WE HAVE CLIPS in our hair, sweat shirts and baggy jeans on our bods. Beauty-wise, we are at ground zero. We have just arrived for our spa weekend, just us babes.

We have this condo, a place to rest up before tomorrow's rigorous schedule of treatments: Turkish mud wraps, Swedish massages, French manicures. Beauty may be only skin deep, but beauty is always . . . imported.

"Let's go to the juice bar and get a St-Tropez Protein Smoothie," Beth says, flipping through the resort's brochure.

"Ugh," the rest of us say in unison. First of all, we are bloated from our little welcome-to-paradise feast of champagne and bonbons that Ellen brought. Second, we have gook all over our faces. Some kind of apricot exfoliating mask Nancy brought to get us started. Third, we want to watch "The Practice" on TV at 10.

"Babes!" Beth says. "Get a grip! We are finally here. At a spa. We've only got two days. We're supposed to do beauty."

She's right. It's taken us nearly a year to get this little getaway together. It used to be so much easier. We used to find two whole weeks every year, no problem, for an all-babe vacation. Two winters in a row we even managed to get to the Caribbean. We got new bathing suits and golden tans and hung out with muscular locals. And now look at us. One measly weekend, an hour away from home, and we're doing sugar and TV.

"What has happened to us?" Nancy says, reaching for more candy.

"Men," Beth says. "That's what happened to us. We were a lot more fun before we got permanent men in our lives."

"Well, that's depressing," I say.

"Let's break open the brownies," Nancy says.

Good idea. We rinse off our exfoliating masks, consume brownies, flip through magazines of beautiful women and wonder about the role of beauty when you have a permanent man in your life. When you have a good man, a real man, a man who loves you for your inner beauty. Does outer beauty really matter anymore?

"Not that beauty is just about attracting men," Nancy says.

"Of course not," Ellen says. "Beauty is about self-esteem. You want to do the most with what nature gave you."

"Exactly," I say.

"But didn't we seem to care a little more before we all got hitched?" Nancy says.

"Let's go to the juice bar," Beth says, looking at the brochure again. "They have a Greek cucumber dill mixture that is supposed to burn fat and increase learning power at the same time."

We head out for the health drink, wander through the resort, past the pool and golf course. When we get to the juice bar, it's closed. But the sports bar is open. There are golfer types in there, businessmen in plaid pants sipping Scotch. And there is a big-screen TV in there. Nancy makes a bold move: She asks the waitress to please flip the channel to "The Practice," which the waitress does.

Excellent! Despite Beth's protest, we find seats right in front of the TV, order salads and wine. It is hard to hear the TV over the jukebox. Pretty soon we are cupping our ears, leaning in, like old biddies at church.

A man walks up. A man? "Hey there," he says to Beth, smiling. "Where have you been all my life?"

He has got to be kidding.

"My friends and I would like to buy you girls a drink," he says. "If you wouldn't mind just stepping over to the bar over there."

He has got to be kidding. He has got to be desperate. We are four old biddies watching TV with our ears cupped. Four old biddies with hair clips and sweats and sugar bloat and speckles of leftover exfoliant on our faces.

Beth looks up at him and smiles politely. The rest of us look down at our bowls of lettuce. Ugh. A man. A man with a pickup line. It is the first time for us, the first time since we got hitched, that we've even been reminded of this scene. Was it this easy before? Somehow, I don't remember men coming around so readily, back when we were all fussy about our outer beauty.

"Um, we're trying to watch our show," Nancy says to the guy, who finally retreats, goes back to the bar, stands there with his friends as they look at us.

"Apparently, our inner beauty is shining forth," Beth says.

"It must be awfully shiny," I point out, "to take the glare off these hair clips."

"That's the thing about inner beauty," Nancy says. "Men are drawn to women who are confident, strong."

Another man comes over. A friend of the first one. Oh, dear. We are hot babes, all right. We are going to have to fight the fellas off for life, now that our inner beauty is so . . . stunning.

"Excuse me," he says. "The truth is, there's a game on, and we'd really like to the change the channel back. What time is your show over?".

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is laskasmail@aol.com.