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The Goddess Speaks

By Lorraine Wong

Tuesday, October 3, 2000

The high costs
of being a girl

SOME people define a woman as high-maintenance if she demands a lot of attention. Call it emotional maintenance. Others, like my husband, define it in terms of spending money. Call it economic maintenance. He considers me high-maintenance because I spend, in his opinion, too much money on clothes, cosmetics, handbags, shoes etc. Sure, compared to men like him.

It simply costs more to be a woman than a man. Women have a common denominator when it comes to feminine hygiene products, bras and slips, handbags and other things that men don't need.

Take pantyhose, for example. A decent pair costs $5 and lasts three working days. There are 260 working days in a year. A woman who wears stockings daily could spend more than $400 per year just on pantyhose, a ridiculous price to pay for a female torture device. I doubt that men spend that much each year on socks.

Among women, there are varying levels of maintenance. Let's focus on grooming, or personal maintenance. Just because I wear a little eye shadow and lipstick, my husband thinks I am high-maintenance. Never mind that the lipsticks are "free gifts" for buying the eyeshadow. Telling him one of my friends spends $23 on a new tube of lipstick every month doesn't change his mind. His only basis of comparison is the fact that I didn't wear eyeshadow or lipstick when I started dating him. Now that I wear lipstick, I'm "unkissable," he says. Ironic, considering women probably wear lipstick for the opposite effect.

He complains about my $25 haircuts. Because he cuts his own hair, I'm being extravagant if I pay for a haircut twice a year. Despite what my husband says, my female friends tell me I'm low-maintenance. One friend of mine not only gets a $25 haircut every six weeks, she spends $40 per month for hair coloring. Before a date, she dishes out $30 to remove unwanted facial hair with wax and gets a $40 manicure and pedicure. She spends so much money preparing for a date that she expects the man to pay all expenses for the date itself. After all, if her date becomes her boyfriend, she'll end up spending as much money on him as she does on herself.

MEN should appreciate how much time, money and effort women spend on their appearance. For example, the face. A few month's supply of the basics -- makeup, powder, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lip liner and lipstick -- costs approximately $50 for L'Oreal on sale, $100 for Clinique and $250 for Chanel. The cosmetic industry is always coming up with new products that it tries to convince women they need, such as cleansers, toners, under-eye concealers, eyebrow pencils and brushes, make-up removers, night-repair creams and all the applicator and removal tools. Imagine the time and cost involved in the ritual of putting on one's face over a lifetime. It's probably equivalent to buying a Porsche.

My philosophy is that women should put off wearing makeup as long as possible. Once we start applying the whole works, we can't be seen in public without it. That reminds me of a former roommate who traveled a lot. When the airline lost her cosmetic case containing more than $300 worth of cosmetics, she refused to leave the house for three days, until her luggage was found and delivered to her door.

One high-maintenance friend says that shopping for clothes and accessories, experimenting with cosmetics, pampering herself with salon services, is the fun part -- the best part -- about being a woman.

Emotional maintenance and economic maintenance in terms of appearance go hand in hand.

Lorraine Wong is a paralegal in Honolulu.

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