Sunday, June 05, 2005

Woman, observed

She is tiny. Beyond rail thin, yet her face is unnaturally puffy under a frizzy mass of overprocessed hair. As she awkwardly walks toward me on her massively stacked espadrilles, I am amazed by the miniscule piece of fabric that passed for her skirt. If she wasn't so disheveled, she might might seem... elite. Instead, she seems a little pathetic. Whatever aura of prestige she has is tarnished. She plops down in the chair next to me with a nervousness and weariness that must weigh three times what she herself does.

For thirty minutes she rambles about her boyfriend and her father, all the while begging the stylist for advice. Her voice is tiny and high pitched. It makes her sound like a petulant child. A churlish munchkin. She speaks rapidly, and, uncharitably, I am thinking “coke or crack, crack or coke?”

“He says he loves me, but he doesn’t want me unless I lose ten more pounds. I mean, I’m down to 100 now… What should I do? I love him. It’s not that I think my father is right. That I shouldn’t lose any more weight. I will look better thinner. Right?” She nibbles a lunch of steamed broccoli while her hair is blown dry. The smell from the broccoli, mixed with the hair color processing on my head is nauseating. “Broccoli is good,” she says. “It’s okay to just eat a lunch of broccoli, right? It’s good for you. It's got all the nutrients I need, right? This broccoli is really good. My father likes broccoli, so it must be good for you.”

The stylist asks where her father is. “Oh,” she sighs. “New York. He's in New York. I miss him. We have our penthouse in Manhattan, plus the place at the Watergate, and the house in Chevy Chase, you know.” She stops nibbling her broccoli and squints into the mirror. “Some guy called me a sexpot at a party after you did my hair last time. Make sure I look like a sexpot today. I mean, I look good, don’t I? I’m thin and I’m pretty, right? I handed out your card at the party, so you need to make me look good today. Ha ha ha.

I must be radiating discomfort as I sit next to this woman, and the stylist whispers an apology. He keeps trying to cut off her rambling, but it is to no avail. I look up at the clock. I still have twenty minutes for my head to cook, and I’ve pulled a notepad out of my computer bag. I’m trying to write about Uzbekistan, but under the circumstances, I feel foolish trying to write about political unrest while my neighbor continues her chatter. I stop. I write the words “SAD, PATHETIC, INSECURE” on the pad in large letters. I underline them as she continues.

“I’m angry with my dad. He won’t talk to me about my boyfriend. He doesn’t understand. I love him. I love him. He is my world. If I need to lose 10 more pounds, then I have to lose 10 more pounds. It’s my dad’s birthday and I want to see him, but I'm mad at him. He doesn't like my boyfriend. Maybe I should just get on the train and go see my dad. Maybe he’ll call and ask me to come up. Then, I’ll just go to Union Station and get on the train. Unless my boyfriend calls. If he does, I’ll just fly to Miami. I’ll just wait for a call.”

I sneak a side glance. I can’t tell how old she is. She could be 30 or 40. Her skin is overly tan, almost leathery. Her puffy face says “alcohol, drugs, more alcohol…” But I think maybe she’s much younger. Just looks older.

She holds her cell phone in her tiny hands as her hair is blown dry. She stares at it intently. But no one ever calls.

“Am I pretty?” she asks as her hair is sprayed. “I am pretty, right? I am a sexpot. Please tell me I’m a sexpot.”

“I can make you look slutty if you want,” the stylist says. He looks at me and smiles as my hair cooks with bright blond. He laughs. “I can make everyone look slutty.”

“NO!” She is horrified. “Not slutty. Just a sexpot. I need to be a sexpot. I am a sexpot.” The stylist has a long list of wealthy clients. Bitterly, I wonder if they all want to be sexpots or if it’s just the messed up ones.

“Okay,” sighs the stylist. “You are a sexpot.”

Part of me wants to disagree and say, “Oh honey, you are a sickly looking coked up creature from hell.” But I can’t. I hate to say it, but part of me, the part that knows I’ll never be taken for a sexpot or have a penthouse at the Watergate, is momentarily jealous of this sad thing. (And it disgusts me later that I even briefly felt that way.) But then it passes. I may be fat. I may be unattractive. I may be poor. But I’m not drugged out and groveling for attention from a man who wants to torture me over ten pounds.

Finally, her hair is finished. And I am glad. She is still rambling about her weight when the stylist says, “Okay. You’re done. You have a good trip to New York, honey.” He is eager for her to depart, too.

She turns to him, a somewhat desperate look on her droopy face, now framed in soft, straight locks. “Will you come with me? C’mon. I’ll buy your ticket. Come to New York with me?” There is a frightened shrillness to her voice. I imagine she does not want to face her father alone, thin as a reed and clearly altered.

“Ummm, no honey,” the stylist responds. “I have things I have to do.” I am thinking – yes, like get the color off my head. Now.

She wavers in the doorway. “Oh. Okay.” She starts to leave and then asks, “Did he already pay for me?” I find myself wondering if it’s her father or her boyfriend who pays. Her father, I have to assume.


“Oh.” She sounds crestfallen. “Well, I guess I have to pay then. I’ll have to take my Visa card and go to an ATM.” I wonder why she doesn’t just pay with her credit card right there and then at the front desk, but I remember that she’s not all there. In her mind, it probably makes perfect sense.

As she totters out, the stylist quietly apologies again. “She’s in her 20’s. Ultra, ultra rich. She has her own suits cut for her at Chanel. She’s been in and out of one of those $50,000 rehab centers. Boyfriend’s on rock. You may have noticed she has a chemical dependency problem. I’m really sorry. Her family pays me huge amounts of money to do her hair.”

I think to myself, they didn't pay today - they must really be pissed off about the boyfriend. Then I shrug and say, “It’s sad. Proof that having all the money in the world won’t save you.”

He says, “Deep down inside, she’s a really sweet girl. She’s just really fucked up.”

I think that’s been written on more than one tombstone. You might even be able to buy that from a headstone catalog. It’s called the Dana Plato model. Or maybe it's the Marilyn Monroe.

She was a really sweet girl. She was just really fucked up.

Well, I’ll light a candle for the really fucked up ones. Somehow, this morning, I seem a bit better off in the cold light of day.

Go with god, little sweet fucked up girls. Go with god.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whoa... what a painful, frightening, repulsive and yet sad little drama. It was interesting living that moment through your eyes...

I guess it's true:

Happiness is an inside job.

Sometimes it is hard to "truly" realize and believe that people that seem to have it all; endless buckets of money, tiny bodies, and worldly prestige... really aren't anymore happy than the average joes. Crazy, but true...

It will take me a while to shake the "odd" feeling this one gives me... effective writing at it's finest.