Monday, August 20, 2007

Damage control -- a book review

Damage Control. The phrase can imply politics (no names need be mentioned), it can mean a major recall (lead tainted toys anyone?). It can be as simple as an "Oops, my bad" or as complex as impeachment or censure.
Damage Control: Women on the therapists, beauticians, and trainers who navigate their bodies is none of these, but it has moments both as light and as serious as any Spin Doctor could imagine. Editor Emma Forrest collected essays from women, both ordinary and well-known, about the specialists, the "intimate strangers" who deal with their every whim and may end up knowing their deepest secrets. It's a book that covers not the beauty industry, but women themselves: self-image, confidence, trust, and more.

Damage Control is divided into sections.

"Hair Grows (or you live and you learn)" reminded me that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; many, many women covet the hair they don't have. Got curls? Desire straight. Got straight? Pay big bucks for perms. For what purpose? These essays vary in tone from the content to the heartbroken, from the traditional beauties to those who seek to recognize and find peace with their own style.

"Fidel Castro's Filthy Nails (or On Beauty Etiquette)" has a catchy title, but its contents have more to do with nails than with dictators. The surrogate therapist role appears here; the professional who listens to the heartaches, the highs and the lows of life while fixing hair or skin or nails. Examples are sprinkled throughout showing the way some women develop lifetime relationships, friendships that rival family ties, with stylists and other beauty professionals.

"Fix Me" and "Unhand me, Fiend" continue delving beneath the surface of the massage or the facial, telling of the personal discontent that leads many women through years of body work, chiropractic, reflexology, even plastic surgery.

"Wax Poetic" deals with exactly what it implies: Waxing. Hair removal. Not just legs and underarms....Looking for details? Sorry. My mother reads this blog!

The bookcover is clever and eye-catching; my artist/photographer daughter picked it up, admired the design, and paged through the chapters. The introduction is thorough and thoughtful, setting the tone for the collection as a whole. As I read the book, I found myself approaching one or two pieces at a time, then sitting back and thinking about them. This is a book that could live on my shelf for a while, one I could pick up now and then to read on part or another, not feeling pressure to hurry or rush.

Harper-Collins Publishing sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for reading it and posting a review. I'm due for a haircut soon. I think Rachel, my stylist, would enjoy it, so I'll pass it on to her.

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