run for a bus, play with a toddler, bend over to tie your shoes when they come undone during the day, use a squat toilet while traveling in Asia or France, scrub a floor, and do any of a hundred other things without regretting it for a week afterward.

Ephraon claims that having her hair blown out at a stylist’s twice a week faster than washing and drying your own hair, which is true for people who spend an hour daily blowdrying, but not true for the rest of us. I shower in about ten minutes including washing and conditioning my hair and shaving my legs. Then I finger-comb it to remove tangles (30-60 seconds), put on some leave-in conditioner (10 seconds) and that’s it. Once in a while I put it up in a ponytail or barrette or French twist; this may take a whole minute, and I usually do it at work, because I prefer putting my hair up when it’s dry. (That way it has some curl instead of being totally slicked back).

I don’t dye my hair. My mom does, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take three hours. Also, I’m very proud of some of the pictures I took a few weeks ago, of women in their 50s to 80s, and I defy anyone to tell me that these women would look better with hair dye, or even with no wrinkles. I’m pretty sure my mom wasn’t the only one there with dyed hair – I don’t want to put down women who choose to do so, just the idea that it’s necessary.

I have a couple of lines in my neck now and one above my left eyebrow. I could get all worried about those, but you know what? I’m lazy, it’s easier to ignore them, and I’m pretty sure that $100 lotions wouldn’t actually make all that much difference anyway. I use a either a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen if I want to wear makeup or a drugstore moisturizer, also with sunscreen, if I don’t. The tinted moisturizer (Laura Mercier) is expensive, but it also lasts me 6 months or more. It helps keep me from getting skin cancer and doesn’t make my face feel yucky during the day. I don’t plan to get Botox, Restylane, a facelift or whatever. I’m not saying I’ll never change my mind, but if I do I hope I won’t try to claim that it’s a necessity.

Of course the flip side to all this is that unlike Ephron, I don’t get invited to direct movies or attend high-profile lunches at Le Cirque. On the other hand, I’m pretty certain that wouldn’t happen no matter how much maintenance work I did on my appearance.

(Incidentally, EPhron and my mom were born the same year. Despite the less strenuous beauty routine, I can’t actually see that Mom looks noticeably older (Ephron in 2010 | Mom a few weeks ago, the one on the right). I do hope Mom also differs from Ephron by sticking around until she looks like (and is) a very old lady.

ETA: Ninevah_UK points out in a comment that some women go to the hairdresser because they physically can’t wash their own hair, or find it uncomfortable to do so, or because it thins and gets wispy with age and needs to be set to look good. This is all true; I’ve also heard of women going for pedicures because either they can’t comfortably reach their own toenails to cut them or because it’s cheaper than having a podiatrist remove corns and overgrown callus. But those don’t seem to be the situations Ephron is describing.