They’re one of the odder matches on this, our current season of Married At First Sight, and the gap between former private schoolboy Mikey, 29, and his ‘intimidating’ wife, 26-year-old Natasha, only continues to widen.
And that’s not just because bride Natasha quite literally abseiled down a cliff face in Thursday night’s episode, leaving her grim-faced groom at the top with naught but the abseiling instructor for company.
It was Natasha’s pre-descent announcement - that her hair extensions needed ‘re-doing’ - that hinted at just how different she and her TV hubby are.
A ‘high maintenance’ bride
Mikey tentatively asks what else his bride ‘has done’, as though afraid of what womanly secrets he’d discover.
Natasha proceeds to reel off a laundry list of hair, beauty and grooming procedures she undergoes on a weekly or daily basis to maintain her ‘look’.
“Botox, fillers, nails, hair, waxing, laser, facials, massages, fat freezing, solarium…” she pauses, a little breathless.
“Every night when I go to bed I inject my Melanotan... [and I do] teeth bleaching,” she adds.
Well, wasn’t our poor Mikey stunned? Like someone had told him Santa wasn’t real or Kylie Jenner wasn’t born with that buxom bottom. You could’ve knocked him over with a feather.
“You can tell she's a bit high maintenance and that's a bit of a concern,” he says to cameras.
The irony here is that Mikey, along with many other cisgender, heterosexual males, has likely dated - or at the very least idolised from afar - women who participate in Natasha’s regimen, or perhaps something even more extravagant.
Are cis hetero men aware of the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep their cis hetero counterparts looking fresh-faced and Instagram-ready at all hours of the day and night? Absolutely not.
Do they blindly assume that she just ‘woke up like this’? Most definitely.
Natasha isn’t high maintenance. Loads of women do all that and multiple facials and massages. #mafs— Sharlene Kuruppuarac (@SharleneMelb) February 6, 2020
Mikey saying Natasha is high maintenance is annoying af. It's men like him that reinforce unrealistic expectations & then criticise a women as being high maintenance when she gets hair extensions, acrylic, botox, fillers, fake tans, laser, fat freezing, waxing etc #MAFSAU #mafs— Tess Tickles (@EMMMMgirl) February 6, 2020
“But my girlfriend is really low-key and natural,” might be an earnest reply. “She doesn’t even wear much makeup”.
Wrong, my dear sir. The ‘no makeup’ look - dewy skin, full brows, a nude lip - requires a surprising amount of makeup. Search for it on YouTube and several million 37-minute tutorials using 53 different products will appear. And no, the irony of the ‘no makeup’ makeup look is not lost on women.
You can apply the same thinking to ‘natural’ hairstyles such as ‘effortless waves’ (requires hair to be straightened then curled, pinned, cooled then brushed out) and the way that some women appear to have eternally hairless legs/underarms/pubic areas (the result of regular shaving/waxing/laser hair removal).
Real vs fake beauty
Yes, some women are naturally exquisite but even Gisele Bundchen - named Rolling Stone’s ‘Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ in 2000 - has admitted she’s gone under the knife. The staggering amount of primping, preening, pain - and expense - the majority of women go to is enough to boggle a bloke’s mind, as it did young Mikey’s.
I am by no means exempt from this rigamarole, having parted with a small fortune at laser clinics, hairdressers, beauty salons and lash and brow bars.
Heck, I’ve even had Botox. Well, not for cosmetic reasons but to (unsuccessfully) treat chronic jaw clenching which is a whole other story.
So, why do we do it, and why do we often keep it a secret from menfolk, and even other women?
The answer to the second question is multilayered but I think it comes down to our obsession with achieving perfection and excellence with (seemingly) little effort or outside assistance. And I think that desire for effortless perfection applies to everyone, not just women, but often in women it manifests in our appearance.
It’s the tale of the ‘lazy’ 23-year-old CEO who turned his tech startup into a multibillion-dollar business in six months. No biggie. But behind his laissez-faire attitude is often a parent or investor injecting in large amounts of funds, just like an injection of Juvederm is often behind a pair of extra-pouty lips.
The answer to the first question is a little harder. For some women, doing what they need to do to look and feel their best - whether that’s getting the occasional mani-pedi or a full-head of 100 per cent human hair extensions - is for that very reason, to look and feel their best.
For others, it’s to cater to a little something called the ‘male gaze’. You know, the concept of female beauty established and perpetuated by the patriarchy?
Guess who was behind the push-up bra? A man. Lipstick in a tube? Also a man. The Victoria’s Secret fashion show? Yep, you guessed it.
For a lot of women - myself included - it’s a little bit of both, pleasing ourselves and pleasing men.
Regardless, what we do - or don’t do - to appear ‘beautiful’ it shouldn’t be something we feel ashamed about or hide for fear of being branded ‘fake’ or ‘high maintenance’.
Which brings us back to Natasha. While one could argue that there’s a lot of ‘fake’ going on - nails, hair, tan, teeth etc - she’s also refreshingly real. She’s open, honest and doesn’t seem to give a f*** about letting her other half know the reality of her appearance.
The fact that she did it on one of the most popular reality TV shows, MAFS, is all the more powerful and will hopefully open a few eyes to the delightful irony of ‘real’ vs ‘fake’.
Got a story tip or just want to get in touch? Email us at email@example.com