Sharing beauty tips sounds like the conversational equivalent of cotton candy. Pretty fluff spun from a little sugar and a lot of air. But the beauty of well, talking about beauty—our secrets and routines, favorite products and little tricks—is that there is much more going on between women in these conversations than meets the eye. It’s not just superficial talk about superficial things. It’s almost as if it’s a secret language; a universal language of women that transcends any arbitrary classifications or borders. There is a sort of delighted conspiratorial air to these transactions that forge little connections. Tina Fey has an anecdote in her book Bossypants that I love and think does a wonderful job of capturing exactly this, so I’m going to share it here:
I taught Monica Lewinsky everything she knows…about eye cream. I guess I should back up and explain that. In the spring of 1999, I participated in a secret meeting with Monica Lewinsky, ‘SNL’ producer Marci Klein, and fellow SNL writer Paula Pell….This was before Ms. Lewinsky’s infamous Barbara Walters interview aired. None of us had ever heard her speak before. She was still the enigmatic girl in the beret who didn’t get to the dry cleaners very often….Monica was bright and personable and very open with us—maybe too open for a person in her situation….We talked about things. Weight Watchers and Brazilian bikini waxes….When the topic turned to eye cream, I wanted to talk, so I shared the one piece of information I’d retained from the mean woman at the La Mer counter in Saks. ‘You’re supposed to gently pat it on with your ring finger.’ I demonstrated. ‘Oh, really?’ Monica asked with a level of interest and gullibility that explained a lot. To this day, I think of Monica whenever I apply my eye cream. And I’m sure she thinks of me.