Wednesday, 21 October 2009

So White She's Blue (With Cold): Punk Rock Skin

by Miss Justine Brown

ALERT! A fascinating interview about beauty's magical powers with girl genius Dame Darcy, author of Meatcake, the most original underground comic book on the stands, is in the Beauty Skool pipeline. 

The 19th century poetess Emily Dickinson insisted upon modesty. When, after she had been his patient for many years, her doctor insisted upon examining her, she made this one concession: he could remain seated in his doctorly leather armchair while she ran past the open door in her floor-length white petticoats. How right she was!

One day a 15-year-old Miss Brown and a group of pals piled into someone's wheels (always someone's wheels, since she never got Drivers Ed at the Skool) and motored down to Kitsilano ("Kits") Beach. How healthy and well-adjusted, you say! "Kits" is Vancouver's muscle beach---as opposed to say, its sick-making nude beach-- crammed with people eager to justify their gym memberships. The lawns are as manicured as the patrons.

Miss Brown emerged from the car in a long-sleeved t-shirt, pleated tartan wool mini skirt, thick black tights, and vintage Keds.
Miss Brown in a bathing costume photo Bev Davies

She ran to the shoreline and plunged in. As she swam about, an crowd was assembling like angry wasps. Someone had been using their nest as a pinata. When eventually she was compelled to emerge (her fingers resembled tiny white prunes), Miss Brown, dripping-- those tights were particularly sodden and heavy-- had to run the gauntlet as the tanned and near-naked villagers waved their pitchforks. Now, the squares hated us. And we, in turn, for some reason disdainfully dubbed them "jock niftys." But there was something about this refusal to wear a conventional bathing suits that REALLY enraged them. Our Miss Brown was lucky to get back to the car without a black eye.

She was determined to avoid the sun. Part of this derived from the general importance of sporting Sid Vicious-style white skin. But there was another reason. Miss Brown had grown up thinking, like everyone else since Coco Chanel made her fatal mistake and introduced the tan to high society, that tans were "healthy" and "glamorous" (Try telling that to a 17th century farmer! Or to the ladies who used to paint blue veins on their decolletage to make it seem paler). Miss Brown remembers her mother slathering herself with Johnson's Baby Oil; she remembers sunbathers holding tin foil before their faces to intensify the light.

On an August trip to Louisiana, Miss Brown did the sensible thing and stayed indoors for a full month. Her father and his new family drove her to Dallas to catch the plane north. They spent the last day camping at a lake north of Austin, a lake which seemed to offer respite from the mind-boggling heat and light. Our pale heroine spent the whole day in the water.

Horrors! The next day she woke to find herself transformed into a space alien. Her face was puffed up like a pillow, especially the forehead, which was also covered with blisters. Her eyes were reproachful slits.  That glassy lake, so cool and refreshing, had acted like a massive piece of tin foil. Miss Brown felt that she had spent several days in a microwave oven. Then she flew to Vancouver. Instead of going to hospital, she combed her bangs even more firmly over her face and toughed it out. It would be crude to tell you of how that forehead hardened, cracked, and fell off in great chunks over the next miserable days. It would be maudlin to recount how she cried bitterly, certain her face would never be returned to normal.

But Miss Brown's policy was the right one, it turns out (apart from those long hours in the perfidious lake). Since her early 20s she has been wearing a moisturizer-- Neutrogena, for instance-- with minimum SPF 15 EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. An article in Allure assured her that not only would sunscreen protect her from wrinkles and worse, it could reverse past damage.  A visit to (click on "What's New") is never a bad idea. For the past few weeks she has been using their admirable ProX Age Protection Lotion with SPF 30, for Miss Brown has noticed some hyperpigmentation of late. Time to wheel out bigger guns. This weaponry, while a tad expensive, is light, creamy and quickly absorbed. It also seems to be seeing off those dreaded brown spots. Of course, a big, fabulous hat would be preferable to sunscreen, which-- who knows-- may turn out to have some bad long-term side effects. But Miss Brown does not possess a hat head. It's a shame, for the Regency ladies pictured below seem to have the right idea entirely.

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