26 July 2013


I heard the word 'pulchronomics' for the first time recently. It's not to be found in my Oxford English Dictionary, but Collins (online) provides this as a definition (pending 'investigation') -

Pulchronomics: The study of the economics of physical attractiveness.

I took this at first to mean that pulchronomics investigates the financial aspects of the cosmetics industry, but it's not quite that. It's more about how much you might personally profit from being good-looking. The word was, I believe, coined by the economist Daniel Hamermesh, who has published a book on the subject, 'Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful' (Princeton University Press), no doubt in a well-justified exercise in diversification. I read up about it in a rather shorter article by Abigail Tucker, in the Smithsonian Magazine (November 2012), 'How Much is Being Attractive Worth?' She writes, 'Beautiful People are indeed happier, a new study says, but not always for the same reasons. For handsome men, the extra kicks are more likely to come from economic benefits, like increased wages, while women are more apt to find joy just looking in the mirror. "Women feel that beauty is inherently important," says Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas at Austin labor economist and the study's lead author. "They just feel bad if they're ugly." '(That explains my problems, then.) He backs this up with a lot of statistics and 'facts' derived from comparing the incomes of great-looking men and women versus unfortunates (though how and by whom these value judgements are made, I have no idea, not actually having read the book). For instance, below-average looking men earn 17% less than hunks, while similar females earn 12% less than babes. Appparently attractive people are more likely to be hired in a recession (or any time, I would have thought). And so on.

Amongst the delicious nuggets that Ms Tucker offers in her article is the figure of $845 million as the sum spent by Americans on facelifts in 2010 alone. It comes as a relief, therefore, that British women only spend around £600 per year on cosmetics. (Really? Surely that's just the cost of my annual supply of toothpaste?) Eventually, she writes, Mr. Hamermesh comes to the conclusion, both obvious and rather unhelpful, that there isn't much we can do to improve our looks. 'There are even studies suggesting that for every dollar spent on cosmetic products, only 4 cents returns as salary, making lipstick a truly abysmal investment.' That's my retirement portfolio down the drain, more's the pity.

21 July 2013


We have sun at last. London parks are liberally scattered with wood nymphs, disporting themselves on the lawns in the hope of turning their pale ash or oak flesh to that luscious mahogany shade so favoured by tan fans. The reasons for this are several: mahogany is a tropical hardwood famed for its rich reddish colour (which develops over time, especially when oiled), for its fine, even grain (free of dimples and pockets, otherwise known as cellulite), and for its toughness and durability. In addition, the tree's broad girth can accommodate wide proportions, making it ideal for the English figure.

14 July 2013

A Fly in the Ointment

I know I quite recently wrote about how easy it is to dislike lipgloss. However, I have a few squeezes of the stuff left in a little tube I bought a while ago, and I do find it very difficult to throw out anything I have paid good money for, despite a high level of dislike. So, on a recent outing wearing Bobbi Brown Lip Tint (a lipgloss by any other name), I was reminded that gloss also has all the qualities of a good flypaper. It's unbearably sticky. The slightest breeze can encourage hair, random fluff, small passing insects, etc., onto your glistening lips, where they will stick fast as a cold caller until decisive and physical removal. Possibly useful as part of a jungle survival kit, though.

7 July 2013

The Swimsuit Issue

In a blatant attempt to increase my readership, I have decided to model this post on that venerable piece of journalism, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which annually livens up a dull month by featuring quantities of attractive young females wearing not very much. Some killjoys might object that this 'promotes the harmful and dehumanising concept that women are a product for male consumption' (Feminist Media Roundup: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Lisa Bennett, Communications Director, National Organisation for Women, Feb 22, 2002). Nothing could be further from the truth!
I call it artistic. Clad in my new polka-dotted one-piece (a recent purchase in the summer sales), the closely fitting garment moulding itself to my every curve, I'm actually a dead ringer for the fabulous artwork of British artist Bridget Riley, famous for her trompe l'oeil Op Art paintings of the 60's. Luscious, eye-catching, and culturally referenced, all in one swimsuit. 

2 July 2013

I Must Increase My Bust

Some years back, we used to get these as party favours, or in the Christmas stocking. Well, a slightly different version: a cartoon face printed on card, with a length of thin chain fixed between eyes and upper lip in place of a drawn nose. In theory, you could shake the card and the squiggle of chain would become a different and interesting 'nose' every time; in practice, the result was often not a viable nose at all (a cautionary reminder for cosmetic surgeons). I offer the above as an interesting variation, with a few shakes shown below to demonstrate the infinite variety of the human form.

A. Natural 'C' cup

B. Natural 'A' cup

C. Bazooka
D. Fifties nose cone
E. Fifties droop