Going Gray

The Fountain of Youth Index by Anne Kreamer

How much time or effort do you put into trying to maintain a youthful appearance? If you’re anything like me, you probably regularly add things to your inventory, but rarely remove them. How many partially used tubes or bottles of different skin potions, each promising brightening or tightening benefits, do you have in your medicine cabinet? How many torn-out-but-unused new fitness routine tear sheets litter your desk? I don’t know about you, but I’m increasingly interested in simplifying it all.

Nora Ephron first got me thinking about maintenance in her very funny book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck." “Maintenance," she wrote, "is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won't have to hide behind a stack of canned food….there's Status Quo Maintenance - the things you have to do daily, or weekly, or monthly, just to stay more or less even.

"And then there's the maintenance you have to do monthly, or yearly, or every couple of years or so - maintenance I think of as Pathetic Attempts to Turn Back the Clock.”

I’m not insensitive to expense, but for years in the area of “personal maintenance” I had more of an ostrich approach. I knew what I spent, more or less; I just didn’t like to think about it too consciously. I also knew that there were better uses of my time than sitting in the hair salon chair - but hey, it felt good.

So I decided to create a metric to help me calibrate my overall expenditure, what I call the Fountain of Youth Index. And in a national survey I conducted about the issues we face as we age, I asked 500 people to total up how much time and money they spend monthly on the following: exercise classes, gyms, personal training, exercise/sports equipment, exercise clothing, massage/bodywork, makeup, waxing, anti-aging products, cellulite creams, facials, dermatologic procedures (microdermabrasion, Botox, fillers, laser treatments, etc.) skin creams, shampoos, conditioners, salon styling and dyeing.

I tallied the responses; clustering them according to the total amount of money and time the survey respondents spent making themselves look and feel physically better.

This resulted in four basic lifestyle groups – what I call the Skeptics, the Doers, the Followers, and the Perservers.  You can take a mini-version of the survey here and see where you stand.

There is no “correct” approach. If you take the quiz, I hope you’ll have fun and maybe start thinking about time and money management in a slightly different, clearer way.