As you may recall, I’m a car girl from way back  (behold the photographic evidence).

This is me on my creative coaster, circa 1972

This is me, on my creative coaster, circa 1971.

I can hold my own in a conversation about cylinders and horsepower, but the world of beauty has always been somewhat intimidating and mysterious to me.  I have therefore decided that if I ever win a big lottery, I’m going to hire “a person”.

Right after I buy a couple of really great, vintage cars, of course.

Anyway, to stay on point:  I’m going to hire a person to wrangle my multitudes of not-really-straight-not-really-curly-not-really-short-not-really-long hair into some semblance of effortless-looking order.   A person to cover my blotches and splotches (hello acne, I’m 44, what is up with you?!) and bring out the blue of my eyes.  A person to find me flattering clothing with some unique flair.

Okay, forget “a person”.  Realistically, I’d like the whole team from What Not To Wear.

I wander down the aisles at the drugstore (this should already tell you how much I’m willing to invest in beauty) but I have no idea what the bottles mean.  There are European pro-vitamin formulas and Swiss plant extracts and lots of things that sound tasty but I’m not sure why I’d want to put them on my face, instead of in my mouth.

All that research and science and money spent harnessing Swiss plant extracts.  What about harnessing the power of Swiss chocolate?  I’d buy Swiss chocolate extract face cream in a heartbeat.  Who cares about wrinkles and age spots when you can smell Toblerone all day with zero calories ingested?

But without Toblerone moisturizer to entice me, all the night jams and day jellies and de-toxifying goos baffle me.  Ditto the make up.

I blame our education system.

All that time spent worrying about parabolas in grade 12 math when I could have been learning something useful, like how to make my cheekbones look like Angelina Jolie’s.

Yes, not enough time reading Seventeen has landed me firmly in the land of beige eye shadow and with a “beauty routine” that involves…washing my face.  Beauty, I’m just not that into you.  Perhaps you could tell by the way I abandon you at parties and never return your calls.

But, I admire beauty in others very much, especially vintage-inspired style like Ginnifer Goodwin often displays.  (Obviously, Ginnifer returns beauty’s calls).

Wow, I just re-read that last sentence and now, I can’t stop giggling.    “Beauty calls” sounds a lot like “booty calls” when you say it quickly.

Anyway, when you think of vintage beauty, images of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn might float gracefully through your brain.

In my brain, there’s my headless Grandma.

That’s because my Grandma Verna used to take off her head to go to bed.  Well, actually, it was her hair.   Or, to be more specific, her wig.  She put her wig on a white styro-foam head that sat on her dresser, so I always thought of it as removing her head.

When we visited from Calgary, I slept in the alcove at the top of the stairs in my grandparent’s Victorian house.   I lay awake, picturing my grandmother’s head (the styrofoam one) in the other room, glowing white in the darkness.  I thought it mysterious and slightly scary, this world of beauty.

Then, to make matters even more bewildering, Grandma Verna would wrap her regular hair in toilet paper and lie down on (and this is important for reasons I have forgotten) a satin pillowcase.

I can just imagine what Practical Man would say if I came to bed with my head wrapped in toilet paper.

Beauty on the other side of the family was equally intriguing.   My Grandma Helen was known for her do-it-yourself pluckiness.  She would have been a hit on Rachel Ray’s Double Duty segment because she was always re-purposing everyday household items for multiple uses.  She also loved gadgets.

I’m pretty sure this is why Grandma Helen felt drawn to the multi-purpose nature of her beauty device:  the Filter Queen hairdryer.

In case you’re not familiar, Filter Queen is a vacuum cleaner manufacturer.

Yep, she had a hair dryer that was an attachment for her vacuum cleaner.  It was the 50s equivalent of something snazzy that people snicker at but secretly want, like a car that parallel parks itself.   I bet that Dyson guy could have really taken this idea and run with it.  He would have made vacuum cleaner hair dryers that didn’t “lose suction” and that “just worked prop’ly”.  Grandma Helen’s vacuum cleaner hair dryer was an experience though.  And, as a bonus, it kind of smelled like burning plastic when you put it on.

from www.vacuumland.org

This is NOT Grandma Helen but it IS what her vacuum cleaner hairdryer looked like! (photo credit: vacuumland.org)

Amazingly, if I came to bed in a Filter Queen hairdryer, Practical Man probably wouldn’t bat an eye.  He’s vintage, remember?  Plus, he used to sell them back in the day.

In fairness to Grandma Helen, by the time we grandkids came along, she wasn’t actually using it.  It was more of an emergency back-up at the cottage and a way to spend a rainy afternoon laughing hysterically as we inflated it on someone’s head.

Yessiree, vintage beauty in my family is a strange and mysterious thing. But who am I to talk?

I’d be wandering around wearing Toblerone face cream, if I could find it.

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