Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Uh-oh, it's stupid calling...

Years ago, I did a brief stint working for a cosmetic company. I won't mention any names, but they wear white lab coats and promote a fresh, well-groomed, flawless appearance. (at that time, they never allowed us to wear fragrance, except for the one and only that they manufactured, which drove me crazy and had me in perpetual hot water with my district manager) I digress... It was 1989, after the 7.1 Loma Prieta quake in CA that made me question my priorities; my job, my judgement in general. I decided to quit a full-time job at an advertising agency where, like everyone else who does the heavy lifting at an ad agency, I was overworked and underpaid- so I could spend more time with my kids. Never mind that they weren't wild about the idea of spending more time with me...that's a story for another day. I still needed to work, but I wanted to do something 'fun'. I wanted to work a few hours a day instead spending 60 hour weeks bitching at vendors and putting up with anal retentive art directors. I wanted to be home to prepare a decent meal. I wanted to have time to pee more than once a day. The day after the earthquake, when the agency principal thought he'd still be traveling from the East Bay to SF for a client meeting, in spite of the fact that the Bay Bridge had collapsed (how do you even function when you're so disconnected from reality?)
I realized that I could have died in that confining office, as the windows were breaking and things were flying off the shelves, so I quietly gave notice. Following a whim, I took a position as a part time rep for a well-known cosmetic company, and became the shallowest human being on planet earth. I liked it. It was fun, except that the other women who worked there were mercilessly critical when it came to each other's appearance. Standard greetings sounded something like this... "Hey, you need lips! Jesus Christ, who did your eyebrows, the dog? What the hell is going on with your upper lip? It's wax time. Wax time. Wax time!" It was relentless. And to add to my misery, a lot of my coworkers were incapable of carrying on a conversation that didn't center around whose husband they had just done, what dress they'd just charged, or what drug they were about to consume. Mention a current event and be rewarded with a look you'd expect from someone just out of electroshock treatment. Bring up a topic other than fashion, and you'd get the cold shoulder, then a harsh reminder that your eyeliner needed refreshing.
But, the products were cool, most of the customers were delightful, and it was absolutely the type of work where no one would ever call you at home with problems. (Oh, you have to come in right away, I can't seem to get the shade right on this eyeshadow...the budget and deadline are completely going to shit, and the client is going to pull everything if I don't get my eye make up corrected... not going to happen.) So, I cruised on happily for a few months, until one day, when in a hurry to get to the BART Station, I slipped on an icy patch (yes, there is ice in California...sometimes) and went down; face-first on the sidewalk. My friends will tell you I am not the most coordinated person. They'll be gracious and find other nice things to say about me, but they'll tell you I'm mostly a klutz. I have permanent scars on both knees from years of repeated tripping and falling over nothing more than suggestions. So, when I landed hard on my FACE, it wasn't pretty. I skinned my face, which wouldn't have been such an awful thing, except that my job was promoting make-up, and the marvelous things it could do for a person. I ended up with big ugly scrapes; but soldiering on, showed up at the better department store where I'd been assigned, only to be told that I couldn't work until my face healed up. So...for a week and a half, I didn't call in sick, I called in 'ugly'. (Their words, not mine)I should explain that I'm not exactly a great beauty to begin with... OK-looking, on good days, attractive, but this job was at a time in my life when I was much younger, and hell, who doesn't look great when they're in their 30's? The bandages I sported on one cheek and across my chin did not enhance my features. I totally understand why I was sent home. In a world where all energy focuses on achieving perfection, facial wounds are not a look to strive for.
Even going to the grocery store or riding BART, I was aware of averted eyes. It was pretty awful, and to make things worse, it really hurt. At least all the other times I'd fallen down and scraped the skin off various body parts, I could cover up the disaster with clothing. I'd pretty much forgotten about this, until last week. We had a couple of snow storms, which made everything look fresh, and flawless, and every one's yards look sort of well-groomed.
My world was covered in a pristine sparkling white as clean as my 1989 lab coat. I like that part of snow. The part I don't like is the sneaky part. The part that fools you.(and talks about you behind your back) The part that looks all dry and fluffy on top, but is thinly masking icy nastiness underneath. I discovered that part when I literally stepped in it. Carrying an open can of Friskies Sea Captains Choice (why is it the favorite of stray cats everywhere is the one with the most horrific aroma?) I sunk through the snow to the slick ice below, my feet slipped out from under me, and I ended up on my face. Once again. This time my socks were full of snow (no, I didn't bother to put my boots on, thank you) and my hair was full of cat food. I have to admit, this face-landing wasn't as traumatic as my California face-landing, as that one was on concrete. This was on snow. Also, the face I landed on is 21 years older, and I am no longer relying on it to help me earn a living. Plus, the folks around here are hardly a superficial lot- I'll bet I could walk into City Market or the Post Office, or even Ace Hardware with Band-Aids all over my face and people wouldn't look twice. They'd probably just think it was an unfortunate incident with a horse. Or cow. Or maybe a goat. But this time, I'll be calling in 'Stupid' for going out without my boots.

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