Not much can get a woman motivated to shop like a broken underwire, no matter how well-padded the ribs beneath it. It’s your ribs, your sanity, or your vanity at having to tie your mammalian protruberances around your neck in twenty years. It might be much less, but something must be done – now.

For you gents who don’t know, this is a serious issue. We’re talking about something that might, if done right, take off ten pounds and five years and add a whole new wiggle to your walk. My mother never left her daughters with much in the way of stellar advice on womanhood, but I distinctly remember one of her sayings.

She said it in Paris, right before she was about to enter the Guerlain store on the Champs Elysées with her gobsmacked 14-year-old daughter, who had just had her bottom pinched for the first time in the Paris metro.

There we stood, mother and daughter, perched on the threshold of one of the ultimate high temples of femininity. I was about to graduate from using drugstore body sprays to the serious stuff. A quantum leap on a par from going from cigarettes to cocaine – in less than 24 hours.

“There are two things to remember about being a woman,” she stated with all the solemn intent of a priestess of Isis to a novice.

I held my breath.

Never underestimate the importance of a very good bra – or a killer perfume!”

All these years later, on a standard August Saturday, I remembered that day – the Belle Epoque opulence of Maison Guerlain, the staid, hushed atmosphere at Caron, the Dior face I received at Galeries Lafayette, the sensory overload of breathing in Jicky parfum for the first time and promptly bathing in it.

Meanwhile, all these years later, there was this broken underwire. Serious stuff.

Nothing focuses the mind quite so effectively as the thought of an impatient four-year-old waiting outside a lingerie store. I was in and out of changing room and shop and in possession of two pretty underwired over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders in less than 10 minutes, and it was all the four-year-old’s fault. If not for him, I wouldn’t have ended up with 36DDs to begin with.

Next stop, the killer cloud of perfume. I located it, sprayed myself down to convince myself that I really, truly, badly, madly needed the US equivalent of 180 dollars worth of fragrant alcoholic juice with which to slay the unsuspecting, and just because of that broken underwire, I also walked out with the first tube of anti-wrinkle serum I have ever bought in my 46-year-old life.

Some day, I fully expect Aerin Lauder to thank me. Meanwhile, I thank her for putting the va-va in my voom today.

The virgin ingenue on the Champs Elysees in 1977 was very far away. The harsh reality of MoltenMetalMama in the mirror at 5 AM an aeon or so later, with broken underwire, crow’s feet and a lifetime habit of lifting my left eyebrow at the ironies of existence, was, on the other hand, all too close.

It is, as a character in the Effing Book thinks at one point in my story, a losing battle. It’s all headed in the general direction of the magnetic South Pole anyway, but I do want to delude myself into thinking that I haven’t slipped too far from the Equator just – yet.

The Buttkicker had bribed Damien with a Pixar “Cars” racetrack. he was kicking back at a café with a beer, Damien was being four and happy with his new toy, and as I settled down with a monster caffè latte, wafting slay ’em sillage in all directions, he found the tiny tube of snake oil.

“Anti-wrinkle serum???” he roared. “But you don’t HAVE any wrinkles!!!”

We have been together for nine years now, the longest relationship in either of our lives. Now you know why.

Ah, but it’s not entirely true. I may not give Catherine Deneuve any sleepless jealous nights, but life has writ itself on my face in spite of all I’ve done to avoid it. A South Florida childhood spent mostly outdoors and often on boats – check. Teenaged sunburn – check. SPF anything not yet invented – check. The times a friend and I tried to drink our way across Scotland in a Copenhagen bar – triple check. And Triple Sec. We were always done in by the Loch Ness Monster.

One day in 1990, I came across an article stating that if you slathered yourself with sunscreen every single day, you could quite possibly avoid 90% of all the wrinkles you were doomed for. I decided to give it a whirl.

Almost twenty years later, the habit is now so ingrained that I never go anywhere outside without burrowing beneath a thick layer of SPF 25. I have been carded in bars and liquor stores and had to prove my decrepitude. I swear on that hotly coveted bottle of Tuberose Gardenia that there is no painting of Dorian Gray hidden in my basement. A good thing, given that although I may not look it, I am, I can assure you, thoroughly corrupted!

Can’t take the Goth out of the girl, doncha know.

But now I’m a lapsed gothaholic metalhead Mommy with a brand-new tube of anti-wrinkle serum. I’ll let you know if it works. I might even start kissing on my mirror again.

One thing it can’t do, no matter what it claims.

Take the wrinkles out of life.

Thank the gods for small mercies!

Image: Auguste Toulmouche, “Vanité” (1889)

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