Jewish World Review March 31, 2004 / 9 Nissan, 5764

Felice Cohen

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Consumer Reports

Shades of gray | At 14, my friend Krista pulled two gray hairs from my head and shrieked, "Cool!" Sealing them inside an envelope she taped it to her bedroom wall. Gripping a teal eyeliner pencil, she wrote, "Felice, 1984" on the outside. I laughed too and shrugged. It was genetics. My dad was all gray by 30.

This memory returns each time I'm seated in the hair salon, my hair wrapped like a doggie bag, plastic wrap and tin foil fighting for space, plucking the strands out like a Thanksgiving turkey, as the grays are magically transformed with vegetable dye. Yuri, my hair doctor, is a true magician. "Now you see them. Now you don't."

As I sat flipping through magazine after magazine (three hours can make for a lot of reading), it dawned on me that these colorful, enticing pictures and articles tell us the same thing: everything about us needs improvement. "Prettier in 5 minutes flat!" "Take inches off your thighs, your tush — all over!" "Get longer, luscious locks!" "Flatter abs easy!"

We are already constantly being judged. We don't need glossy pages of super-thin, super-perfect supermodels telling us that. We're our own worse critics not to mention surrounded by people judging what we eat, say, wear and how we work. And even when we get results, when do we have time to enjoy them when we're continuously striving to make them better? And as if that weren't enough, many are now taking it public and willingly being critiqued on television.

We love hearing Trump say, "You're fired," while secretly agreeing with Simon Cowell when he tells some off-key American Idol hopeful, "My advice would be if you want to pursue a career in the music business, don't." And between "What not to wear" and the "Queer Eye" guys, apparently we're all still doing it wrong.

Then there is "Extreme Makeover." Watching Mr. Fat and Ugly turned into Mr. Hunk, as his no chin is chiseled out and his four tire tummies are turned into a six-pack, we're compelled to view the transformation. The sad part is the emotional trauma these individuals put themselves through. "My whole life I was teased for being ugly," one guy admits, "I can't wait till they see me now." But just because his reflection is more appealing, deep down does he believe it?

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I know a woman who was in a terrible car accident. While the doctors put her back together, they fixed up a few facial features. The result was incredible. Though now that she was beautiful on the outside, she was still insecure on the inside.

By all means do what you can to make yourself feel better. Whether through plastic surgery, a gym membership, or the Atkins diet, just remember beauty is only skin deep. It's the scars you can't see that never fade.

Getting up from my hair chair, I inspected my new do. My eyes immediately darted to two gray hairs hiding under the lighter locks. Instinctively I reached to pull them out and stopped, deciding instead to leave them. These, I figured, I'd earned.

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


03/23/04: Rejoice, ‘preppy’ is back
03/16/04: Taking a bad shot

© 2004, Felice Cohen