All of a sudden, it’s become fashionable to be frugal. People are treating thrift as though it were the Next Big Thing and scrambling to out-scrimp each other. (“I gave everyone dirt for Christmas.” “Oh yeah? Well, I gave everyone air.”) The recently coined term frugalista all but shouts the ability to be cheap and look damn fine while you’re at it.
Not that any of this is new to me. Despite the fact I grew up in a solidly middle- to upper-middle-class household, received a college education and ostensibly should’ve had the ability to support myself without leeching off my family, I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life broke. It’s not that I couldn’t get a job. I just didn’t want to.
I remember a teary backyard exchange with my father, who had set up an interview for me after college with an insurance-industry friend of his. “But I don’t want to work for The Man!” I wailed. “I want to be a bohemian!” And because this was an era before parents micromanaged their children’s affairs well into adulthood, my dad said, “OK, you want to go play golf?” and that was the end of the matter.
And so, I followed my dream, a dream that led me from one lucrative career — poet to playwright to alternative-weekly newspaper editor to slam poet to adjunct university lecturer and alternative-weekly freelancer — to another. Let it be said: I know a thing or two about making do.
But let’s face it. Nobody wants to look poor. Even those of us who consider genteel poverty an elevated state of being (“I don’t need all your crap to be happy”) want to look nice while looking down our noses at the rest of you. Over the years, I have accumulated a number of affordable beauty secrets I will now share with all you fledgling frugalistas so you, too, can be your best self while your portfolio slides into the gutter. Just try some of these thrifty tips…
• The Potato Exfoliator. Nothing removes dead skin like the skin of a potato. I prefer to apply mine directly from the earth. The soil adds another layer of micro-abrasion for added smoothness. And, it’s dirt cheap!
• Duct-tape Depilatory. Need I say more?
• Simple Sauna. Equipment: one tub, one Space Blanket. (If you don’t want to spring for one, check the emergency survival kit your aunt regifted to you. There’s sure to be one in there.) All you need to do is run a bath with the blanket over the tub to trap all that good steam. Climb in and melt your woes away. A beer chaser further enhances the calming effects.
• Hair by Honda. Dryer busted? Don’t worry. Just climb behind the wheel, aim all those heating vents at your head and hit the highway. Your hair will fall into Farrah Fawcett feathers in no time. (Note: When gas prices spike again, you’ll need to substitute the Portland Metro for your private vehicle.)
• Peanut Butter Mani Pedi. Have you ever noticed when you’re recycling your Teddy’s jar how much perfectly good peanut butter is left? Rather than waste expensive dish soap and hot water trying to get the jar clean, try raking your fingernails along the inside and then massaging the collected goop into your cuticles. After all those natural oils have been absorbed, you’ll also have a nice snack on your hands. Literally!
• Cut-rate Collagen. Those with shellfish allergies will find it easy to eschew the prick and pain of sharp needles. Just suck on a couple lobster feelers for a while, and your lips will puff up to a Suzanne Somers-plumpness in no time. The rest of you can experiment with pitted fruits, nuts or bee stings. Results may vary.
• Rock Soap. Who wants to bother with a cootie-ridden and costly cake of soap in their bathroom? Instead, I like to place three smooth stones in a soap dish. Like the potato exfoliator, the surface of the stones will slough off any dirt and leave your hands tingly clean.
• Do-it-yourself Detox. Sure, you could go to an expensive spa and have all those nasty toxins purged from your body by others, but why not take advantage of Maine’s own natural cold and flu season, instead? Just lick the handle of your grocery cart, visit a day care center or enjoy a sandwich in your nearest public rest room. Before you know it, you’ll be purging to beat the band.
Now, I do have to confess that since I got married nine years ago, my straits (and my reasons for more rigorous grooming) have greatly improved. But I have never forgotten those lean years and what they taught me: True beauty can never be bought, a little privation does us all a world of good from time to time, and it’s much easier to extol the virtues of want when you are not wanting.
That’s a chic that ain’t so shabby.
Elizabeth Peavey cautions readers to consult a doctor, dermatologist or geologist before trying any of these treatments at home. All patents pending.