BY LISA EARLE MCLEOD
My hairdresser got breast implants and I've got the gray hair to show for it. Actually, it wasn't her new D cups that left me looking like the Wicked Witch of the West. It was having the fat sucked out of her kneecaps that turned me gray. She couldn't stand for three weeks and her convalescence left me hanging in the root zone.
The net result is that a cute little 28-year-old hairdresser looks more like Tori Spelling and the world now knows that her aging 43-year-old client is not a natural coppery blonde.
I'd cast aspersions on her vanity, but I'm the one who couldn't leave the house for two weeks without a hat.
Fake is the new real, and as Barbie says, "Life in plastic, it's fantastic."
America may be aging, but thanks to a squadron of chemical wielding beauticians, colorists, surgeons and injecting artisans we're convinced we can look 25 forever.
And nowhere is the pressure greater than for those in the public eye.
Working in the beauty biz, my hairdresser probably felt like she needed to live up to the image she was selling. (It's no coincidence that good colorists always know all the best plastic surgeons.)
But it's the people on TV who really ratchet things up. Twenty years ago, June Cleaver furrowed her brow when she was a bit vexed at the Beave. Today's TV "Housewives" may be desperate, but their angst never creases their foreheads.
The recent buzz about CBS trimming a few inches of Katie Couric's waistline for PR photos reveals that no matter how smart you are, if you're a woman and you're on TV, you better look good.
Robin Meade, anchor of CNN Headline News' morning show "Robin & Company" said, "There's no such thing as natural beauty." Meade says she's "been friends with Miss Clairol for years," and that it takes a team of people 45 minutes to get her camera-ready every day.
Pretty depressing when you consider that at 38, with no children, Meade ( www.CNN.com) is still young and great looking. (And, for the record, has a forehead that actually moves.)
But if it takes a team of people 45 minutes to get a former beauty queen ready for public consumption, what hope do the rest of us have?
No wonder my hairdresser felt like she had to whittle her waist and bump up her bra size to stay glam.
Personally, I'm petrified of hospitals and doctors, so I've never really considered going under the knife. And after hearing the gruesome details of putting the silicone in and sucking the cellulite out, I'm definitely opting to stay saggy and baggy rather than sliced and diced.
Yet while fear is keeping me out of the OR, vanity has not prevented me from purchasing every wrinkle cream known to humankind.
Where do you draw the line?
What constitutes taking care of you? And when do you cross over into the plastic zone?
If hair dye, moisturizer and body squeezing undergarments are OK; are Botox, Restylane and collagen wrong?
When it comes to cosmetic improvement, we all have our own standards of what we will and won't do. For whatever weird reason, I have no problem using artificial products on my body. However, Diet Coke and NutraSweet notwithstanding, I've always been a bit grossed out by the idea of putting foreign substances into it.
But I've got a book tour coming up this spring and the thought of sitting next to a skinny, smooth-skinned anchor has me reevaluating my previous position on the beauty intervention spectrum.
I hope I'll never inject botulism into my face. But then again, I never thought I'd be addicted to hair dye in my 40s.
I hope one day a few courageous women will step forward and claim our right to age with grace.
But I'm terrified of being the first one to take the plunge.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You've Already Got and the YOU You Already Are."