Allure of vanity

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readJun 16, 2017


Source : Google photos of African women

Synopsis : The vanity is found in all people everywhere. Only the method of showing the vanity varies that makes it interesting. From primitive adornment in Africa to expensive cosmetics elsewhere, vanity is explored in this blog and what it attains.

I am often amused at the sheer vanity of women in general and some men in certain countries. Here in the Philippines just like in so many other countries, the TV is full of ads that promote skin whitener, shampoo and numerous other products 24/7 because to serve the vanity they produce a mind boggling array of products that rake in billions of dollars worldwide.

They are the sponsors of TV programs so the telenovelas are called soap operas in some countries. This ceaseless advertisement of products to serve the vanity of women and men has its desired effect so you can see how people believe in these ads where beautiful women show off their shiny hair or their skin color . They too want shiny hair and fair skin to look like an American girl who is their ideal.

It does not stop there. They have a zillion shades of hair colors they offer you to choose from so that you too can have flax colored hair like an European ,never mind if you happen to be ugly and short. So you see men and women with flax colored hair who are anything but.. in Asia of all places.

To top it off here comes the offer of colored contact lenses so that you can have blue eyes just like the white people . This sort of behavior is promoted by the TV personalities who have a tremendous impact on the population because they saturate the air waves with this sort of vanity products day and night. They fail to promote good values because they themselves are vain and think nothing of flax colored hair and blue contact lenses no matter how incongruous they look with their short height, dark skin and bulging legs.

Once I saw grp ( grass root people)women walking by with burns on their cheeks so I asked someone what it meant and why these women had such burns.The answer surprised me. I was told that these poor women who are squatters and work as maids or washerwomen or in such menial jobs do not have the money to buy expensive skin whitening lotions so they rub acid on their cheeks to make them appear pink but are ignorant of the effect of the acid. I have seen hill women in India who have very fair skin and get easily sun burned so they have sun burnt cheeks but here women rub acid on their cheeks to look fair. The TV women are their role model who in their turn imitate caucasian women shamelessly.

I call these women vain and ignorant lacking self respect .GRP means grass roots people who are poor but who also watch tv all the time.I see this sort of vanity in people giving rise to a huge increase in parlors where the transvestites and others shampoo the hair, dye with any color a woman wants, offer manicure, pedicure, massage, hair cut and numerous such services to men and women everywhere. It is not at all unusual to see a man getting his nails done or getting a facial massage because the vanity dictates their behavior. There is a great tendency among them to show off.

Now I am not against personal grooming. I think everybody should do personal grooming so that they do not offend others with their bad body odors, unwashed clothes or unkempt looks. It makes sense to appear in public looking well groomed and with clean clothes. Dirty people are not taken seriously in offices or shops . In many places they have strict dress codes so people must be attired normally and properly meaning no shorts and flip flops. The churches and mosques have strict dress code as well although many women show up there in inappropriate clothings especially in churches. The Mollahs are less tolerant of such behavior and will not admit people who do not follow dress codes.

Among the primitive people specially women adorn themselves with whatever natural products they can find in order to look pretty and attract a potential mate. They paint their faces with white paint, decorate with beads or colored pastes of some kind while others may even subject themselves with welts caused by cutting the skins on their face and breast just to look attractive. Jeweleries made from seeds or cauri shells are also used by them. Among the fulanis in west Africa, it is men who adorn themselves to attract mates and are quite vain about their appearance. These adornments are done on special occasions like festivals or clan gatherings but normally you do not see men and women showing off the way some people in Asia do so I will not call them vain.

So no matter where you go, you find that vanity in men and particularly women is prevalent irrespective of their social class and status because it serves the purpose of attracting a possible mate.This is a very basic biological reason that is hard wired into their brain. The TV ads just take advantage of this human desire to look pretty and sexually attractive to the opposite sex and is a worldwide phenonmenon giving rise to a multi billion dollar industry.

In India where people have dark skin ,the rise of skin whitening products is astounding because they believe the TV commercials. The Indian women of marriageable age rub their skin with a mixture of cream of milk and a bit of turmeric powder in it to look fair especially if a party is coming to interview the girl . If they fail in the interview then there is perhaps the next time so they go back to rubbing more cream of milk with turmeric again. In the arranged marriage system, the girl has to look presentable.

In the western societies where the marriage depends only on the girl and the boy, there is added pressure on the woman to look her best for her date which may or may not lead to marriage in the end so here one can see that the vanity serves a purpose after all.

If a girl shows up with uncombed hair and shredded jeans and a loose blouse that looks second hand then it perhaps does not make an impression on her date . If the fellow does the same while the girl is nicely dressed and smells of expensive perfume then he too fails to make an impression. Who says the first impression does not matter? It always does. Most people judge you by how you dress before they get to know you as a person. In India this is particularly true where the shop owners judge you by how you dress so they treat you accordingly. A fancy car parked in front does not hurt either which can even excuse simple clothes of the client becasue an expensive car is a symbol of wealth.

