Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mask

I desperately want a new(er) living room rug, so cruising craigslist the other day, I saw a promising one being sold by a woman who was "moving to Austin to start my music career!" I pictured a 20 or 30 something, fed up with the grind, setting off to pursue her dream. We arranged a time for me to come by and I was surprised to hear that she lived in a well-to-do suburban neighborhood. When I got there, I was even more surprised to see a gleaming silver Porsche in the driveway. And when I rang the bell and the front door opened, I was absolutely flabbergasted when a woman who was about my age and looked slightly less natural than Donatella Versace answered the door.

She was wearing artfully (by which I mean expensively) ripped bright red leggings, a tight low-cut tank top (it was 45 degrees out), and a cowboy hat. It was all I could do to keep my chin from dragging on the pavement. I mean, this is Pittsburgh! The only "work" people have done on themselves here are Steelers tattoos or organ transplants. Anyway, thank God for my Diplomatic Corps training! I held myself together and followed her into the house. I didn't buy the rug, but I did look around looking at other stuff and we got to talking. After a while, being me (by which I mean being nosy) she'd told me her life story.

It was a sad one. Her handsome, successful tennis-pro and professional photographer husband had died. They had no kids. Their big fancy house was empty and loveless and reminded her only of what she had lost. I bought some books and a bike rack but, though she had nice things, it would have been too painful to bring anything that reminded me of her home. Not because she'd lost so much, but because she was so clearly running as fast as she could from so much. I mean, I understand; she's a middle-aged, heartbroken woman, with, possibly, her best times behind her in a society that completely devalues normal looking older women who aren't "cougars."

It was a weird and interesting evening. I'm not usually a very judgmental person, but I walked in there judging the Hell out of her for her Porsche and her face and her gratuitously top-of-the-line everything. But I left there hoping she would find a little bit of peace and happiness, and imagining her on stage - with her guitar, her bleached-blond hair, her bad-girl ripped leggings, her cowboy hat - singing her alt-rock heart out, in front of an audience that will only remember her for that ruinous caricature of a young woman's face that she wears in place of her own.

I also left there wishing I'd had the nerve to tell her "Honey,you're a sweet woman and you really need to stop having work done on your face. It's starting to get scary."

12 comments:

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

oh sweety stop worrying..she's moving to austin..the city with keeping it weird as a city motto. she'll fit right in...find herself some 'good ole boy' and be a great step mom to his passle of kids.

sageweb said...

Wow that is sad. I hate them women feel the need to transform their looks because they think it will make them happy. I wish people could look past all that and see the person. It only took you a few minutes to see the real person..sad person..but you saw her.,

ayem8y said...

That really a sad story. Around here you see her everyday trying to keep up with sixteen-year-olds. On the other hand I’m totally inspired to be a ‘cougar’ for Halloween.

Elizabeth said...

Granny - You know, I really do hope it's true! Though I'm not sure about the passel of kids part because she sold me her $175 bike rack for $15 because she said "You don't put a bike rack on a Porsche! Even a top-of-the-line bike rack!"

sage - It really was sad. And I wonder what she thought of me, with my gray hairs, and my wrinkles, and laugh lines....

ayem8y - I'll bet you'll make a hot one! And you'll probably look less freaky than she did.

Sling said...

Sometimes,you really have to wonder what it is they see in the mirror?
I operate under the assumption that all women are just naturally beautiful.

Willym said...

We see so much of that here - the botched face lifts, botox bloated features and the layers of paint to cover wrinkles and sags. It really is sad. That desperate attempt to hold back time that end up being futile. No one is fooled .... often not even the person themselves.

And Sling that comment says so much about you.

Lets hope this woman find what ever it is she hopes to find in her travels.

more cowbell said...

1. I need to find a man like the Slingster.

2. I think this says as much about our society as it does about the women who do this.

I can't imagine ever having "work" done, but I do color my hair, and the thought of letting the grey show freaks me out.

I don't let myself think much about how just 5 years ago I was living overseas dating hot men, and now I've joined the ranks of invisible, overweight, nondescript "middle aged" (ohgod, am I REALLY?!?) women who, as you said, are devalued by society. It's a hard transition to make, and honestly, it screws with a gal's mind. If I let myself, I can get my bitter on thinking about how men are allowed to get grey, wrinkled, and the rest, and it "adds character" -- they're still sexy, no matter how craggy. For us, it just sets us on the road to hagville. Kind of pisses a gal off, you know?

So yeah, on the one hand, I'm like, honey please, you're scaring me, but on the other hand, as a woman, I can relate on some level to what she's trying to hold on to, and why.

Margaret Benbow said...

Yes. And thank you for seeing the sweet woman beneath the Porsche lady in her ripped tights. One of the saddest aspects of Donatella's distorted face is that, underneath, is a strong, womanly Italian face with good bones...but she didn't believe in it. I don't want to sound like a self-help book, but women need to embrace the place they've reached.

Elizabeth said...

Sling -I wondered that too, and I think the answer is some strange creature of their own imagining which has only minimal relation to the reflected image.

And you, sir, are a man among men!

Cowbell - Oh honey, I know! My hair color comes out of a box. I let it go grayish for a while, but it just made me look washed out and tired. And yeah, it totally pisses me off that George Clooney gets to be perceived as "distinguished" with all that salt in his pepper... Oh well.

Part of me does, however, love the invisibility I now have as a middle-aged woman. No one whistles at me, tries to pick me up, put a move on me. It's a relief and it kind of makes me feel like a spy, watching the world, taking notes, unseen. Sometimes.....

Elizabeth said...

Margaret - As Gertrude Stein said, “We are always the same age inside.” So how could I not on some level understand this woman who felt like her outsides no longer reflected her inner self? But my inner self is about five years old, so no amount of surgery is going to make me match up!

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

$15 in hand is better than $175 on the roof.

The Justified Sinner said...

On a completely different tip, this thought has always made me chuckle.

Janice Muppet, however, has some cool and some class...