Fashion & Beauty

Hitting the Ground Running

March 12, 2023


iStock photo

By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

JUST BEFORE I left for Tokyo last year, as I was trying to pass an older couple inching along the sidewalk hand-in-hand, I fell. I was speed-walking in my Hokas, relieved and excited that I’d just aced the Covid test that would allow me into Japan the next day, when I slipped off the curb and tumbled awkwardly and painfully, eyeglasses flying, into the path of said couple—who now, gazing down at me, addressed me with the kind of concern reserved for old people who fall in the street. The knuckles on my left hand were scraped, dripping blood. I sat reeling on the ground. The woman asked me many times if I was all right, insisted I shouldn’t get up, and apologized for not trying to help me as she had a bad back. Looking at her, I realized she was probably younger than I. “I was trying to pass you,” I said with irritation. Then my Apple watch chimed in: I see you fell. Are you okay? My left arm hurt when I raised it to answer, afraid that if I didn’t, the watch would automatically dispatch an ambulance. I hit the I’m okay option. Are you sure you don’t need help? “F*ck off,” I said.

When I shakily stood up, assured the couple I didn’t want to go to Urgent Care, and watched them inch away, I had a very uncomfortable feeling, unrelated to my bloody knuckles and aching ribs.

I felt old.

Arriving at a certain age, you understand why some old people scowl when they walk. They’re scowling because it hurts. I already knew this before my doctor suggested I’d bruised—and maybe even cracked—a couple of ribs in my fall, but the unambiguous connection between looking youthful and not hurting became much clearer.

Even trying to maintain not hurting can make you feel vulnerable (and old). I recognized that as I crept down the steep Tokyo metro stairs the other day, my hand hovering over the guardrail, and explained to my 4-year-old granddaughter, M, that my sole goal was to get to the bottom without breaking my neck.

“Why do old people’s bodies wear out?” she asked after watching me limp toward the bathroom this morning wearing what I can only imagine was a face most unyouthfully arranged. “Do you want the simple answer or the complicated one?” I asked her.


“A body is like a shoe you wear a lot. Eventually, the sole gets worn down and has to be replaced,” I said (thinking of my painful left hip).


“That calls for the complicated answer.”


And now for a straightforward Q & A . . .

“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions, Vol. 28.

Yes, you in the first row with . . . is that a prescription for antibiotics?

Q: I recently had a bikini wax and I noticed the technician dipped the wooden applicator into the pot of wax repeatedly. Could I catch anything?

A: How are you feeling right now? Good? I hope so, because if a technician isn’t changing the pot of wax for each new client (ask them; they may not be), you could catch a lot of stuff you’d be a whole lot better off without. You could be exposed to group A strep, staph, human papillomavirus (HPV), and herpes. Because waxing induces areas of microtrauma to the skin, there’s a higher chance of contamination from client to client.

A waxing technician should never double-dip an application stick between clients; they should wear gloves during your treatment; and they should put down new paper or sheets. If you’re concerned about a facility’s cleanliness, better to take your waxable parts elsewhere.

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