vintage-woman-makeupIf tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business. Dr. Gail Dines

When did personal maintenance begin?

I was getting myself the monthly coif and was thinking about personal maintenance.   The monthly haircut, the monthly hair dye (ugh), the eyebrow maintenance, the pedicure, I have stopped with the manicures (too much cooking), the variety of annual doctors check-ups, the every few months dermatologist appointment, etc.  It takes time to keep up.  I got laser surgery for my eyes at 39 so that is something that I have taken off the list at night which used to be taking out my contacts.  Now it is just the taking off the make-up, flossing and brushing of the teeth, moisturizing of the face, hands and feet.  I have added in the feet recently because they get dry and cracked.  Did I mention eye cream too?  Even getting ready in the morning has a routine.  I have limited the blow dry of the hair (I was born with a jewish afro) by getting the keratin treatment.  Hair gets a bit flat but it is worth the minutes of torture saved every morning under the blow dryer.

There is not a woman I know who talks about the ease of a man’s maintenance.  I know when we are getting ready to go somewhere nice I spend a few more minutes than the norm getting ready.  Fred pops in the shower and he is ready in no time at all.  Damn.

Did it start with Cleopatra?  Did it start with the media?  Did cave women look in the mirror and think wow I need a new dress?

There is something extremely comical about being at the hair salon and seeing the maintenance of beauty taking place.  I am part of it so I can laugh at myself too but I do wonder when did the personal maintenance regime begin?


Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    But you look great. My home is similar to yours, 3 women doing maintenance, and stealing each other’s maintenance products. I saw a company dedicated to maintenance, Women led. They are doing well right now.

    1. LE

      The other things about maintenance is I don’t think we should assume that just because it takes time and effort there isn’t some enjoyment in doing it. For example men might wax or clean a car which is somewhat hard work (of course not done everyday) but there is a certain pride that one derives from that. Years ago when I had a business with machinery I used to really like wiping down the machinery after a good day’s production. It was work but I enjoyed doing that work.

  2. Sari Nickelsburg

    My mom and I laugh about this all the time. Nora Ephron wrote a great essay on maintenance, and I was able to find it online. She always got it right!

  3. Sunchowder

    You always get me thinking 🙂 Love the new design of your page too. XX

  4. Brandon Burns

    I assure you this is not unique to women. I think men are a bit different now than when Fred was coming up, and there is much more pressure to look a certain way. The time may be spent in the gym rather than the bathroom, but the pressure is there for us, too. And the men’s grooming product category is growing like crazy.

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are definitely right. although not sure i like men dying their hair.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Brendan, men of Fred and my generation were so cool we didn’t have to work at it. : ) If I had hair, I wouldn’t dye it.

        1. Brandon Burns


        2. Gotham Gal


  5. Ella Dyer

    Dear Joanne, thanks again for another thought provoking post.Personally, I have no idea when this started nor where it will stop (if at all). However, I do know that we women have an opportunity to make certain maintenance (regimes, good habits, whatever we have, strive for or, refuse) doesn’t translate into not accepting our age or, the fact that we still add value.This is a passion that is close to my heart as I mentor female founders and young ladies in my life. We come in all shapes/size/etc (personally, I’m built like a chardonnay bottle and would love some width to my shoulders!) and are acceptable, valuable and wonderful to ourselves and each other.

  6. Scarlett Sieber

    Lovely post, but I think that this is true for men as well. My boyfriend takes longer to get ready than I do. The showering, shaving, dressing. Maybe it comes from growing up in a small town with a father that constantly downplayed looks but I now have a routine where I can walk out of the house ready within 10 minutes.

  7. JLM

    .If you move south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the time period doubles. Trust me on this one.Of course, it is all worth it. The best women require the most expensive and detailed maintenance like a Ferrari.”Oh, how kind. I just threw myself together, ya’ll.”At VMI, we had formal dances called “hops”. 1,250 cadets, 1,250 Southern beauties in ball gowns. An ocean of shampoo. All good smelling and tasting. Those were the days. Trapped in the pre-War years.JLM.

      1. JLM

        .You’ve got to be careful with stuff like this. Ole Miss is really something. Hoddy Toddy, ya’ll.You’re going to start a riot with all these Fast Yankee Girls looking at this stuff.You gotta put a lot into this! More effort.Classy.Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia, UT, USC, SMU — it’s where beauty goes to have a great time.JLM.

