I am a strong independent woman who feels that people should present themselves to make themselves feel good without being bound by gender norms, cultural or peer pressure but that doesn't mean I don't love a bit of pampering.
I read an article this week which commented on a perceived north-south divide when it comes to going out. A Londoner who was in Newcastle was very impressed by the level of effort those around them had gone to, even for "just" a night in the pub.
They said that spray tans, Gel Nail Extensions, carefully coiffured hair, revealing outfits and immaculate makeup seemed the norm for women while the men almost without exception wore shirts and jackets and "proper" shoes. I have to say I don't think it's really a big north-south divide. I think it depends on the vibe of the group. You certainly see lots of very dressed up youngsters going for pre-drinks in the pub we like to meet our friends in.
I like to think those people who wouldn't dream of going out without making a big effort view the getting ready as much apart of the fun of the evening as actually going out. I wonder if putting on make-up really is donning a mask, giving confidence and presenting as they want to be perceived.
I know I find putting on even a touch of makeup and spending a little more time planning an outfit makes me feel more up to coping with the "tap dancing and jazz hands" act I do when I'm out working for this website, especially if I'm invited to a gorgeous venue or meeting celebs. (Hurrah - another chance to share a pic of myself with the wonderful Gok Wan!)
I also know that when I do make more of an effort for a night out it puts a spring in my step and somehow makes the occasion feel more special. At other times jeans and a nice top, comfortable shoes and a warm coat if it's chilly do just fine! My days of tight fitting miniskirts and 6 inch heels are long gone and I can't stand being cold but I love my 22-year-old's mantra:"Cold is temporary, swag is forever." They love crop tops which make me feel cold just looking at them.
I haven't completely given into abandoning any effort with my appearance on a day to day basis though. I might not be able to wear the heels any longer but tucked in my comfy shoes are beautifully manicured, polished toe nails. And I almost always have polish on my finger nails, even if it's just clear or a pale pink. I love gel nails - perfect for a busy life as they are not going to smudge within minutes of completion if I don't sit still.
I love a trip to a beauty clinic which is almost as good as a spa stay. I love my local salon where I sit next to my friend chatting while experts spoil me and emerge feeling refreshed, confident and happy.
I took my mum for the first time in her life recently and she went from being a bit nervous to being a complete convert - if you've never indulged in a bit of pampering outside of preparing for a special event, give it a go. Even if only you will see the nails, the hair, the neat eyebrows, permed eyelashes, the results of the facial or aesthetic procedure, if it makes you feel good then it's time and money well spent.