September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

A year ago I had noted her weight gain with satisfaction. Now she was elegant in a red dress, standing like a model in the parking lot with her rabble of t-shirted, frowsily dressed friends, framed by signs that advertised Chinese salonists and ten dollar foot massages in precariously grammatical English, benevolently smiling the smile of someone who knows she is the best looking person in the room. It was evident that she had spent time and money to look like this; that even her hair pulled back in a ponytail had been tied and retied so as to set off the purity of her skin color, the curve of her head. Her shoulders looked as cool and smooth as marble. Her arms made me want to diet in anguish.

When I talked to her I felt an interesting mix of friendliness, envy, and disdain. Here was an attractive girl who I had grown up with, and been friends with, before she shed her glasses and discovered boys, and was whirled away on a riptide of hormones. I knew the video game posters she taped to her walls. I knew her gangly sister, who she alternately babied and got mad at. I knew she sang in a self-conscious falsetto. So where was the line that connected the her of then to the her of now? With her thirty year old boyfriend who worked for Goldenvoice. And her connections to promoters in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Her appearance seemed to demand the involvement of all her resources. I want to ask her, in the way that I want to ask my aunt in China: How does it feel to have all your self esteem sunk into the one aspect of your life that is guaranteed to fail you? If your pride in life is the beauty of your face and the porelessness of your skin, what will you do and feel when your skin begins to hang in gathers, like a pulled up curtain? And what will you do afterward, once men stop paying you that attention, and other women reserve their envy for a younger model? I don’t want to see her as a vain young woman whose time and money could be better spent in other areas, or at least distributed over a wider spectrum of interests, but at the same time, I can’t help it. What else is someone like that working towards? My aunt is an embittered woman who sleeps until the afternoon and shouts at my grandfather for fifteen minutes because he bought the wrong kind of item at the grocery store. She was beautiful too.


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