December 08, 2004

Plea of In-Vanity

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you see or hear the word "vanity"?

Vanity Fair, the magazine? Vanity Fair, the book? (The movie? Probably not.) Vanity license plates? The cabinet that sits in your bathroom? Vanity the sin? Vanity the singer? Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities"? Carnival of the Vanities?

For me, it's none of the above. It's the oft-repeated line, "Vanity, thy name is woman." It's a very common saying, even though that's not actually the Shakespeare quote; it's "Frailty, thy name is woman." Which makes me wonder, are we women now more willing to cop to vanity than frailty?

Makes sense to me -- I'd far rather have someone consider me vain than weak. Vanity is almost the national pastime for the women of America. (It may very well be for the women of any or all of the other countries but it would be sheer hubris to assume I could speak for them.) Even if they're busy eschewing vanity, it's still a part of their lives. Find me a woman in this country who doesn't know what Botox is; whether or not she would ever consider using such a thing, I guarantee you every woman you know can tell you what its cosmetic purpose is.

Why am I going on about this? Tonight I made a change in my appearance. And while I try as hard as, if not harder than, the next woman to look after my appearance -- beauty queen I am not, but Vanity and I are well acquainted -- I am dreading tomorrow and all the comments.

I would prefer it if people didn't feel the need to say anything (or quite so much) about it. It's as though no one believes in the unexpressed thought anymore. We're all so busy looking after everyone's self-esteem that is has become almost rude not to say something complimentary -- or, at the very least, say something observational that can pass for a compliment -- when a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance does something in the name of Vanity.

Tomorrow, there will be only one person's opinion that I will seek out and truly want on this particular change. The rest will be naught but annoying chaff for me to wade through and brush aside with (perhaps) false modesty. Because it's not that I don't want people to think I look good -- Vanity dictates that I must -- but that I don't really need them to tell me that they think I look good. I don't handle that as well as I might.

Maybe because Vanity, once she has been assuaged, becomes her evil twin, Pride, and asks, "Does that mean we didn't look good yesterday?" Or maybe she's just a capricious bitch and there's just no making her happy. Who knows?