On a Trip, Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder and In the Strength of Your Shoulders

The rule in our house for travel has always been the same. Each person’s responsible for toting personal luggage. Unless I was eight months pregnant or in a full leg-cast with crutches, I knew my porter would be me.

This wasn’t a problem when we were young and usually schlepped backpacks. We traveled Europe with one each plus a tote bag. Even when we set off on cross-country car trips, we followed the rule. Small children were exempt, of course, but by about age eight, our kids quite competently managed their things.

However, a number of years ago I noticed the space for my clothes was contracting. I had to remove a pair of shoes here, an extra jacket there, first a swimsuit cover-up, then a fluffy bathrobe. What was happening? Was my luggage shrinking? Did my increased poundage result in enormous, space-eating outfits?

Then as I laid out the items I was packing in orderly heaps, I noticed an especially large mound. The load I mentally labeled “Health & Beauty,” ever since my time as a saleswoman at JC Penney’s decades before, surpassed all my clothing. What had happened? I knew I neither was using more makeup nor carrying additional beauty equipment.

More health items. More medicines. More paraphernalia to have on hand in case I threw a muscle out or strained a joint. Age had caught up with me. A short list:

  • Glucose for low blood sugar episodes.

  • Vitamins of all sorts

  • Prescriptions for me and my husband

  • Special washes and creams for skin conditions

  • Herbal and naturopathic supplement designed to reduce impact of viruses

  • A circular pillow that fit around my neck to ease naps while traveling

  • Elastic supports for knees

  • Several specially designed implements to keep decay and gum disease at bay

  • At least 9 pairs of glasses: reading, reading back-up, reading sun; same three for medium distance and far. Maybe some bifocals.

As I surveyed the piles, I realized I’d reached an age-stage. Just as babies need lots of extras, so do aging folks. One method to approximate someone’s age is to survey his luggage. If his health and beauty pile is larger than his clothing, he must be approaching 55 or 60. Ditto women even if their hair and lips appear like youngsters’.

I’m not alone in packing more items. My sister sometimes takes her sleep apnea equipment, which is at least the size of a shoe box. A woman I know can’t sleep unless she packs her special large pillows to cushion her body.

So what does this mean? Another example of age discrimination. Why can’t luggage limits be based on age and the amount of necessities? If the privilege of affordable housing can be given to those above a particular number of years, certainly airlines, trains and buses can waive the restrictions on baggage for us.

As for the practicalities of body strength, if we get tired of toting the extra weight, we can reduce the number of items we lug. To disguise the need for extra makeup we can wear concealing scarves, droopy hats, or extra-long bangs. To hide physical disabilities, opt for obscuring baggy clothing. Squint instead of packing extra glasses. Or just suffer discomfort without our extras.

I’d Tip My Wig to You, But I Haven’t Got a Wig

eliseMore and more people seem to be wearing hairpieces or wigs. Or maybe more and more people are wearing poorly made wigs. Walking out of a building today, I spotted a man with an obvious hairpiece. The piece was longish, all the same length (like a Dutch boy bob), and dark; but I spotted gray hair underneath where the hairpiece tilted a bit. I know other people with wigs obvious to the passerby. These folks must feel the accessory improves their looks.

But I wonder why someone would go to the trouble of buying a hairpiece that’s ill-shaped, poorly fitted, and whose color is at odds with the hard-earned traceries of time on the their faces.

Must be the wide-spread belief that gray or white hair makes you look older. Are wig-wearers so fearful of growing old—or looking old—that they’ll do anything to avoid it? Then why not dye it? Eleven percent of men and 55% of women color their hair, and you can be sure they’re not choosing gray.

Another option for changing styles are hair extensions, favored by public figures like Britney Spears, and not infrequently bedraggled or limp, and their close cousins, hair weaves. These usually are selected for the “beauty” they supposedly convey on the wearer.

Of course, there are lots of reasons to wear wigs that seem more legitimate than mere appearance: religious, health, diseases. But still the wearers are wearing wigs because they can’t or won’t tolerate nature’s dictates.

I have sufficient reason to participate. A young friend of mine guessed my age to be greater than my older sister’s, partly because my hair’s gray. But excuse me from the group. If I were really intent on fighting time, I’d do something about my hair; but I’m too lazy and too cheap and too devoted to simple comfort.

Not that there’s anything wrong with wearing artificial locks or coloring hair. Humanity has been doing it for millennia. If you have an inclination in that direction, go for it. However, I come down on the side of Chris Rock, whose documentary film “Good Hair” is a close look at black culture and the influence of society on young African-American girls. Natural hair is popularly believed to be unattractive, but Chris feels, and I agree, that natural hair tends to be a healthier, easier, more self-confident choice.

Plus, unlike wigs, natural hair won’t slip down over your forehead.