I am always impressed by the natural beauty of women in any country who do not burn their cheeks with acid and who do not color their hair just to look like a western woman. Their healthy skin glows without make up of any kind and their natural dark skin glistens with health that does not need whitening. I also like the self confifdence in such women who are proud of being what they are and do not feel the need to use cosmetics. You will find such women in Africa who are tall and have very good posture. They walk so gracefully and look majestic in their simple attire or without. Some are bare breasted but look naturally elegant.

You have to go to Vietnam to see how beautiful women look in their plain Ao Dai , shiny black long hair that they don’t braid and glowing smooth skin. They are born pretty so do not need a lot of make up , lotions or other cosmetics . You hardly ever see a fat young woman there because their food is very well balanced with lots of green vegetables, shredded meat and noodles. It is not only delicious, it is very healthy so they do not gain weight unlike those women elsewhere who eat junk food all the time and swell like hippos. But natural beauty and stature is often a matter of superior breeding.

The adage that one cannot make silk out of sow’s ears is very true. It is not rocket science that beautiful people make beautiful children who later pass on their genes to the next generation but to grow up beautiful also depends on healthy food and good environment and that depends largely on the economic status of the people. Poor people eat unhealthy food and live in squatter colonies so they try hard to look like the TV models ignoring the fact that they come from very poor breeding stocks where ugliness prevails generation after generation.

In any society the really tall and beautiful people are a minority because they come from aristocracy and very selective breeding so they stand out in the crowd of the ordinary people. The rich people are not vain because they don’t have to be to look good. It is in their genes. They look good no matter what they wear . But the vast majority is not so blessed so they are the customers of the cosmetics industry.

I have written elsewhere that the island people who were isolated for a very long time from the rest of the world tend to be very homogenous in their looks because of their restricted gene pools so they may look uniformly short in height and ugly. This changes when they open up to the world and new better genes are introduced into their pool. You will see it in children of mixed races .They are tall, beautiful and stand apart from others who all aspire to be like them. They become models selling cosmetics products on TV or get into the show business.

In India where inter-racial marriage is still not the norme, you will see the Anglo Indians who are the legacy of the British raj. They are handsome , tall and with fair skin who stand apart from the crowd anywhere although the puritans look down on them as the progeny of mixed race they do not approve of. But in other countries , such people are looked upto.

So I return to the issue of vanity and how it consumes some people in some cultures while elsewhere people do not really care about vanity because they do not need to be vain to look good or they believe that vanity is a sin that the padres talk about all the time from their pulpits.

If you visit the Amish communities in the Eastern part of the United States, you will find these simple people living in rural communities and working very hard to meet their daily needs. They are healthy, tall and handsome people whose women do not use any kind of cosmetics because they see vanity as a sin but in their simplicity their women look beautiful in their glowing skin and very clean clothes. Men also look very handsome in their simple but clean clothes and well groomed beards.

But the epitome of vanity is found in women who stand in front of their closet full of new and wonderful clothes and say I have nothing to wear. They must have new clothes for every occasion no matter how trivial and will not dare wear clothes they have worn before lest someone make a remark like Oh I have seen that dress before on you. This sort of vanity is not limited to those who can afford to buy new clothes all the time but also found in the middle class because they imitate the rich.

At the bottom are the grp ( grass roots people) who buy second hand clothes so these second hand clothes stores are found everywhere now. Huge containers full of used clothes are coming into the port cities all over Asia where there is a great demand for used clothes. In Rome there is a Thieves market just near the river where used clothes are sold in great volumes . A beautiful sheep skin jacket that costs 300 dollars in Australia or New Zealand sells there for only 5 dollars. You just have to be careful about your five dollars in your pocket because it is not called thieves market for nothing.

The second hand clothes therefore are a boon to the poor who can not afford expensive clothes and are not vain enough so they buy them. Then there is cheap acid they can always rub on their cheek so the market offers everyone a choice. Just don’t be too particular.

Then I come to Asia where I see the craze of cosmetics as if it is going out of style soon. They can’t have enough and often look ridiculous. If you are dark then be proud of your skin color and your shiny black hair no matter what the TV ads tell you. They are out to make money so they promote their products but you don’t have to be so gullible.

This vanity leads some women to go to the extreme of injecting botox into their skin to firm it up or undergo cosmetic surgery to make a fold on their eye lids or enhance their breasts. This is popular in Korea or Japan where they go for this sort of thing although I find nothing wrong with their eyes or their body but who am I? If I am a plastic surgeon, I will find many things wrong with them that I can then “correct” for a big fee. Who is foolish enough to chase away a milk cow?

I therefore come to the conclusion that if you are born beautiful, you don’t need anything to look better .On the other hand if you are born ugly then no matter what you do to make you look good is not going to work for you so why throw away your hard earned money on superficial things they promote on TV? Just be proud of who you are and walk with your head high just like the African women. It is the inner beauty that counts.