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Diary of an Exchange Student : I know there must be something more than just makeup to these girls . . .

This is the first in a series of a monthly columns by Portuguese exchange student Helena Goncalves that will continue throughout the school year.

November 19, 1987|HELENA GONCALVES

I have a certain impression of American girls.

They go to school with their makeup products in their purses and they are constantly fixing themselves. Even in classes, they brush their hair and fix their eyelashes.

In the school bathrooms, the girls are all in front of the mirror spraying their hair--rows of them!

To me, these girls with their makeup seem so old. Sometimes, when I finally meet them, they are much younger than I am.

In Portugal, we usually don't use makeup at all. Even older women don't use much. Only when we go to the discos, or we go out on Saturdays, we try to improve ourselves a bit and we perhaps put on a little lipstick. But here . . . !

One day, I had something in my eye and I was anxious to see what it was, but I couldn't reach the mirror, there were so many girls lined up.

They also love long nails. I mean 14, 15-year-old girls. If they don't have any, they glue on fake ones. And these nails are not only painted, some have drawings on them!

I do not think that such big nails are practical at all, especially at our age. Some girls have to ask people to open cans of Coke for them because they can't do it without breaking their nails.

The clothes here are a different story, and I like this. In Portugal, we give more importance to clothes. We wear our best clothes to school. Here, there is more freedom. I can wear whatever I want, even sweat pants or shorts, without worrying so much.

Perhaps by the year's end I will understand some of the differences between our cultures. Except for my host sister and some of her friends, I haven't yet made my own American girlfriend. That's one of my great challenges. I know there must be something more than just makeup to these girls, and I plan to find out what it is.

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