As we waited in line for coffee, reactions ranged from deadpan to deadly saccharine sweet as we watched the perfectly coiffed young mother, with baby on hip, swing her perfect ponytail and walk out in what looked like the latest from Henri Bendel’s store windows.
“How does she do it?” one mother asked. “I felt lucky I brushed my teeth this morning. She is in full luncheon uniform and she’s had a blowout.”
It’s the Janine effect.
Oh, come on, everyone had a Janine in their grade school class, right?
Janine was the girl whose hair ribbons matched her lip gloss, which matched her socks, which matched her monogrammed bag, which matched her underwear. Yes, I said underwear. The girl had it going on—at least in 6th-grade girl terms. She took the Barbie doll look one step further.
As we got older, the matching got more sophisticated, the makeup was perfectly applied and the hair—well, never out of place.
She was nice. She was smart. And always put together.
So when the rest of us came out of gym sweaty, disheveled and barely finding time to slip on our scuffed penny loafers, we were always baffled. I mean, she even wore Monday underwear on Monday. Thursday on Thursday. And so on. How DID she do it?
I accepted early on that while I can clean up well, I’m no Janine. My hair is usually au naturel , my lip gloss is whatever color I can find in my bottomless pit of a purse, and my underwear—wait, that’s none of your business. Leave my underwear out of this.
But some gals, well, it was a bit harder for them to accept that they didn’t measure up to the bar Janine set. The snarky remarks behind her back and the mysteriously missing hair ribbons did not go unnoticed by her, I’m sure. But, she never let on any of it bothered her.
It surprises me that as grown women, we still put ourselves through elementary school angst over the Janines of the world. Some are blessed with incredible genes; they roll out of bed looking better than many of us after an hour of primping. But many, MANY Janines have to work at it. And what I realized toward the end of high school is that a lot of them pay a high price for it. Many of the Janines in my sorority had eating disorders because of their need for everything to be perfect and just so. Their own bodies were never good enough for them. Others married men who demanded that type of perfection. Imagine never feeling like you had the right to look like hell when you’re sick. Or applying lipstick during childbirth (yes, I know a Janine who did this).
I was an ugly duckling for a while. Boys didn’t look at me for passed love notes; they looked at me for test answers. I was the incredibly skinny girl with knobby knees who read too many books. But guess what? I learned to value myself for something other than my looks. So, as I grew older and into a reasonably attractive gal, I perhaps worried less than the girls who were only sought for their looks. Being arm candy sounds great when you’re in your ugly, awkward years but being defined as such and nothing more stinks as an adult. Arm candy loses its attraction as the novelty wears off. Those of us have been loved for something deeper know that’s what lasts. And it makes those sick-and-looking-like-hell days a bit easier to endure.
If looking that good that much of the time is that important to your Janine nemesis, give her a smile. There’s usually a reason. And it ain’t always pretty.
Make up for your 12-year-old sniggers. Or maybe for the ones coming from the next table. First, because it’s the right thing to do. And second, because she can’t see your underwear. Smile like it’s French and frilly. You’re making up for your 12-year-old gym days. And you left catty behind with your scuffed loafers.