Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Beauty is in the eyes of ...

A couple weeks ago, I happened to see a TV news report about a popular Web site called BeautifulPeople. The reporter explained that it’s a site where beautiful men and women go to meet other beautiful men and women.

I watched in disbelief as the reporter explained that in order to become a member of the BeautifulPeople site, you must submit a photo of yourself for judging. Members of the opposite sex who already have been accepted into the BeautifulPeople family then vote on whether or not to accept you. The voting lasts for three days, at which point, applicants will receive either a “Congratulations! You are accepted!” e-mail or a “Sorry, you’re not attractive enough,” e-mail.

The voters, after studying an applicant’s photo and bio, check off one of the following: “Yes! Definitely!”, “Hmm, yes, OK”, “Hmm, not really” or “No! Not at all!” During the voting process, applicants can see a running total of their votes and how well (or lousy) they are doing.

The TV reporter, an attractive blonde, decided to submit her own photo to BeautifulPeople to see what would happen. She went to a photographer and had several professional shots taken, then carefully studied them until she selected what she felt was the perfect photo. She also thought long and hard about something clever and intriguing to write in her bio. Finally, she submitted everything to BeautifulPeople…and waited.

She frequently checked her status during the voting period and seemed less than pleased to discover that she’d amassed a stack of “No! Not at all!” votes and not even one “Yes, definitely!” And at the end of the three days, she received the dreaded “Sorry, you’re not attractive enough” letter.

Curiosity led me to check out the Web site. The home page stated that out of over 36,000 applicants, only 5,500 had been accepted.

“Boy, are they ever fussy!” I said to my husband. “Everyone on here must look like Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts!”

I checked out the members’ photos. I did see quite a few drop-dead gorgeous women and hunky guys. I also saw a lot of not-so-gorgeous, bikini-clad women who looked as if they’d been to a big sale at Silicone City…and a bunch of bare-chested, not-so-handsome guys whose bodies resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.

I began to read some of the things the members had written about themselves. “There HAS to be more to life than being really, really good-looking,” one man wrote.

Another, a curvy young woman, said, “Unlike some of the people on here, who submitted photos that have been retouched or air-brushed, I am a hundred percent natural…except for my crummy breast implants.”

“This stuff would make a great column,” I said to my husband. “In fact, I think I’ll be brave like that TV reporter and submit one of my photos! It should be good for a laugh!”

“You’re too old,” he said, kind soul that he is.

“I wouldn’t submit a current photo, silly! I’d dig up one that was taken back when I was 25 or so. Maybe even one that shows some cleavage!”

“Yeah, at least back then, you still had cleavage.”

The man was no help at all.

Finding an old photo of myself that could pass for a modern-day one, however, was no easy task. In most of my old photos, my hair was teased so high, it looked as if birds were nesting in it. I finally settled on a serious-looking headshot.

I submitted the photo for judging and listed my age as 25 and my occupation as an aerobics instructor. I figured that seeing that none of my body was showing in the photo, I could get away with lying about the aerobics part.

I think I broke the site’s record for the fastest accumulation of “No! Not at all!” votes. One of the guys who voted against me wrote to tell me that my photo was so serious, it looked like a mug shot. Another wrote and asked me, “What’s it worth to you if I give you a ‘yes’ vote?” And then there was the 57-year-old yacht-owner (or so his profile said) who wanted my phone number. The man obviously was in desperate need of an optometrist.

All I can say is that if you feel even the slightest bit attractive before you submit a photo to BeautifulPeople, you will feel as if you should be wearing a bag over your head by the time the voting is over. I ended up receiving the “sorry” e-mail.

“Why don’t you try submitting one of MY photos from 30 years ago?” my husband said jokingly. “I’ll bet mine would get a lot more votes than yours did.”

I might take him up on that bet, just so I can make him eat his words…that is, if I can find a photo of him where he’s not wearing a polyester leisure suit.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Computer facelift

There’s a show on TV called “10 Years Younger,” where a person is put into a soundproof glass box on a busy downtown sidewalk and the show’s host then asks passersby how old they think the person in the box is.

“Twenty-five!” someone will say.

“The woman in the box can’t hear you,” the host will point out.

“She can’t? Well, then, she looks 50! Talk about sun-damaged skin. She looks like an armadillo!”

The show then proceeds to spend a week transforming old Armadillo Face into something so ravishing, the next time she goes back into the box for public scrutiny, people guess she’s in junior high.

One of the magical tools they use on the show is some relatively new procedure called Thermage. Thermage, according to the show, is a facelift, but without any cutting, bruising or stitching. It uses radiofrequency to lift and tighten skin, renew facial contours and produce new collagen. Just one treatment keeps working for about six months, and then the results last for two to three years.

From the moment I saw the first woman on “10 Years Younger” emerge from her Thermage treatment looking as if she’d just taken a swan dive into the Fountain of Youth, I thought, “Quick! Get me some of that stuff!”

Every time I look in the mirror lately, I see another part of my face sagging. Not only have I officially entered the jowl generation, people keep telling me I look “drawn” (which basically translates into “jowly”).

So a couple weeks ago, I searched the Internet to find out who, if anyone, in New Hampshire performed Thermage. I found only one doctor. I rushed to dial his number before another jowl popped out.

The woman who answered the phone couldn’t have been nicer. She raved about the procedure and its results, then asked if I wanted to schedule a consultation with the doctor. I made the appointment for the middle of September. She recommended that I check out the doctor’s Web site for further information and for directions to the clinic.

I hung up the phone and smiled…until I checked out the Web site and read, “Thermage treatments begin at $2,500 for a small area.”

My heart stopped. Na├»ve person that I am, I’d expected the treatment to cost a couple hundred dollars. And what did they consider a small area? An eyebrow? A dimple? Half a frown line?

