I am referring to Diana Ross of The Supremes, not the late Princess Diana. These days people comment on how “skinny” I am. Whether it’s a compliment or not is up to interpretation but, if it is, I have to give Ms Ross some of the credit – or blame – depending on how you look at it; and also to the 60s British supermodel Twiggy, although I don’t think there was such a thing back as a supermodel back in 1966 which is when this journey began. I know there is much concern these days about the detrimental effect ultra-thin models have on young girls’ body images and self-esteem. I don’t know if that was true in my case, nor if at age 18, I could be considered a young girl.
I had gone through the typical weight gain that is widely attributed to freshman year dorm living. I’m not sure what the catch term is – Freshman 15? I also am not sure that I gained 15 pounds, but what got me started, I guess, was my mother’s comment when I arrived home for the summer. “You’ve put on some weight,”coming from someone who always told me I looked fine just the way I was, definitely got my attention. So did the episode in the Alexander’s dressing room a few days later. I don’t remember what the garment was, but it was a size 13, my usual size at the time, and it was too tight.
I watched my weight all summer, but really got into it when I went back to school, a place I really did not want to be. The college was Ladycliff, a small Catholic women’s school that is no more, but when it was, was located on the banks of the Hudson in a small town named Highland Falls. By day two of Freshman year I’d realized that it was not my cup of tea, as did many of the young women who became my friends. Some of them were able to persuade their parents to let them transfer at the end of Freshman year. Others like me, weren’t as lucky. The former waved goodby and went to school with a more 60s vibe the rest of us bonded and forged deep friendships commiserating. But eventually we accepted our lot and concentrated on fun, and oh yes, our education.
Meanwhile I know, you’re wondering what does this have to do with Diana Ross?
Technically, I don’t know if I became anorexic, it was more a cycle of bingeing and starving, so I guess it was a bulimia anorexia hybrid, although I never forced my self to throw up. Since then, I’ve read that eating disorders stem from a feeling of having no control over one’s life. And that’s how I felt back at Ladycliff for sophomore year.
I’d always loved the Supremes, and they were at the peak of their popularity, and since it was also the time of Ed Sullivan Show and weekly shows like Hullabaloo that showcased all the popular groups of the times, I had many chances to admire how thin Ms Ross was with the result that she became my poster girl for thin.
Speaking of poster girls, it was about this time, Twiggy hit the big time, appearing on the covers of Seventeen and Bazaar……..
………..and it all came together………
There’s no one here to make me eat. Ha ha.
It is my belief that as in the case of alcoholics, food disorders are never cured, but merely overcome, and then only by a hair. What happened in my case was I transferred my dependency to exercise. I started running in 1978 and when I moved to California ran in 10K races for years. I still run occasionally, but attend the gym religiously. Knowing I’m a gym rat, my niece gives me workout clothes each Christmas and truth be told she has better taste in that department than me. The pants she gave me this year were especially nice and I love that they have a long comfortable waistband so I don’t have to worry about plumber’s crack.gy
But what really caught my eye was this size comparison chart on the inside of the waist band.
Small here in the USA is LARGE in Japan? Oh my goodness, is Diana a large? How about Twiggy? Like I said – I’m recovering.
For me, it’s earrings and I rarely make this discovery until I’m too far along in my commute to turn back and correct my error. Bracelets, necklaces, rings – I can go without, but earrings no! A friend of mine solves this problem by keeping an extra pair in her glove compartment. Time after time I resolve to adopt her pro-active approach, but time after time I forget all about it – until the next time I discover my ears are naked.
Through the years, women have had this same relationship with make-up.
The Greatest Generation
For our mothers (I’m speaking as a baby boomer) it was lipstick –red lipstick. How shiny and perfect a brand new tube looked as I sat on the covered toilet seat and watched my mother purse her lips and smooth it on; good enough to eat. But after a few uses the perfect point
rounded out, lost its smooth texture, and after a few weeks it was a flat ledge of red barely rising above the tube, even when the bottom had been swiveled as counterclockwise as it could go.
Moms spent almost as much time blotting the color as they did applying it; Kiss-kiss press-press on a precisely folded tissue, then one last glance in the mirror. Evidently some moms were less adept at this last step, and their kids came to school with a good-bye kiss
stamped on their cheeks.
No doubt women of the 50’s were influenced by the glamorous movies stars of the forties with their blood-red lips shaped into a bow.
Boomers are known for revolt so maybe that’s why I eschewed red lip stick and slathered my lips in white – milk of magnesia white. Some of my friends were less radical, going for Pepto Bismol pink. But, if I may talk for my gen-gen-gen-eration, we could do forego lip color in a pinch, but eye liner – I shudder to think of a day without eyeliner. And notice the present tense of shudder, even to this day, if I haven’t applied eyeliner I feel like a ghost.
A couple of years ago I got together with four of my high school girlfriends and we were reminiscing how back in the day you walked a fine line when applying eyeliner – too thick and the nuns would send you to the bathroom to wash it off. Too thin and who knew you were wearing it? T, who had her share of trips to the bathroom commented that even now on her 6:30 AM grocery runs to Shop-rite, when there are perhaps five other shoppers in the store, she has apply mascara before leaving the house.
Who made us this way?
Now when it comes to twenty-somethings, my observation, limited as it may be, is that we may have a throwback to our moms, but their obsession of choice pales in comparison. Take my niece. A few years ago, she was traveling to Mexico at a time when airport security levels had risen to orange. She was concerned that TSA agents might confiscate her lip gloss.
Lip gloss,I thought, sheesh. I was going to say, losing a tube of lip gloss is hardly worth getting worked up about,
but then I substituted eyeliner for lip gloss and decided to keep my mouth shut.
Speaking of planes, lip gloss, and millennials, last week the New York Times travel section included an article filled with packing tips from Silicon Valley twenty-somethings who spend a disproportionate part of their time traveling the world for their tech companies. Every strategy was aimed at avoiding checked luggage andstow one soft sided duffel or wheelie bag overhead, instead.
One young woman recommended saving precious space in the plastic quart bag by leaving all your makeup home save for a jar of all in one lip and cheek stain which, and I quote “gives a rosy pop to cheeks and lips.
Rosy cheeks, what a fresh-faced, wholesome look I thought. I tried to think of who might influence this generation. Maybe….
What about you? Do you have a must-have or I can’t leave the house without beauty embellishment? Leave a word in the comments section, literally one word, that’s all it takes. You can remain anonymous.
And you male readers – Sorry but I guess you’re going to have to sit this one out. Umm, maybe not.