A friend of mine in college who lived off-campus told me about his next-door neighbor, a townie woman upon whom the goddess of beauty did not smile.
"If she had 50 grand, though, she'd be hot," he said.
At first, I thought he was saying he wanted her to have the money so he could steal it in some imaginary sugar mama scenario.
"No! ANY woman can be beautiful for $50,000. Get those teeth fixed. Eat better food. Put some nice highlights in her hair, a new nose ... some pumps?"
Instead of being offended by the misogyny and elitism of that statement, I was intrigued and, in my mind, started to put together a concept for a daily talk show that did makeovers in factory towns or a movie script in which a woman who didn't win the genetic lottery wins the ACTUAL lottery and then grants $50,000 beauty scholarships to those of aesthetic misfortune. "The Fifty Grand-mother," I'd call it.
Tagline: In the end she'd find that money could buy beauty but not happiness ...
"Fifty thousand dollars?" I asked. "You think?"
"ANY woman," he said.
I remembered this conversation recently when I spent $50,000 on vegetables to do a juice cleanse.
Beauty costs money. Lots and lots of money. And not just physical beauty, either. I'm not talking Juvederm and La Mer here. Leading a beautiful life is expensive -- that is, leading the kind of pleasant life I desire, the one that the softly lit Gwyneth Paltrow says we can all live, in which everything is natural and stylized and ideal from the inside out. Where polished vegetables grown with love and sunshine are pureed into easily absorbed nutrients so your skin will glow behind that thin layer of organic soap and moisturizer, with just a swipe of mascara. Where friends sit on your white sofas and sip Bloody Marys that you made from a bowl of artfully arranged heirloom tomatoes. Where you have time to meditate and brush your skin for better circulation before a shower and then curl up on a comfy chaise with a ballet-pink cashmere blanket -- which doesn't have food stains on it because you don't eat food. Where you then flip through a magazine and contemplate Tory Burch tunics and your next move toward perfection.
It's a fantasy I occasionally buy into. And, no matter how much I know it's a lie, there will still be a moment once every few months during which I forget everything I've known to be real and true about my life thus far and start thinking "Juice! The solution is to make my own juice! And I shall put my juice in mason jars! They will be the only things in my fridge ..."
Gwyneth is not to blame for this one, though. Yes, Ms. Conscious Uncoupling "curates" a pretentious and aspirational lifestyle publication that espouses a beautiful (purchasable) existence on Goop.com -- that onomatopoetic nightmare, by the way, is the sound of her initials ... I'm not making this up. GP.
(And the world sighed in relief that she wasn't name Pyneth Paltrow.)
Everything on Goop is pretty and clean and healthy and presented with a bony shoulder shrug like, "Buy this blue east Hampton pant by Nili Lotan for $265, what? Just check between your couch cushions for spare change ... "
It's why Gwyneth tops the list of most hated celebrities -- not because she's Hollywood glam, but because she's the unelected president of the Lululemon'd and white-teethed among us. The regular rich. The beautiful women who want to be our friend and who joke about their imperfections as if they're not being pretentious, "I'm such a hog. Sometimes I stand in front of my fridge and eat strawberries!" The ones who share their tips for making $12 breakfast drinks and make us think their lives are attainable.
"Do a juice cleanse! It'll make your skin amazing!"
No, I don't blame Gwyneth for my cart filled with beets and kale. Nor do I blame her for the thing I heard myself say while I was juice fasting, which was "It's actually quite delicious. I don't miss eating." I didn't even get the idea from Goop, actually (because it's named Goop and I don't read things named Goop). But the juice cleanse felt Gwyneth-y. It felt like something she would do on a perfect morning with perfect leaves of spinach.
And I don't hate her really. I actually feel bad for her, especially because I read yesterday that Goop is in major debt and serious having problems.
Hmmm. I guess in the end, she did find that money could buy beauty but not happiness. How pretty.
Liz Farrell is the editor of Lowcountry Current. Follow her at twitter.com/elizfarrell.