There was a lack of cynicism in the 60s and early 70s. A fair bit of complacency of course, but also real optimism. Pat reminds me of all the falsies. Now we (well, some of us) have implants, veneers, injections and lifts, but then, towards the end of the decade, we (well, some of us) just cheerily added bits on. Padded bras if we were not quite well enough endowed, hairpieces if not all-out wigs, false eyelashes, the lot. They used to fall off sometimes, which struck everyone more as hilarious than embarrassing.
I remember when I worked at the library. Not quite the 60s in fact; I started there with a Saturday job in 1970. One girl came in with long, purple-painted nails one day. At some point in the morning, she issued a squeal. “I’ve shut my nail in someone’s book!” A pale stump was left. She rushed to get the pack of new nails, stuck one on and started to paint it. Customers were still coming in and had to be served. We were all laughing so much we could hardly stand up.
Some women had so many artificial additions that it caused some anxiety once they were married. Their husbands had never seen them without full makeup on, so they had to choose between coming clean and showing their true unadorned selves or getting up early every morning, adding the eyelashes, the hair, doing the backcombing, putting on the face, all before he was awake.
I tried false eyelashes myself, once. I know, imagine how absurd I looked. I was only about 17. I remember the Sprout came round to pick us up (we were friends long before we looked upon each other with sentimental eyes) and he struggled manfully to mask his horror. I suspect I took them off again before we went out for dinner, as I don’t remember making a complete idiot of myself all around town.
My mother and my sister had hairpieces. They both had short brown hair and they pinned the switch underneath their own at the crown and then backcombed to hide the join. It seemed to look fine then.
On the whole, except for the short-lived eyelash experiment, I didn’t do any of this. I knew it wouldn’t suit me. I was small and pale with long blonde hair which I either wore loose or twisted up into a knot. I didn’t care much what I looked like though I was, simultaneously, very self-conscious. Certainly the black-eyed pale-lipped look wasn’t me, but neither was the vivid and intense one. I was no hippy, thinking they were naive and unrealistic (I’m more tolerant now; I still think they were but I rather like that now). I remember when a girl of my age – about 14 – came up to me in the playground and intoned, passionately, “Make love not war ’cause love is lovely and war is ugly” – honestly, I’m not kidding, she said every word and she was all intense and starry-eyed – I gazed at her in bemusement.