My parents are in town and my mum calls from her hotel to tell me she’s just dried her hair and she looks like Monica from Friends. I know immediately she means The One Where They All Go To The Caribbean And Monica’s Hair Frizzes Up In The Humidity.
“Welcome to my world,” I reply. “It’s not easy to feel attractive when you look like an albino golliwogg.”
Now my mother has great hair. Something she did not pass on to me, I inherited my dad’s thin, mousey tresses. But if her hair doesn’t behave in this climate, I’m screwed. Same can be said of the Duchess of Cambridge -even her hair frizzed up in Singapore. There is no hope for us limp locked blondes.
I can’t be the only person whose confidence is floored by a bad hair day. And since every day out here is a bad hair day, I understand on some level where Phoebe Baker Hyde is coming from in The Beauty Experiment. In her book, Hyde details how she gave up fashion and beauty for a year while living in Hong Kong.
As Hyde points out, Hong Kong is a place where people dress up to go to the supermarket. “I was at the cross roads of self doubt,” she says. I hear you sister. But in my experience, that’s usually a good time to apply more eyeliner. And giving up make up is a crying shame now that Charlotte Tilbury’s cosmetic range is in the world.
I can’t think of a city, apart from maybe Moscow, where abandoning the beauty regime would be so fool hardy but Hyde’s way of dealing with self doubt was to withdraw from the competition entirely.
Not for the first time am I reminded that Mr J’s last glimpse of me in the morning is pre-shower and make up less before he goes forth and encounters all the glossy maned, sleekly dressed glamazons of the work arena. If only I could be arsed to get up an hour earlier than him every day and look fabulous by the time he’s having breakfast.
Or perhaps I should be one of those wives who doesn’t even see her husband in the morning. Maybe I should bugger off to the gym and let the maid handle all the mundanities. Note to self: join gym. And hire maid.
Then yesterday I met my husband’s new colleague freshly arrived from London – very pretty, very young and wearing a very revealing dress. Every wife’s worst nightmare.
“I like your dress,” says someone else’s husband who up until now has displayed zero interest in women’s fashion. It seems that what he really means is “I like your body.” His wife proceeds to chat to “the dress” in extremely friendly and animated tones in a manoeuvre I’ve come to recognise as Disarming The Competition. One day I intend to learn how to do this.
Then I think, have I got to that point? Where I’m so anxious about my face and body falling apart that I’m shaken by the presence of younger women in the office?
“Don’t worry,” says my mother. “They never have affairs with the pretty ones.”
Perhaps Hyde got it right as she’s managed to move back to the US with both her self esteem and her marriage intact. But do I have the guts to turn up to dinner tonight in no make up, hair undone and wearing no make up?