Monday, November 2, 2009

Please don't call me ma'am...? / or / Covering up a more important issue by talking about myself

On Saturday, I took my antibiotics and cough medicine and drove to Seal Beach, where I got a facial. Lili, my old (as in "former;" she's probably 10 years, at least, younger than I am) aesthetician retired awhile ago to pursue another career, and I've been without a trusted place to go. I had been seeing Lili's old ("former") boss but it wasn't the same. I didn't expect to find someone as lovely as Lili had been, and I hadn't even really been looking (I pretty much stopped getting facials in favor of this new foot massage place [Rivini Foot Reflexology] that opened by my house). Anyway, the other day Lili made a recommendation, and I made an appointment.

I was still a little concerned about being sick, but the cough medicine was working, and it turned out to be a great day to get outside during the heat of the morning. Seal Beach was celebrating Halloween in the daytime, and I saw a bunch of cute little kids trick or treating at the shops on Main Street.

It was a great facial, and Leako (isn't that a cool name? She also has a very cool voice) did a wonderful job. I think all the steam even helped my sinuses or whatever. I didn't cough once. I was relaxed afterwards, and comfortable with her, and I had missed the kind of personal care you get when you get a facial. Also, I don't know about you, but there's something about lying on that table with my eyes closed in that half awake/half asleep mode that gets very close to levitation. I love it. She complimented the quality of my skin and told me that she would've guessed my age at 6 years younger than I actually am.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I like being told I look younger: who wouldn't? Several years ago my masseur (the Great and Wonderful Bruce; at 60-something I suppose he could be described as "old" but that's exactly why I was so comfortable with him, and I don't mean because I considered him "harmless," which isn't what I mean at all. He was just a special guy who I was very comfortable with, and who I looked up to) told me that he thought I was 27 (I was not) and I had a hard time accepting that compliment then, too. I mean, I was pretty naked at the time, you know? Using his math and accounting for the years that have passed... both of them had me at around the same virtual age. I'm trying to not make such a big deal out of it - Leako reminded me that to keep my skin looking good, I need to wear sunscreen more often than just when I'm biking or baking in the sun for some reason. And to stop touching my face. It's good advice. I will try to follow it. She used a new sunscreen on me that felt like nothing (a vital quality). But my joy at her statement about my age makes me wonder how important being young and looking young has become to me, and how healthy that is (or isn't).

(And no, it hasn't escaped me that while both these people are very nice [Bruce and I had an almost friendship thing going on there - we talked about a whole bunch of things unrelated to whatever it is you're supposed to talk about when you're getting a massage, and he had lots of great life experience and stories to tell me that always, always helped me], ultimately, the truth is, they might be capable of saying anything in the hopes that I would be flattered into leaving a bigger tip. I don't think either of them is mercenary; they are earning a living. I get that.)

Anyway, my joy at being thought I'm younger than I am makes me a little nervous.

I'm not especially a "girlie" girl. I don't wear makeup often (lipstick: never), or pretty clothes. I don't like to dress up. My work clothes are very utilitarian (I pretty much wear a v-neck sweater every day; a couple of of them have holes). I have about six pairs of earrings but I usually wear the same pair all the time, and my very plain Swiss Army watch, which I wear on my right hand (I'm left-handed). These items, with my wedding ring and a hair elastic around my right wrist are usually my only "accessories." Given a choice, I would happily wear my ratty old Gap jeans rolled up at the cuffs with flip flops and any one of my multitudes of v-neck sweaters or t-shirts every day. Every day. On the weekends I'm rarely in anything else. Oh, I switched it up a little this weekend, I went to the mall to pick up a book wearing capri-length Old Navy sweats, flip flops, a t-shirt, and my hundred year old denim jacket. I'm a tomboy, or maybe just a slob. I get pedicures because honestly, I don't like touching my own feet. I'm slowly losing a few pounds but I'm not "thin." I like to look pretty but my idea of "pretty" and yours are perhaps not the same thing. My hair is too long and messy-looking; my current home dye job is passable but nobody's going to mistake me for Sandra Bullock (she's 8 years older than me). I don't know what I'm getting at with this excessively long description of what I am, and what I am not. Maybe what I'm trying to convince you of is that I'm not vain. But that's the thing: I totally am.

The other day I had lunch at this yummy Thai restaurant by my house. I was alone (I think it was a Friday). I don't mind eating alone - I had a book with me and I was fine. The waiters and waitresses were sweet, and it was a fine meal. Until the end, when my waitress called me "ma'am." I try not to let that bother me: it's just a way of being polite. Even if I were six years younger than my actual age, the fact that I'm married excludes me from the "miss" pool. Still. I love being called "miss." I love getting carded. I love having the young guys at Von's talk to me in a way I recognize as being reserved for people their own age. I love calling people "dude."

