I’ve done a lot of things to my face. I’ve dermaplaned it, shaved it, waxed it, plucked it, run hundreds of needles across it, lasered it, peeled it, squeezed the pores on it, injected Botox into it, self-tanned it, shone lights on it, masked it, rubbed my own plasma all over it, slathered Retin-A on it, and pulsated it with micro-current. Most of this was for my job, but really, that’s just a convenient excuse. I would have done all these things voluntarily anyway. You see, I’m vain. But I recently hit my own version of beauty rock bottom in my dermatologist’s office a few weeks ago.

Vanity about one’s own appearance is generally not perceived as a positive thing. There’s a reason the so-called French girl aesthetic is so popular now. It seems effortless and gives the illusion these women don’t care about their appearance. But they do. Laura Mercier (who is French) said at a talk I went to a few months ago that French women love to get compliments on their beauty looks or outfits, but then won’t share whatever perfume/hairstylist/makeup brand/store it is that they’re using. They want to keep these secrets to themselves. I loved this. It’s vanity, make no mistake. Obviously it’s a generalization about an entire demographic, but so are a lot of things about female beauty.

That serious women shouldn’t care about their appearance is another gross generalization. Ditto that women should aspire to age gracefully. This topic has been tackled a lot, but what does it even mean? I suppose that you should accept your lines and grays and saggy body parts. I’ve seen enough breathless celebrity coverage, however, to know that in our society it means that once you are out of your 30s, you should still look like you’re in your 30s (at the oldest!) but without looking like you’ve done anything obvious to yourself. Jennifer Lopez, 47, is the poster child for this. Gwyneth Paltrow, 44, and Jennifer Aniston, 48, are runners-up.