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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sweet Vanities

The first time I had some money of my own I made an appointment at a beauty salon. A European facial, an hour long, cost one hundred and twenty dollars. An exorbitant sum for me, especially to spend on a facial; I'm rather niggardly when it comes to such luxuries. But I was ready to spend it.

I have a sentimental attachment to beauty salons. When I was young, in Romania, my mother used to go to the beauty salon once a month for a facial and waxing. She had her eyebrows plucked and her eyelashes dyed black. I sat on a bench in the back of the salon, and watched her. She had only her bra on -- her blouse was folded neatly on my lap and gave off a gentle whiff of the smell of her skin -- and a towel draped over her shoulders. She lay on the white bed with damp cotton under her eyes and shiny black paste smeared on the arch of her eyebrows and her eyelashes. The beautician, in a white smock, leaned over her. She and my mother gossiped as my mother's hair absorbed the dye. The beautician's name was Felicia; my mother went to her for many years. She had red hair and dimples in her cheeks. Her son always had girl trouble. I secretly wished to marry him.

I loved the smell of that place: the chamomile smell of the steam puffing out from the machine where you stuck your face to open your pores; the burnt, honey smell of the wax; the pungent dyes and nail polish; the starched odor of clean linen. It was always warm in there too, and the chatter and laughter of women floated around my head like soap bubbles, glossy and beautiful and fragile. I was impatient to grow up and be a part of all that, have my own funny and tragic stories to tell about sons and husbands and fathers and lovers.

I got only one facial done at my mother's beauty salon before we came to America. And I promised myself to go regularly in America too, to form the same kinds of friendship that my mother had. Well, it turned out to be very different. It turned out that we hardly had enough money for necessities, let alone visits to the beauty salon. But I kept the faith. And when I got my first job I scheduled an appointment at a beauty salon with an Italian name. I was girlishly excited about it.

The beautician who gave me the facial was a beautiful woman, with the bluest eyes I've ever seen. But she was curt, her hands heavy on my face; and she sold me more than one hundred dollars' worth of lotions and potions. I, like the nice and stupid girl I am, bought everything. I got home with my face burning red and a bagful of products I felt ashamed of owning. I didn't go back to that salon, or to any other salon, again.

When I get homesick I sometimes ask my mother to tell me about her friends in Romania, the kinds of stories she remembers they told each other when they were at the beauty salon. "Oh I don't know," she says and lights her cigarette. But I see a glimmer in her eyes as she changes the subject, a sign that she still knows well enough.


Blogger kameleon said...

hello green whale,
i love your posts! so well written. and i also have a similar background as you...
first thing when i put on the computer i read your latest blog. i am looking forward to the next ones!
perhaps you could make a book out of the short stories on the weblog one time...

December 16, 2005  
Blogger Green Whale said...

Thank you for reading my blog. I wasn't able to get on yours but I'll try again. I appreciate your comments very much.

December 16, 2005  
Blogger Michelle Fry said...

Hi, I found you from Mad Organica's blog. I like all the sensory descriptions in this post. I swear I can smell that salon.

December 17, 2005  

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