Shakespeare was on the right track when he said that “age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety” of Cleopatra. Women down the ages have certainly taken the first bit seriously. If the legendary queen bathed in asses’ milk to keep her beauty intact, women in the 17th century did not sag, sorry lag, behind too much either. The Ladies Dictionary, a Cosmopolitan magazine of its time, which is to go on auction soon, suggests that women in that era too made determined efforts to put their best face and other body parts forward. While asses’ milk may not have been available on tap, they opted for claret infused with various herbs to look lovely and shed a few pounds. No pain, no gain, even in those days, gentle exercise was prescribed. But certainly a lot easier than pounding the treadmill.
But many of us who look to ancient texts to discover the secrets of eternal beauty may quail at the prospect of slathering ourselves with a noxious concoction of chicken fat, goose grease and turpentine to keep ourselves supple and soft. Of course, there are several other recommendations to prevent certain body parts from succumbing to the forces of gravity, but we won’t go into all that here, this being a family newspaper. For those women looking for validation for their generous proportions, the book warns that women should not become “too thin and scragged”. Hallelujah. Conduct also figures high in the book and, then as now, the advice is let a man wait a bit, don’t give in too easily.
Ok, most women can live with that. And the fact that adultery pushes you into a world of miseries. But what many today will not be able to stomach is the proposition that women tried to mask their weakness by adopting crafty and revengeful ways. Well, from goose grease to botox and collagen, from claret to laser surgery, let’s leave no tone unturned in the quest for perfection.