ANY SENTENCE that begins with the phrase "for centuries" ends in a lie. For centuries people have known about the ancient Eastern forces of feng shui, chakra, reiki, chi and aromatherapy. In fact, they are at the vanguard of a horrible new female trend.
Perfectly sensible and pitiably low-paid women are buying into the New Age beauty industry. Women who still pride themselves in not believing in anti-wrinkle cream will reach for their store cards if the label on some dubious goo claims that it will heal their souls.
Until now, the most mystical the beauty industry got was Anita Roddick on all fours among some tribeswomen who were wishing this bouffant loony would leave the money on the sideboard and go home. Pharmaceutical companies are now hawking piles of cold cream by putting it into white boxes and claiming that it's good for the psyche.
Women are entering a New Age of unbearability. I accidentally turned on the TV during the hours of daylight last week and there was some failed chalet girl lecturing a single mother in a council flat on why her life would be better if she burnt some flower oils, rather than the flat itself.
Cynics may say that aromatherapy is make-believe for people who think they are above Impulse body spray, or that feng shui is lucky heather for the middle classes.
Open a feng shui book. It says throw away your junk and buy nice furniture. But corporations are spending pounds 60 an hour for consultants to tell them this. In the Seventies, our interest in well-being peaked with sauna culture, all about losing a few pounds and trying to cop a feel off a Swedish girl, if you could find one in Potters Bar. Now we have New Age spa culture: it's not your thighs that are the problem, it's your thought processes.
The latest, silliest spa therapy is reiki. Don't ask what it is. That was my mistake.
"With reiki you use the universal energy," said a London reiki practitioner. "And you concentrate on whatever is out of line," she continued.
"But what does it do?"
"We adjust the energy levels of parts of the body."
"You feel the heat."
"It's hands-on. We apply hands." So it's a rub-down. At pounds 45 an hour.
Next, I wandered into a department store, where the Lancome counter was launching an all-new product, Hydra Zen. Zen because it "de-stresses" you, and Hydra because in real life it's a moisturiser. I asked the sad-faced Lancome girl how a face-cream could be de-stressing.
"It's got a patent formula," she explained.
"Yes, but what does it do?"
"It's the ingredients - the honey, the rosemary."
"Does it actually relieve stress?"
"Yes. Hence the Zen. It's de-stressing emotionally. In an aromatherapeutic way."
I've got friends who spend a day's wages on "positive energy" enemas. I asked Amanda, a shop girl who earns pounds 14,000 a year, why she'd pay to let a total stranger take her up the wrong 'un. She looked at me as if I was mad. "I can see more clearly now," she said. "My vision improved straightaway."
Women have reverted to their natural state, buying into any crap they think will wash away their inadequacy. The New Age is sowing the seeds of a deeper insecurity - spiritual worth. Since starting my research, I've consulted my healer and I've got bad news for Mel B about her chakra: there's no such thing. Personally, if I wanted healing crystals to make me feel better I'd spend my money on cocaine.
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