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."