he remarks that have been made to me by beauticians would astonish you. It is the stock in trade of these people to convince the suppliant that she barely got to them in time.After their opening pitches, she'll wonder that horses didn't bolt and children cling to their mothers whenever she ventured out.

Take that famous facial salon I went to. The directress lectured me on the evils of facial tissues: "Dey are made uff vood. You voodn't dreg a piece uff vood over your face, vood you?" Yes, I vood, I admitted, and had done so all my life.

"Det's vy you look so vedderbeaten," she observed with satisfaction. To hear her, vou'd never believe I inspire the whistles I always do from utility men working in trenches.

Later, as a lab-coated operative worked over me with a miniature chrome vacuum cleaner, a little pinch of my cheek was sucked into the nozzle of the thing. She had to shut it off to release me.

"You must have a very loose face," she said accusingly. "This has never happened before." When she was done, my face red and sore as if I'd been in a sandstorm, the directress came in to inspect me. Her parting shot: "You must come beck at least vunce a munt to save vot good skin you heff left." With all that abrading, vacuuming and splashing with caustics, it was just a matter of time before we hit bone. I never went back.

I once consulted a makeup artist whose name you'd instantly recognize. Arms folded and brow furrowed, he studied me from across his paisleyed cabine as I fidgeted under a paisley throw.

"You have a very long European face," he said at last. "It needs something to . . . to occupy it." (A vase or a pair of bookends, perhaps?)

He occupied it with some 30 different products. Clouds of brown contouring powder were fluffed on to counteract 'bad bones' and create the illusion of less chin, wide-apart eyes and sensuous lips.

"Now you have a face!" he cried, whipping the covering from me like an artist at an unveiling. He gave me a numbered map of that face, so that I'd have a fighting chance at retracing the steps of the complicated maquillage. Was I transformed? Well, on my way back to the Metro that day, strange men in cars with out-of-state plates kept offering to give me a lift.

Even a haircut has ego-paining possibilities. A favorite ploy of hairdressers is to gingerly hold up a hank of the patron's hair and ask in a voice thick with disbelief, "Who did this to you?" The tone sugbests that one's last haircut was maiming. The stock closing line of an immensely popular hairstylist in my neighborhood is, "There. Now you don't look so bald."

Complaining makes things worse. At that internationally renowned coiffeur's, originator of spaceship fairdos worked into bizarre zigzags, I registered my first and last such protest. I told the stylist assigned to me that I wanted a sort of long Dorothy Hamill cut. He gave no indication that he heard.

"Softness is needed around the face," he observed to his assistant. That both of them wore their hair in Louis XIV cascades of ringlets to their shoulders should've been a tip-off that we were not of a mind. As he cut, he scolded, "Don't lean towards me when I pull," or "Lift your chin, for heaven's sake!" Over my protests, he then applied a curling iron all around my hairline. I looked like Shirley Temple.

In the dressing-room, bits of hair prickling inside my dress, I consoled myself; I'd wash those dumb-looking curls out as soon as I got home. Suddenly, I was filled with righteous wrath. Twenty-seven dollars for the cut and extra for the shampoo and blow-dry, not to mention tip . . . I'd be damned if I'd re-do it! I strode back and confronted Louis & Co.

"Look, mister," I said, pointing a finger pistol-like to my skull, "I'm not going out looking like this." He stared in horror. Conversation ceased at all stations within earshot; scissors paused in mid-snip; combs froze in their trajectories. The only sound was the whoosh of air from the dryers.

With a dismissing gesture he said to his familiar, "Wet her down and turn her under." Cold water was spritzed in my direction and I was made to wait as it trickled down face and neck. With white-hot air, my hair was blown into a June Allison pageboy. Customers nearby stole furtive glances at me, grateful that they didn't have to suffer The Silence.

You wonder if it's worth the effort. Last week I told my husband I was thinking of having my ears pierced. Without lifting his head from the newspaper he said, "Well, if you want to have yourself mutilated, I guess that's your business."