Chasing Pretty: The Importance of Girl-Grooming for Women with MS
No matter our age, having multiple sclerosis screws with a woman’s glamor. When I was still working, I showered, chose clothing from a closetful of casual or office attire, sometimes wore strappy 2-inch heels, and put on make-up almost every day. But with retirement and a 2009 MS relapse that zapped my leg strength, bladder function, balance and energy, my grooming habits drastically changed. I was lucky if I showered twice a week. I stayed in my lounging clothes upon rising and all the way up to bedtime. I rarely left the house. Since I didn’t have to be anywhere and my social life, such as it was, dried up, why bother? When I stopped looking for jobs I was 52 and had already experienced age discrimination in the workplace for several years, on top of MS ultimately slowing down my performance enough to be noticeable and pointed out by several temp employers. By the time my SSDI payments started, I felt old, disabled, ugly, fat and getting fatter, and a burden on society. Irrelevant is the word. Needless to say, the mirror became my enemy.
We are a product of conditioning and there’s no way around it
I won’t ask you to put pop culture aside to discuss the benefits of staying girl-groomed. That would be impossible. We are a product of conditioning and there’s no way around it. At age 12 we are imprinted via auto-suggestion by the glamor industry that adding make-up to the already natural beauty of youth is the absolute right thing to do. We drink the Kool-Aid because our favorite grown-up-but-still-girlish cover girl models show us how great they look in smoky eye shadow and a crimson slash of lip color. We want to look grown-up, too, and we think that’ll do it. Now I’m a grandmother-aged grown-up and realizing that some judiciously applied make-up will now, ironically, make me look a little younger, or if not that, a little less pasty and translucent, ghostly, like I’m ten years past my expiration date and don’t know enough to go to my grave and stop scaring small children.
This is no way to be
I had to do something. First, I accept my vanity. It’s not a bad quality, as you will see. In fact, it’s high time we amend the seven deadly sins. Second, regular grooming is as important to my daily disease management as a medication regimen, diet, sleep, and activity. Daily showering and donning fresh clothing that has no stains or holes, brushing teeth and brushing hair improve my feeling of well-being after I’m done with these tasks. They are hard to accomplish, but I’m always glad I did it while I sit and rest afterwards. It usually opens my mind to becoming more active, and thus my vanity nudges me towards more healthful behaviors. That whittles down the deadly sins to six. I’ll work on de-stigmatizing sloth next. People with MS call it “resting.” That’ll be another article.
Now, sis, don’t faint . . . yesterday I put on make-up. Not just lip gloss, which I haven’t worn in years. No sirree, I took that lip gloss and swiped a streak along the apples of my cheeks, too. Like an old friend emerging from the mists of time, my bone structure revealed itself once more. Emboldened, I then added a little eye makeup, fluffed my hair, pushed my eyeglasses way up on the bridge of my nose where they’re supposed to be, and the mirror brought it all home. I almost recognized myself. Not quite fitting the description of a handsome woman—a gal past her youth who has strong features—but close enough. And darn it, it was important.
I can still get dolled up
I can’t wear strappy high heels anymore or show my midriff—I actually did that while still in my forties—but I can wear animal print tops or leggings and a feminine swing hem tunic, with bling on my earrings, necklace, bracelet, rings and even on some dressy flat sandals. Or, gosh, peplum added to anything makes it flowy and fem, too. I have a bumblebee ring set in with citrine and sterling silver. It’s so cute I can’t help smiling at it no matter what my mood.
So there it is—glam and bling can go a long way in healing us. While our meds are soothing glam for our shredded nerves, dolling up is sensual healing. Gazing at our eyes in the mirror lets us look inward to the soul, where we can catch a glimpse of our beautiful, timeless selves anytime we want, for as many times as we need.