I canceled my consultation.

A few days later, I went to turn on my laptop computer and nothing happened. I checked the plug. It was plugged in. I checked the battery. It was properly inserted. The computer, however, was deader than dead.

Luckily, the computer still was under warranty, so I figured I’d just have it repaired and use my backup computer, another laptop, in the meantime. I dug out the other computer and turned it on. I couldn’t click on anything. The cursor just sat there, mocking me. I turned off the computer and turned it on again. It didn’t help.

So I had two dead computers…and no more backups.

I spent three hours on the phone with a computer technician who had me do everything but call an exorcist. Still nothing.

“Want me to find a priest and have him administer the last rites?” I joked.

“No, ma’am,” the technician said seriously. The man had all the personality of a cantaloupe.

“Do you use the laptop on your lap?” he asked.

“Well, yes…that’s why it’s called a laptop, isn’t it?”

“No, ma’am. It’s called a notebook now. You can ruin a laptop computer if you use it on your lap because it can’t get proper ventilation. You should use it on a table.”

“But doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of having a laptop?”

“Notebook,” he corrected.

Finally, he admitted defeat and told me to bring in both computers for repair.

“Ten days to two weeks,” the technician at the store said when I asked him how long I would be computerless.

My eyes widened. “I can’t go without a computer for that long! I need it for work! I need it for…everything!”

“We have a nice little notebook computer on sale this week,” he said. “It’s a real steal.”

Before I knew what was happening, I was buying a computer. Sure, it was on sale, but after I added the service contract and all of the accessories, I was over $1,000 poorer.

For what I spent on that dumb computer, I could have had half a Thermage treatment…at least one jowl lifted. Now, I am doomed to look like a basset hound.

But at least I’ll eventually end up with three working computers…and I can use them to go to the Thermage Web site so I can mutter at all of the “before” and “after” photos of women who have had the procedure done.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Soap Opera Evolution

I never thought the day would come when I wouldn’t be watching any soap operas at all on TV, but it finally has arrived…and my friends are shocked.

I grew up watching soap operas, mainly because my mother was hooked on one called, “Search for Tomorrow.” Back in the 1950s, my mother, wearing her crisp cotton housedress, would drop whatever she was doing and rush to sit in front of the TV the minute her favorite soap opera popped on.

Back then, Search for Tomorrow’s heroine, Joanne, a middle-class housewife who also wore crisp cotton housedresses (and her hair in a bun), did a lot of crying into lace-edged hankies as the ever-present organ music played in the background.

And what made poor Joanne so upset? Her wayward daughter, Patty, who did such unforgivable things as flunk math at school or stay out 20 minutes past her curfew.

“That Patty is such a brat!” my mother, shaking her head in disgust, would say after each show. “If I were Joanne, I would send her straight to reform school!”

I’m pretty sure there were other reasons for Joanne’s daily flood of tears. For one thing, she and her husband were forced to sleep in twin beds (thanks to the strict television censorship back then), which would be enough to depress anyone.

I really enjoyed watching soap operas back in the 1950s and ‘60s because the characters had normal lives and normal everyday problems to which just about everyone could relate. But over the years, the soaps evolved so much, they soon bore no resemblance whatsoever to any life that could be considered even remotely normal.

If Search for Tomorrow were to premiere today, Joanne would have a name like “Skye” and be a former CIA agent with five ex-husbands, two lovers (one of whom is half her age and used to date her daughter), and six children, each fathered by a different mysterious man, at least one of whom is an alien from another planet.

Joanne’s wayward daughter Patty probably would be a neurosurgeon who has multiple personalities and a child who hates her so much, he runs off to join a cult in one of those countries with a made-up soap opera name like “Schmutopia.”

Years ago, if you missed an episode or two of a soap opera, it was no big deal. That’s because back then, a day in the life of a soap-opera character lasted about 114 days in real life. If you tuned in to an episode in July and then didn’t watch the show again till Christmas, you still could pick up the plot pretty much where you’d left off.

Nowadays, however, soap-opera story lines move so swiftly, if a character has a baby (adopts a baby, steals a baby, finds a long-lost baby) on Monday, it’s a safe bet that the baby will be shaving by Friday.

I realize that today’s soap operas are supposed to reflect the changing times, but I can’t help but wonder how many of us really live in a town where every available bachelor looks like a male model and is either a doctor, lawyer, police officer or a detective?

Frankly, over the years, the more I watched soap operas, the more annoyed I became at certain things about them. For example, the characters’ lack of morning breath. I don’t know anyone who can wake up out of a dead sleep in the morning and roll over and talk nose to nose with his sweetie without making her eyes water. And miraculously, the sweetie always awakens in full makeup without a smudge or smear anywhere, and her hair looks as if she just stepped out of a beauty salon. The woman must sleep sitting up.

Another thing that always annoyed me were the characters’ long-lost children who always seemed to pop up during the program’s ratings slumps. These children ranged in age from less than one year to over 30, depending on what the main character needed at the time. Whenever a long-lost child was going to be added to the plot, a typical conversation would go something like this:

“Why, Dr. Kennard, I had no idea you had a 25-year-old son!”

“Neither did I, Delilah, until his mother, a woman I met while I had amnesia after a train wreck, sent me a letter last week and told me about him. I can’t wait for you to meet him. After all, you’re both about the same age and I know how lonely you’ve been since your husband died tragically in that volcano eruption. Perhaps it’s fate.”

But I guess the real reason why I finally gave up watching soap operas is because they interfered with my computer time. Now, instead of being glued to the TV at certain times every day, I can give my full attention to my computer…and join in chat-room conversations with normal, everyday people like “3HeadedMama” and “RazorEater.”