Vanity Fair

 There I was; my eyeball a hair’s breadth (literally) from a modern yet archaic tool known as a curling iron – for eyelashes. The heat coming off the electric curler made my eyes start to water. I blinked back the tears and nervously carried on, knowing that one errant jerk of my wrist and I would be hereafter referred to as Cyclops. Vanity, thy name is woman.

Ladies, how many times have we run to the corner store, utterly devoid of make-up, hoping not to run into anyone we know or want to know? From the day we receive our first Barbie with its bottomless closet of clothes, accessories and fantasies of perfection; we are doomed as participants in the never-ending race for beauty.


Sure, most men care nominally about how they look (actually this may be too general a statement as I look out at the rush hour wave of unkempt hair, dark socks with sandals and exposed beer bellies of the men passing by), but women are in a different league altogether. It’s like comparing the Olympics to a three-legged race at a family reunion; in fact it’s a draw whether women spend more time thinking about their looks or food, it’s certainly in the top three (sorry guys, sex is somewhere down there with remembering to pick up the dry cleaning).


In our quest for beauty, women are at the mercy of myriad face creams and expensive serums, diet pills and fasting regimens, body squeezing undergarments, potions to add hair and waxes to rip it out. We gladly go under the knife to be cut and tucked and implanted with silicone. All for the sake of looking good.


But a man can get away with looking like a pocked marked potato squashed on top of a pumpkin body with ham hock cheeks and chubby sausage fingers, all he requires to be desirable is a big, fat wallet to match the girth of his belly.


Now before you go into that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” and “beauty is only skin deep” rigmarole; let’s get real and admit that people judge women on their looks. Even grannies know this and get their quarterly Botox injections along with their osteoporosis scans. Like the rings on a tree, the number of products on a woman’s bathroom counter increases with each passing year, conversely the number of items for a man decreases. In my father’s shower stall, there is a well-worn bar of soap and a face cloth, nothing else. And he’s not even from the “old country”; he just has no use for the other stuff.


When asked whether they would give up their toothbrush or lipstick for a day, most women said they would give up their toothbrush. When asked whether they would give up their toothbrush or deodorant for a day, most men replied, “What is deodorant?” This being China, rubbing some Axe under your armpit would not be a good thing, it would really hurt. Badly.


A couple of weeks ago, I met up with a girlfriend for lunch. To be honest, she’s reasonably attractive and on that day she wore a decidedly low, cleavage baring dress. Our waiter fell over himself in getting her order. I had to wave him back to take my order since he rushed away to get my friend’s drink. Yes, I thought as we left the restaurant (she got dessert on the house; I barely got another refill of Coke), it’s good to be attractive; there are definitely advantages in having long eyelashes to bat at susceptible food service workers.


Which brings me back to my eye-watering experience with the miniature red hot fire poker, I’m not so naïve to think that a few coats of mascara will send men rushing to buy me drinks; that takes a lot of hair flipping and some serious exposure of skin (and I’m not talking about rubber flip flops) so I’ve made a pact with myself to keep my eyeballs intact, toss the electric curler, buy my own drinks and open my own doors. Just do me a favor, next time we’re at the corner store pretend like you don’t see me; the last time I went to the store unadorned I ran into Edvard Munch; I heard The Scream came out the very next week…



Dinah Chong Watkins has been around since the age of Methuselah – oh no wait, that’s her husband. Still a child bride (it’s all relative), she escaped the cold, snowy winters of Toronto for the cold, smoggy winters of Beijing. She likes Pina Coladas, long walks on the beach and is counting on her husband’s 401K to provide all that. In the meantime, she hopes you’ll get a chuckle or two out of her writing because laughter is priceless or at least that’s what her editor said when she asked for a raise. Enjoy more of her writing at