In the name of beauty, I’ve had my hair crimped between burning irons, soaked in smelly potions, broiled under roaring driers and twisted around pink plastic rollers that jabbed my scalp so painfully I couldn’t sleep a wink all night. I’ve anointed my face with acid, been jolted with electric current and had hair yanked out from places way too painful to relate. And that just takes me through the teen-age years, in those dark old days before Dr. Perricone, Botox, hot lava rocks, liposuction, pulse light therapy and, oh, so much more opened up a brave new world of beauty for the modern woman. True, there’s much I haven’t tried-yet; but embarrassing as it may be to confess it, I am that modern woman-willing to suffer, and to pay handsomely for the pain, all in the name of looking good. Or even-let’s be honest, here-looking just a little bit better.
Beauty has become big business in the last decade or so, no doubt fueled by the vanity of aging Baby Boomers like me, though women-and men-of every age are more willing than ever to invest time and money in looking their best. And thanks to scientific advances, many of the beauty treatments of my youth now seem as arcane as the leeches doctors once used to drain fevers from their patients. After solving such problems as splitting the atom and wiping out most of the killer plagues, scientists have turned their attention to the important stuff-erasing wrinkle lines, for instance, or figuring out why fingernails break. As a result, many of today’s products and techniques actually work.
I discovered that several years ago, when I started going to Neoderm, Sarasota’s pioneering skin-care clinic. The improvement in my skin was immediate and dramatic, and I soon realized that investing in a facial every few months was the best beauty buy I could make. On my visits, I’ve been amazed to see how skin care keeps leap-frogging ahead with the science. On my last visit, manager Sandra Day, who has the radiant face of a 21-year-old and the vocabulary of a chemical researcher, tilted me back in the chair and started telling me about the newest product: a skin cream made from-no, I am not making this up-the discarded foreskins of circumcised infants. A month’s supply costs $125, and Neoderm’s ecstatic clients are buying it so fast they literally cannot keep it on the shelves. I’d like to say that as Sandra told me this, I was shaking my head at the frivolity and folly of our modern age, but the truth is, I went from stunned disbelief to desperately wanting my own personal supply of the stuff.
As usual, I’m just a drop in a great demographic bucket, as
Americans all over the country are throwing off our Puritan guilt and embracing the European attitude that beauty care and personal pampering are not sinful indulgences but important elements in happiness and health.
Susan Burns came to the same conclusion in reporting on the rise of day spas for this issue. She started her research by spending an entire day at Sarasota’s most luxurious spa, The Met; and at first, she confesses, she felt self-conscious and guilty about all the personal attention. Finally, the pedicurist set her straight: "This isn’t indulgence," she declared. "It’s maintenance! You take care of your car, don’t you?" At that, Susan surrendered to the bliss, and as you’ll see in her "Days of Heaven," beginning on page XXX, many other Sarasotans are surrendering along with her, as they de-stress and re-energize at these palaces of pleasure.
Looking good is certainly not the exclusive province of women; in nature, after all, it’s usually the male that gets the glorious coloration and starring role. We’re following that precedent in this issue by featuring Sarasota’s "Men of Style"-10 guys who not only look great but do good, and who set the style for our town in areas from philanthropy to civic leadership. We started out with a list of 100 contenders, and after many meetings and much discussion, narrowed it down to our terrific 10, who are showcased-in clothing by Saks Fifth Avenue and photographs by Mary McCulley-beginning on page xxx.
Style, both personal and otherwise, is the theme of this issue, so you’ll also find stories on some other icons of Sarasota style, from Bob Ardren and Stan Zimmerman’s ode to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron to Phillippe Diedrich’s reminiscence about discovering his artistic style in a funky old apartment near the Ringling School of Art and Design. And those of you who have followed the journeys of Janis Frawley Holler on our pages will be delighted to find an excerpt from her new book, Island Wise, sharing some lessons in lifestyle she’s learned from traveling the world’s islands.