We’re all a little bit fake these days. Make-up, push-up bras, industrial-strength gut-suction knickers. We paint our faces, colour our hair and do all sorts of things in the spirit of looking our best. But, somewhere along the way, it’s all gotten a bit ridiculous. A pop of blusher is one thing, but when did we start gluing shit to ourselves? Since when did we start dying our skin? It’s a slippery slope, and I’ll readily admit that when it comes to make-up I slap it on as readily as the next
man girl, but I think some of us may have got a bit carried away…
When I was very small I had a set of those false fingers in my fancy dress box with long red soft plastic nails. They came as part of a witch costume, and although generally I enjoyed being a witch (mostly because it involved running around beating my little chums savagely over the head with a toy broomstick), the nails were a real ballache. It was impossible to do anything with your hands while wearing them, and in my experience the fun is always sucked out of a fancy dress party when you have to get someone else to wipe your arse for you.
But those were just false fingers; you can pull those on and off. Although they made your hands smell gross and your fingers look jaundiced once the sweat had discoloured the plastic, at least you could easily remove them after the party was over. Which was just as well really, because with them on it was impossible to unwrap the slice of jam sponge cake you invariably got sent home with. But some people – fully grown, responsible adults, with children and mortgages and Nectar cards – like to have massive witch nails GLUED to their fingers all the time. I saw a bird on the bus the other day with fake nails so long they actually curled over the ends of her fingers. At least an inch and a half of thick, sharp plastic, stuck to her fingers permanently until she visited her nail salon again and had them peeled off with a cocktail of chemicals. She couldn’t use her phone; she couldn’t grasp her mascara wand in her sad, weird claws. When she fumbled in her handbag for something, she got her keys caught on them. She dropped her Oyster card. When she scratched her nose, she left a long, red mark.
I’d never seen anyone so disabled by their own fingernails. And they can’t be good for you; I mean, they’re called ‘acrylics’, for Christ’s sake. HARD PLASTIC. We made desk tidies out of it at school. For me, the word conjures up Mr Woodfield, our GCSE resistant materials teacher, droning on about band-saw safety while nearly choking us all to death with that special kind of coffee breath found only in DT teachers. When I lived in Milton Keynes there was a pop-up nail salon at the bottom of the escalators in the snow dome. The ‘technicians’ all wore masks that covered their noses and mouths – ‘SARS-chic’ – and the whole place reeked of an industrial accident. The clues are all there: surely you are NOT supposed to put this shit on your body.
The most mind-boggling thing of all though is that these massive fake nails aren’t even nice. They look preposterous, and if your goal is to attract more men then you’re definitely doing it wrong. For obvious reasons, most girls would rather be shot in both legs than hook up with a guy with long fingernails. (We don’t care if you’ve lost your little scissors or “need” them to play the guitar, cut your Goddamn nails! It’s fucking grim.) However, although guys are generally less fussy, any dude with a shred of self-preservation is going to run a mile before letting someone with those talons near his dick. Fancy a hand job from Edward Scissorhands? No, I fucking thought not.
Sometimes I like to wear false eyelashes. But not every day and not to the gym. The first time I ever wore them it took about five years to stick the buggers on and then when I got home I was so pissed I forgot to take them off before slipping into a sambuca-sodden slumber. When I woke up there was a horrible moment where I thought I’d actually drunk myself blind because the glue had congealed and stuck my eyelids together. Although I got better with practice, there is an album of photos online somewhere from a whole night out where not one of my bastard mates told me one of them was drooping off to the side. I looked like cross-dressing Transylvanian lab assistant with Bell’s Palsy. Luckily I’ve got the hang of it now, but they are still only for special occasions (and if Sainsbury’s putting tonic water on BOGOF has to count as a special occasion then so be it).
The thing about false eyelashes is that they can look really nice when used properly. You don’t even have to keep to the ‘natural’-looking ones; some of the real beefcake sets, for the right occasion, can look quite glamorous. The trouble begins when people start wearing the monsters just out and about; the furry ones, the feathery ones. Anything that makes you look like Kim Kardashian, i.e. like two bumblebees have collided with your face, should never be worn out. Ditto the fluttery blue ones (these are allowed for fancy dress and Katy Perry concerts), the stubby, thick, spider-leggy ones and the very long, very thin kind that make you look like a preying mantis. They are all uniquely horrible. Some are even made from mink hair, which although not cruel, still means that people are still STICKING RODENT HAIR TO THEIR EYELIDS. And nobody seems to be at all grossed out about this. The mind boggles.
The appeal of a tan has always passed me by, probably because it takes a lot of burning and peeling for me to achieve one (anyone who’s seen this photograph will know what I mean). On the same basis that being very pale in olden times meant you were wealthy enough to stay inside while your slaves ploughed the fields, I suppose a tan in the twenty-first century tells the world that you can at least afford a package holiday to Turkey (!), but the appeal is much deeper than that. A tan can make you look healthier and slimmer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all very pale people look sickly white and all the people who like to spend hours slothing out on a sun lounger are a picture of health. Just because you’re whiter than the inner thighs of Robert Pattinson’s fucking WAXWORK doesn’t mean you can’t look as luminous and glowy as Sun-Kissed McGee over there. Healthiness is about so much more than just rubbing brown goo all over your skin or cooking them under UV lights. And whatever happened to ‘pale and interesting’? Morticia Adams? Dita von Teese!? Where have all the English roses gone? They’ve all fucked off, that’s where, crowded out by the millions-strong mob of Greece-going, sun-worshipping heliophiles.
To be fair, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going on holiday and coming back with a tan. It does look great on most people, and there’s no reason not to if you’re sensible about it. (Yes, I am that boring bastard who raves on about wearing proper SPF and runs around throwing buckets of aftersun over people. So sue me.) But why are people SO FUCKING OBSESSED!? We have a guy in our office who has a serious St Tropez habit. I’ve had to start calling him Clementine, because he’s both orange and fruity. He uses a combination of fake tan (biscuity!) and sunbeds (cancerous!) and glows like a Jack O’Lantern. Another (less flamboyant) workmate regularly goes on jaunts to Ibiza and doesn’t wear any sun protection at all. He will be sorry when he is forty and has a face like a baseball mitt. I went to Florida with my fruitcake sister last year and while we were at Blizzard Beach, a nice, family-oriented Disney waterpark, she hoiked her bikini bottoms so far into her arsecrack I thought we might have to call the fire brigade to extract them from the crevasse.
“Er, Charlotte, there are quite a lot of kids around. Maybe a bit less bum, yeah?”
“I MUST TAN MY CHEEKS!” she yelled. And then lay there for five straight hours browning her bare arse. Mental.
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