  8. AG

    It’s interesting that somehow our standards for female beauty were based upon how a beautiful woman could look once perfected with makeup (and today, with further digital touch ups). Men have always been expected to go au natural, even if that’s changing slightly.I do think the most beautiful women are those who look gorgeous without a stitch of makeup. But for the rest of us, especially those of us in the fair skin camp, usually a little something makes a difference.Btw, why does removing contacts feel like such a pain?!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Contacts just take time

  9. P.K. Fields

    I was going to send you this note yesterday – but I didn’t want you to think I was pandering. So I am posting instead.I rarely leave my computer so when I do get your feed, it is like my Calgon (Take me away..) moment. When I saw todays on”Maintenance” I had to respond.Yesterday: I was looking for something I wrote and saw my note to you, Gasp! My grammar is much better before midnight.Love single sex schools – have a lot to say between my education and my sons. As for college I still have my black Studio 54 card but I never got my NYU diploma, Tisch School.I was working full time at Warners Bros. when I left.Today – Maintenance – I have called it that for a long time.When did it start? My Mother had a cosmetic company and I was a tom boy.My luggage got lost on train on my way home from school. Home was Los Angeles but my Mom was in New York, she was too busy to take me shopping. Since I needed clothes while I was in New York so sheasked Arnold Scassi to take me shopping, true story. Arnold shopping at Bergdorfs with a 16 year old fighting over her sense of lack of style – it would have made a great short.I cut five inches off my hair in the last four months, I hate going to salons so I just let it grow. I won’t sit though Keratin or Brazilian treatments – too much time. I always fix it myself as going to a blow bar is another waste of time, driving back and forth.I use to get my nails done weekly, now only for dates or important meetings. Why I think it would matter in a meeting if my nails are done and my hair is coiffed in my upbringing, back to my Mother.My surf board is in my hallway, my road bike is in my dining room and my mountain bike is out back and I like men.

    1. Gotham Gal


  10. LE

    When did personal maintenance begin?My mom, who is 86, plans all other activities [1][1a] around both her hair appointment (always on Friday’s) every week and “the girl”. (You know what that means of course). You don’t mess with those two things.For that matter both of my parents never went sloppy around the house. When they emerged from the bedroom they were always dressed. Never saw my dad in a “wife beater” [2] never saw my mom or dad just slumming it. Never “slept in”. For that matter never saw them drunk either. Very rigid in all behaviors. Even when my dad was recently at the hospital he was shaving and he was in really bad shape at the time.From what I know, have observed and figured out, I always thought women using makeup comes from two things basically. One, as women get older they have less color in their faces vs. men hence the need for makeup. Two, makeup adds to symmetry (by removing defects which detract from symmetry) and allows emphasis of parts of the face that make one appear more attractive to men and I guess women. Lips and eyes as two examples. That is if it’s done right and not overdone. I have also observed that there is a difference between what women think a man finds attractive and what a man finds attractive. At least me.That said if I am ever anywhere and there is an older woman I am definitely more interested in talking to her if she comes across as being impressive in some way (and I don’t mean that she has a good job or has money) but rather sounds confident and secure and as if she is solid as a rock. These women stand out and I find them “attractive” in another way.[1] Even my dad’s operations.[1a] My mom has a skin condition that prevents her from being in the sun. Hence she is never in the sun and at her age has probably the best looking skin you could imagine. I go to all length to stay out of the sun and it’s worked pretty well for me.[2] http://www.urbandictionary….

    1. Gotham Gal

      My Grandma used to say..better overdressed than underdressed

  11. Renee Zau

    As a time-crunched startup founder and mom to 3, I’ve decided that maintenance (both time and cost) is not as important as my family time or my company’s progress. You’re right–even the few minutes each day for contacts would drive me crazy (laser vision correction, eyebrow tattoos, and laser hair removal were some of the best investments I’ve ever made.) I’ve never been “high” maintenance, but definitely used to spend more money on products and services more often. I’ve stepped back like you have, questioned the necessity, and observed that on a day-to-day basis I would rather associate with people who pay more attention to what I am building than how I look when presenting it. (This may be idealistic, though, as studies show that attractive people are more often funded.) I’m curious what your opinion is on that from an investor perspective, especially behavior you observe of other investors, and whether you think answers may be different geographically.The occasional splurge or treat is fun, but I’m happy to say that here in San Diego, all fellow female tech startup founders I know are comfortable putting our energy into priorities like our companies and families instead, and success is happening. It’s a great community you should visit the next time you are in Southern California!

    1. Gotham Gal

      I believe it is important to dress appropriately for the business you are in. If a woman entrepreneur came to see me in a full suit I’d be concerned. I would expect jeans, shirt and a jacket. Casual but stylish. Dressing like you are going to hang out at a bbq is not ok. The same goes for men. It is just my personal opinion but I think there is something about putting your best person forward and that includes a personal style.

  12. panterosa,

    Once upon a time in the 90’s, some brit came from British Vogue to US Vogue and had a panic attack at the coiffing here. In London, getting dressed to go out after work was borrowing a comb for 2 minutes and putting on lipstick. Here the equivalent was what you mention, daily, weekly, quarterly sets of routines. Entire budgets for the very glossy set who did the whole thing.The brit turned herself into an american version of a brit, but pretended she was still very casual. Having met her, it rather sad to see the pretense in the whole ruse. I feel everyone should do what makes them feel at home in their bodies and their work and play modes. I will still put on lipstick with no mirror, because after years of practice, I can do it blind, and it saves a few moments.