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  • The Make-Up of Me ****

    The ad says he's looking for a companion; someone who's fun; someone middle aged and monetarily self-sufficient; someone who knows how to laugh and not take life too seriously. He says; "And, if you're easy on the eyes, that's a bonus." I take a quick inventory. With a furrowed brow I determine that I am all of these things. Why just last night Charlene had me on the telephone telling me how she let some sweet ol'e southern gentleman wrap her up in his silky smooth sales pitch about a time-share up in Nova Scotia. She said she fell into a sultry trance just listening to his charming little ditty about frozen coastlines and whipping winds. She almost signed on the dotted line during that long-distance call. I was in stitches listening to Charlene make her "get up and go" plans that left her devoted husband, Jackson sitting at the kitchen table waiting for his supper while she ran off to cuddle up on the front porch of some icy igloo that a charismatic southern salesman lured her into. Yes sir, I recognize good humor; I laugh with ease. I question the definition of middle age though. I assume that I fit the criteria because I am in the fifty-plus age range. Does that make me "middle" aged? I reckon it does since I plan on having a meet and greet with good ol'e triple-digits one hundred. I'm totally committed to driving myself to the celebration of my one-hundredth birthday.

    I mull over the ad and face-up to honesty; I have neglected myself since losing Mr. Thayer Jr. My skin's gone to pot; when I strip down and scrub off all the Cover Girl, even I can't face the mirror. I've abandoned my four-week commitment of getting my roots done; I've gone lax with my maintenance. And, I own the fact that I've become a little thick around the middle too, and I'm certain I've become a lot thicker in my thinking. Will it fall under the heading of "fun" when I start peeling off my opinions and attitudes regarding little red sports cars, platinum harlots, and watermelon truck catastrophes? It really was a sin that Mr. Thayer Jr. kept longer hours than could accommodate a 12:00 a.m. curfew issued by the daddy of his under aged, way- less-than-fifty, hoity-toity companion. And, who delivers watermelons by moonlight anyway? Moonshine would be more like it. And believe me when I tell you, platinum hair, and watermelon rinds are not an attractive site when mixed with spiraling red lights spinning off emergency response vehicles, and a little red twisted sports car. I was sorry to see all the rinds, reds, and rubber; gee gads, it was a sloppy mess of red. I consider all of this and lay plans to put my best foot forward; I'm up for some fun, especially with someone who's put an ad in the paper looking for it. And, I am monetarily self-sufficient, thanks to my loss.

    I drive down to see Constance. She owns one of those one-stop beauty parlor boutiques where hair and skin treatments are sold, makeovers are performed, and nails are extended. She offers an array of beauty services to anyone who wants to buy them. She can revamp weeks of root regrowth, wax every inch of skin prone to sprouting anything, and outfit a woman in undergarments that can make Victoria blush. Most women don't even recognize who they are when they leave the boutique; the Puritans would shudder.

    Constance is a beautiful woman; you can tell she's her own best customer. She sits me down for a consultation; because all of me is so shameful, she implores me to let her start with the neglected roots. Three hours later my hair looks amazing; all my shame hidden under a shimmering new color; I've been foiled, streaked, and trimmed up with a new "not acting my age" do. I have the look of someone who's taken the devil by the hand and off looking for trouble. My mood thickens when I realize I haven't been waxed yet. Constance has her assistant do the honors of turning my skin into a sheet of glass; pretty soon, I'm all glossy. I leave the wax room and head over to the make-up counter where Temple; Constance's baby sister, dips me in a palette of new spring colors. Sizing myself up, I recall a fond memory of Mr. Thayer Jr. coddling me after I returned home from an afternoon of rejuvenation. He was feeling particularly frisky that day; of course I left the man no choice. That memory snaps shut on a vision of various shades of red spilled out over a snaking road on a warm night in June under a full moon. I hope that God doesn't hold an overflowing abundance of friskiness against Mr.Thayer Jr. He was after all just a man.

    There is no quick fix for taking off the extra pounds that have ambushed me since the tragedy; or so I think. Constance introduces me to the Spanx. She hands me a little black latex body piece that could double as a bathing suit for my antique Chatty Cathy doll. There is no way all of me is going to fit inside that teeny-tiny garment even if Houdini escapes from his grave to assist me. Constance says that women wear this little miracle to smooth out lumps and bumps and push things back up where they belong. She says that Oprah wears them and even has her very own line. I marvel that Oprah can squeeze her ten-pounds into this five-pound sack; I'm being generous here. Suspicious, I take the miniature garment into the dressing room; if Oprah can force all of herself into a teeny-weeny rubber doll suit, maybe I can too. Sure enough, the Spanx expands and stretches; I work with determination to get all of me stuffed inside. I push and pull; I heave and tug in a hearty attempt to get it all caged. It's quite a job to harness the oversight of a little mourning. I work up a sweat as I bully the Spanx. Just when I think I've gotten all of me secured, I see the spillage. Untamed skin oozes from the top and bottom openings of the suit; anywhere there is an escape route, skin seeps out. In an attempt to corral the escapees, I pull and tug some more. The more I contort my body, the more the skin spills in search of freedom. I stick my head out of the dressing room and summon Constance. She scrutinizes me and decides that the Spanx will not be my miracle weight loss device. I'm too soft she says; "it's not for all body types." She tells me we'll have to resort to plan B; I don't ask. I inspect myself in the mirror not at all concerned with what plan B might entail. I'm confident that nothing could be more painful or delay breathing like the Spanx. As I wrestle the thing off; my body quickly expands back to its pre-Spanx size; breathing returns to normal.

    What a facade; what a dishonest way to present yourself. Shame on you Oprah and the multitudes of women south of the Mason Dixon Line. Those poor unsuspecting men who run ads looking for a slim-trim special little honey to keep fun with only to take her home on his wedding night and experience the unpacking of his bride and the wrath of the Spanx. I cling to the notion that men get smacked with realization and are duped on a regular basis. Maybe we all are. I think about the man who wrote the ad; I wonder if he sports an extra case of lose skin over or under his waistband; maybe he wears his own male version of the Spanx. Perhaps untamed grays run amuck and he conceals them with a box of Just For Men? Is Grecian Formula delivered to his house by UPS? I wonder if he knows about waxing and trimming wiry brows. Will he be easy on the eyes? I convince myself that men surely have their own maintenance issues, and I'm willing to bet that men don't have to duke it out daily with the Spanx.

    I'll respond to the ad. I'll tell him we can size each other up at the Dixie Diner where they serve my favorite big salad in a trough-sized bowl. I'll risk humiliating myself as I wade through my ritual of eating every single bite. If he doesn't get up and walk away as he bears witness to that scene, maybe he'll decide to invest some time in this mildly overweight, middle-aged woman with dry skin who has a hearty laugh and can pardon a man who sits behind a plate of barbeque chicken wings on a first date. Maybe we'll both agree that this part of life is more about revitalizing what you can and laughing at the leftovers.

    Pamela Wilonski
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