What does it take to feel beautiful? What does it take for you to dance around your room and sing the immortal song from "West Side Story", "I Feel Pretty"? Now, be honest! Don't stand there and piously quote, "beauty is only skin deep" or "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Come on now, out with it. You do something to feel pretty. There is some little routine that you indulge in, at least once in a while, that makes you feel beautiful in your own eyes.

Let's think about some of these practices for just a moment. What seems of no consequence to us may seem very strange to someone else. For example, one day my husband came into our room while I was plucking my eyebrows. He watched for a moment with a puzzled look on his face.

"Why do you do that?" he asked.

"Because I don't like how they look when they're bushy."

"It seems like that would hurt."

"It doesn't," I replied.

Well, it does, but I wasn't about to tell him that. Just a little. Compared to birthing twins, it's nothing. It helps to keep it all in perspective. I wondered what he would think about waxing? Now there's a practice that I don't even pretend to understand. When I think of it, all I can feel is hot duct tape being ripped off my skin. Ouch. I wonder, if like Band-Aids, they have an "ouch-less" brand of waxing.

My husband teases me a little about some of my routines, such as putting on makeup. He sweetly assures me, romantically, not to worry that my barn door doesn't need painting. A real smooth-talker, he is. He doesn't understand that sometimes I like to put on the makeup because it makes me feel pretty. Some days I need it so I can fool others into thinking that I'm alert and enthusiastic. All in all, I think a little eyebrow plucking and some makeup is within the realm of "normal" for our culture.

Granted, some people may take it to an extreme. What others do to be beautiful in the eyes of others may very well make some people raise eyebrows. For example, most people have heard about women of yore wearing corsets. That is child's play compared to the abolished practice of foot binding that Chinese women endured for centuries. It was believed that a 3 to 5 inch foot was a symbol of wealth. The neck rings of certain African tribes make us cringe. How about those trendy lip plates? The bottom teeth of the woman are knocked out to make room for a clay plate inserted in the bottom lip. And I mean plate, as in the size of what you eat off of at dinner. The bigger the better.

Hardware isn't the only novelty item when it comes to beauty. Japanese women smear chicken manure (that's a polite way of saying chicken poop) over their faces. Oh, don't worry, it's in the form of a cream, so that makes it okay. It is supposed to smooth out those pesky wrinkles that appear after decades of living. We Americans have a similar novelty. For a mere $200 per treatment, you can have facial gurus smear nightingale manure (that's also bird poop, people) on your face. I wonder if there is a discount if you ask for pigeon poop -- oh, excuse me, excrements -- instead. Oh, and don't worry, it's "sanitized" poop, so that makes it okay. Brings to mind the Proverb, "A fool and her money are soon parted".

So, now that you are all lathered up with wrinkle erasing bird poop, let's top it off with some lovely and expensive perfume made from whale vomit. Sounds alluring and enticing, doesn't it? Call me unsophisticated, but whale vomit and perfume don't seem to go together. How does one advertise that anyway? I can see the commercial now. A couple at a five-star restaurant, enjoying fine dining. The man leans in close to the woman, dressed to the nines and says:

"My darling, what is that wonderful scent you are wearing?"

"It's whale vomit, my love."

Talk about killing the mood.

Never mind the beauty practices we consider strange in other countries. Look closer to home, and you'll find African and Japanese ladies scratching their heads, wondering why those American ladies use bull semen to cure wrinkles; or how can they stand ripping hair from their bodies with primitive wax methods. It does bring up the question of whether or not we in America are qualified to judge others on beauty, when we think that using our lunch hour to inject paralytic agents into our faces is a sane use of time and money.

Though beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it shouldn't make you raise your eyebrows or vomit! Then again, maybe you could market that as a facial cream.