During the run of the last show at City Garage, one of the actresses from the company worked box office this one night. If they can't find any of the members to do it, I will; it's not a big deal. Though sometimes I bitch about having to do it (I already have a job at the theater, the other members should do it, blah blah blah), the truth is, I really like it, once I stop being nervous about the show. I'm pretty shy, normally, but the patrons are mostly nice and it's fun to talk to people. I miss interacting with strangers like I used to at the bookstore. And these people are not always strangers: some of them are repeat customers, or friends of the actors who I know too, or they remember me from the two shows I was in, and it's always fun when that happens. Anyway, this girl was going straight from the theater to another event in Hollywood. She was gorgeous, as the actresses (and actors) at City Garage tend to be, and dressed to kill. She had on a fringed, short black dress, and gold high heel shoes. She was beautiful, kind, fun to talk to, and interesting. She had a cool accent. She was perfect for the front of the house. I was wearing my uniform of a two-year old, very thin, navy blue v-neck t-shirt from the Gap, my holey jeans, brown leather flip flops, and possibly an army green jacket. Next to her, I looked homeless, or like a particularly endowed boy. I looked like I belonged backstage, possibly with a broom in my hand. It doesn't bother me: looking this way is comfortable and familiar, and I do like it. I can't imagine looking any other way.

This would be a good place to end today's post if this was really what I wanted to talk about.

I'm covering up what's really on my mind by talking about my looks. Isn't that typical? The thing that's really been bothering me is, a couple of weeks ago my mother asked me and my brothers to go to church with her (my sister goes more regularly than we do). My mom is a former Catholic, born-again Christian (for 30 years or so now) and attends one of those Baptist churches that profess love for everybody and then the next thing you know, the pastor is espousing opinions about what he considers the sinful lifestyles of the gay residents of Palm Springs that don't jive with the whole "love one another" theme. When I was a child and forced to go to church, the hypocrisy made me sick. I hated going. Catholic church, at least, tended to veil the message in long boring stories. Nothing was said (in those days) that was outright, or at least I didn't understand it to be a condemnation of people who were different. Granted, I was young, and I didn't pay much attention. She switched to Baptist churches when I was around 9 or 10, and went to a couple different ones before finding the one she's gone to for about 10 years now. The last time I went to there, they showed a movie that somehow managed to imply that global warming and the war in Iraq was caused by... sinners (not George Bush and Dick Cheney). Now that I'm older and realizing that my own feelings about religion are just as silly (apparently my beliefs are very similar to "the Force" from "Star Wars"), and my mom's health has become an issue, it bothers me that though she has asked on several occasions for me and my brothers to join her at church, and it seems like an easy request to grant, I just can't seem to make myself go. It would make her happy, it wouldn't hurt me much, it's over soon enough... but I don't know. I don't want to do it. I don't particularly want to discuss it with her, either - we've never agreed much about religion, though I know it gives her so much strength and hope, and her church family gives her so much support. I don't want to do or say anything that would hurt her or seem like I was trying to diminish that. She wants so much for us to believe what she believes. I just can't do it, and I don't know how to keep it balanced: what I believe, and respecting her.

If there's anybody out there who made it through this whole post who might have a suggestion (if talking about my looks didn't scare you away; it's kind of what I do with how I dress, now, isn't it), let me know. I'd love to hear what other people think.


  1. Irene, I like the way you dress! I think you look classy but comfortable. And you have excellent hair, and I like that structured jacket you bought at Esprit (even though Esprit is terrible). So there.

    Also, maybe there's another way to connect with your Mom and her faith that won't make you feel uncomfortable or like you are compromising your own values. I don't think you should join a church whose message you don't subscribe to, but maybe you can talk to your Mom about it, or attend selected services or church events without having to dive into it whole hog.

  2. my mom is still an old school Catholic. we've had an infinity of discussions [if they could even be called that] about [primarily] my lack of faith and unwillingness to accept the gospel, blah blah blah. i refuse to go to church with her... for much the same reason that i hate buying a used car.

    lately, things have been... easier? i finally asked her how, other than the physical action of going to church, my behavior or the way i live my life should be different. she was [fortunately] stumped and forced to admit that i'm really a pretty good person living, albeit unintentionally, a "Christian" life. so there it is. a lot less nagging these days. but i bet, if her health was an issue, it would pick up again. what would i do then? shit, i dunno.

    as long as i can remember, i've always been thought older than my actual age. apparently, i exude "maturity." whatever. but, interestingly, it's only recently, as i've approached the vicinity of 40, that it's started to bother me a bit. what does that say? i'm amazed it still happens since i, too, am an eternal t-shirt, flips and shorts wearer. i prefer "casual" to "slob."

    as for your looks, there is nothing sexier than someone who is comfortable in their own skin.

  3. Thanks, you guys. There are a handful of people I hoped would comment; you both float right to the top of that list.

    Both these topics have been things I've been continuously thinking about almost my whole life, which strikes me now as totally ridiculous; that's a hell of a long time to be concerned about one's looks, or "style." The other topic (faith, religion, whatever) is more complicated, so maybe more justifiable?

    I will try to get comfortable with both these things, and thank you for reading and commenting!