When I was in 8th grade, Stacey Kness and I would take the city bus down into the heart of Minneapolis. We would dress up for these adventures – my mother insisted on it, and Stacy and I thought it was kind of fun so we always complied. Neither of us ever had much spending money, but we loved to window shop. We would go all over and then end the afternoon at the Walgreen’s because it had a photo booth that would produce those black and white strip pictures. I know I have one in my sentimental-crap-from-my-past-that-Chris-wishes-I-would-throw-away-box down in the basement. I run across it every few years. It’s hard to forget Stacey’s huge smile – braces sparkling from the flash and her rubber bands pulled so tight it looks as if they’ll break any second from smiling so big.
I remember feeling grown up during these afternoons. I think it was because of our early privilege of independence (WHAT was my mother thinking letting me go down to the big dark city without adult supervision??), but also because we wore skirts. I still love to dress up. I usually feel significantly better about myself if I am in nice clothes. My dad commented this afternoon, as we waited in an incredibly long line to check my bag, about the way it used to be with air travel. He remembers when it was glamorous and easy. People actually dressed up to go on an airplane. They didn't throw on sweats or flannel pajama pants. Now it feels more like a cattle herding (his words, not mine.)
Dressing comfortably is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but I do long for the days when people wore hats and presented themselves in a more polished manner.
The last few years of having babies and raising infants/toddlers/preschooler have wreaked havoc on my body. My body droops more, I hang on to fat in different places than I used to, and my face has aged a LOT. I try to eat right and exercise, but I haven’t been consistent with either. I’ve been successful on Weight Watchers, but gained it all back over the last two years. All of these factors lead me to one thing – I am not proud of my appearance. I guess even my father has noticed because yesterday, during our brunch date (mom was too tired to come along) he asked me if I ever wear lipstick. I gave him my excuses – I never remember to put it on, I drink a lot of coffee and water during the day so it just comes off, and I don’t own any colors I really like. He patiently listened and said, “Well, you should.” Thanks, Dad. I know you mean well, but your timing sucks.
I haven’t been able to have my hair highlighted, brows waxed or hair cut in many moons. Chris always tells me to go ahead and get it done, but I am very worried about our financial situation and never want to put more on the credit card than is necessary. Last week, the day before I left for Florida, a gift of cash was given to my hair. That’s what the envelope said, “To: Carol’s hair” – with strict instructions that this money was not to be spent on Pull-ups or fixing the garage door opener. It was just for me. When I got to Naples, I called the only Aveda salon in the phonebook and they had an opening for today. I LONGED for this appointment. I REALLY want to look a little better and getting my hair done always helps. I bounced into the salon a minute early and was greeted by those wonderful Aveda smells. My mind was filled with thoughts of being pampered for two hours and how great it would be to have someone else deal with straightening my hair with a dryer today! As her finger scoured the page for a longer period than I felt was usual, the words I dreaded came our of her mouth. “I can’t find your name.” Sure enough, they mis-scheduled me for next Monday. I was not a happy person. After I said “Fuck”, not under my breath but loud and clear, the receptionist gathered that I was upset. She had no idea about the anticipation that had built up for this moment, the hours I was able to freely give to it as I was already on vacation, that I would now have to sacrifice precious weekend time with my kids to try and do this at home, but that didn’t stop me. “Can you come back next Monday?” “NO! I’ll be in UTAH!!!”, I yelled as I stormed out. I can only imagine what material I gave them for the rest of their day.
I am not proud of my behavior, but I am proud of what I did next. I ran down the street to a great costume jewelry store. They have mountains of trendy stuff at really cheap prices. I was in the mood to be glamorous. Pretty. I found a rhinestone ring that I liked and I bought it – all 10K of fake emerald-cut amber for $14. It’s huge, it’s gawdy and I love it. Not what most mothers of preschoolers working in public education wear, but what the hell. I needed to feel pretty and this has done it. You should see it now as it glimmers under my reading light in the plane! Pure joy.
My dad was right about the lipstick. My mom has a ton of tubes that were given to her by some foundation that helps people on chemo feel prettier with makeup. She doesn’t wear make up too often, so she gave some to me. I put some on and now – in conjunction with my ring – I look pretty great. No suburban-housewife-look for me, no sir-ree!
I think tomorrow I’ll wear the ring AND the $6 sparkly broach I bought.