Our Spy On the Upper East Side

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Beauty but at What Cost?

The last time I looked in the mirror and screeched, I picked up the phone and called 911 requesting the emergency number for my cosmetic dermatologist-to-the-stars, Dr. Fred Brandt. Squeezing me in between Madonna and those-who-swear-they-do-nothing, I told him I needed a little puffing and buffing. Lickety-split, my Prince of the Pick-Me-Up injected tiny needles all over my face and I hurried out to the reception desk to pay my bill temporarily looking like a domestic abuse victim but one who’d asked to be punched.

But the real punch was the one my wallet took – those itsy bitsy vials of plumper’s and fillers cost $5000 and it was a little late to have them sucked out.

Fast forward to now and this ridiculous recession and dopey dollar -- I just can’t rationalize spending that kind of money on my wrinkles anymore and evidently I’m not the one: Rene Syler, former ABC morning anchor and author of The Good Enough Mother told me, “It was three square meals a day or my Botox. Needless to say me and my wrinkle-free forehead are STARVING! Priorities… all about priorities.”

It’s not the eating part that bothers me since I can subsist on peanut butter, chocolate covered raisins and watermelon; the problem for me is that I hate second best -- it’s just not the same. I don’t want duck lips and mismatched eyebrows so I’d rather grow bangs to cover the frown lines than risk looking lopsided. (Not to be nasty but I was stunned by Katie Couric’s eyebrows a while ago; very Mephistophelean and possibly the result of a bad botox infusion?)

And then there was the time I had this desperate need for eyelash extensions. Given the puny structure of my wee little ones, I was over the moon when I discovered a place on New York City’s 57th street that would install fat lashes…for $350. So I weighed the pros and cons and then found out from my dentist’s hygienist she’d had her lashes done in Queens for $30. Of course the famous real estate line everyone quotes is “location, location, location” but I’m afraid if you get llama lashes for $350 on 57th street and for $30 in Queens, picture me taking the A train or whatever subway gets me there

You do know that hair stylists in New York can charge up to $800 for a cut and it’s very seductive to go to one that created Meg Ryan’s signature mop top or whose name appears in Vogue. My fave is Brian at Garren in the Sherry-Netherlands Hotel and he’s a modest $250 -- however, add in the 20% tip to everyone who touches my hair and we’re into the $350 range. Just to economize during these rocky times, I went to someone cheaper and truth be told I now have to grovel back to Brian admitting I’d had a “moment.” (I would never admit to trying to save money.)

Okay so hair isn’t included in my efforts to economize and for that matter I’m not giving up my $28.08 manicures with Norma-the-Nail-Magician at Elizabeth Arden though I heard from Sue Mittenthal, co-author of Still Hot: The Uncensored Guide to Divorce, Dating, Sex, Spite, and Happily Ever After, that she actually had to purchase nail polish at the drug store and bought her own cuticle clippers. Oh my lordy!

By the way, this price I paid for a cut doesn’t include the color. My naturally blond daughter economizes by going three months between highlights and haircuts but she’s 29 and beautiful. How bad can she possibly look when a root appears? I, on the other hand, refuse to acknowledge even a strand of gray so do pro-active hair color rather than risk looking like a wisp of smoke from the Vatican chimney.

My huge “maintenance” concession has come with angst; I had to confess to my trainer Kellie at Equinox’s South Beach gym that I could no longer spend the $105 for each session. As I flew down on the 6 am flight using my JetBlue TrueBlue points that allow you to travel when everyone else is still sleeping – even though Minnie the Chihuahua had her full fare $150 round trip ticket – I wondered how Kellie would take it; our sessions are as much about her dating tales and SB gossip as they are about my body -- Kellie knew about Star Jones’ divorce well ahead of everyone else. Her email to me was poignant, “ Oh you must, you must get at least one session,” and I will give in because after all we’re buddies and I can’t abandon her just because her rates went up.

But Minnie the ‘huahua’ will go without her $18 pedicures and I will eventually be forced to return to simple highlights instead of a double blonding process. I will close my eyes when I go by Brigitte in the Barney’s make up department and hope she doesn’t recognize me and I will now pray that in every party goody bag there’s La Mer moisturizer and undereye cream instead of an umbrella and Swiss Army knife.

But dear friends, I hope to be back one day in full shopping mode. In the meantime, enjoy those from far off lands who think the U.S. a happy hunting ground for bargains and carry around bags full of Juicy Couture, Louboutin and Pucci. Frankly, I think this recession stinks and I’d like to get back to what I do best – shop!!!

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