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Should Have Gone to Cosmetology School
I don?t like my stutter. I don?t like the expected sympathies and obligatory half-laughs that come along with having a conversation with me. I don?t like when people judge me on my strained facial muscles or choppy voice rather than my complex character, but it?s just something I?ve had to deal with. But, in the eight years that my stutter and I have been comrades in life, he and I have become quasi-friends, kind of like the psychological equivalent of Paris and Nicole. Sometimes, he stabs me in the throat with a sharp knife, causing me to sputter and garble my words to the point where they are unintelligible. People crinkle their eyes in confusion, I slink back in embarrassment, just another day in the life. But other times, he opens me up to new experiences and makes me realize what the purpose of life truly is?laughing at your faults and having fun.
?Does this look okay on me?? my friend asked, emerging from her closet in a skimpy black tank-top and shredded jeans that were a tad too tight.
?Don?t wear the jeans. The skirt you had on before was cuter,? I replied.
It was the spring of eighth grade, and two hours before the monthly dance, a chance to interact with the boy you liked without algebra problems by your side. The girls dressed in their finest?which usually consisted of a sheer tee-shirt and a cheap skirt that barely covered their bottoms?and the boys pulled on anything that wasn?t caked in dirt. I was more likely to stand in a sweaty circle of adolescents and hop up and down in a fashion resembling dancing rather than actually dance with a boy himself; exchanging awkward comments with a boy was enough male interaction for me for the night. But the lucky ones who did get to dance with the little acne-studded men, well, they were either praised for snagging a cute guy or slammed for dancing with a guy that was not cute enough.
Clad in a modest striped polo shirt and bleached jeans, with only a smattering of blush brushed across my cheeks, I may have looked as if I needed to be vamped up a bit.
?Come here, Julia,? my friend said, tools of cosmetology in hand.
?Why? I look fine. But whatever,? I said, loosening my wavy hair from my lilac ponytail holder and letting her go to work.
She dipped her finger in a bottle of orangey foundation and smeared it over my freckles and didn?t even rub it in all the way, so I looked like a Broadway Cat, minus the white lip liner. I wanted to say something, but the thought was trapped deep within my throat, and I couldn?t push it out.
I cringed at my expression in the grimy bathroom mirror, and she noticed.
?What? You don?t like it??
?Nnnoo, I do like it. It?s just that no one?s ever done anything like this for me before.?
?Okay,? she said, and continued to shape me into a cosmetological disaster. She coated a powder puff with sparkly bronzer and vigorously rubbed it onto my cheeks and neck, making me look like a tanning booth addict gone awry.
?Pucker up,? she demanded.
I pursed my lips, and she squirted a shimmery glob of bubble-gum pink lip gloss on my lips. When I looked in the mirror, I tried not to look disgusted. My face was orange, my cheeks were brown, and my lips were a shade of pink that could be considered chic only at a seedy corner of the city. But my polite protestation??Love it, but maybe not for tonight???was trapped deep in the crevices of my throat, and I knew that even if I squinted and sputtered, I couldn?t say what I wanted to say.
?Oh, we?re not done yet,? my friend said, cackling as she sensed my uneasiness. My friend and I were friends of convenience, and our bond of friendship was built on traits in the other person which we envied, not our compatibility. I envied my friend?s flawless tan skin and curvy body and the attention that she got from boys, while she envied my intelligence and pin-straight figure. We were the epitome of dysfunctionality.
?Okay, next is eyeliner. Pick one,? my friend said, clutching two thin tubes in her messily manicured fingers. The first was a standard black tube, imprinted with the name of a respected cosmetics company. The other was navy blue. Globs of hardened glittery blue eyeliner were plastered to the sides, and the tube bore no name, only a couple of indecipherable characters. Not one to venture into the world of wild makeup, I eyed and nodded at the black tube, thinking that my friend would get the hint. But, in a test of my stutter, she deliberately read me wrong. Knowing that I was a typically passive person, she unscrewed the cap on the blue eyeliner and flexed the wand, waiting for my response. She knew me too well. She knew that I wouldn?t say anything.
I lowered my head to the ground and formed my lips into an ?h? over and over until I mustered up the courage to say, ?Hhhowwww?? My tone softened with each sound that left my lips, yet my face turned an even deeper shade of crimson with every second I spent struggling. I looked up at my friend, and her thick brows were knit in an expression of confusion. She knew the thought I was trying to express, yet she didn?t think I would speak up over such a trivial matter.
The thought ??about the black one,? was echoing in my mind over and over, and it tortured me that though I could hear it in my mind, I couldn?t articulate it. I?ve built a consciousness to what I can and cannot say over the years?it might seem odd, but if I skim a page in a book or watch a cheesy soap opera on television, I can pick out what I can and cannot say. And in that particular moment, my throat barred me from saying what I needed to.
So my friend swept the cheap wand across my eyelid with an unsteady hand, making a crooked line of blue glitter. Clumps of glitter fell to the roots of my eyelashes, but the permanency of the glue was so strong that I couldn?t free my lashes from its strong bond. I stayed still on the wooden stool as she made a mess of my face, thinking that I could wash it off when she wasn?t looking, that I could splash water on my face and all of my problems would just go away. This was one of those times where I just wanted to rip my stutter from my throat and throw it out into the street to plague someone else. At that moment, I wondered where I would be if I didn?t stutter. The same cluttered suburban bathroom, spending time with someone who I wasn?t fond of? A richly decorated bedroom, furtively taking vodka shots with the popular crowd? A spacious basement, laughing and giggling with my best friends? I didn?t know, but I wanted to be anywhere but there.
?Okay, all done.? She straightened up and flashed me an insincere smile. She shut the door lightly as she left the bathroom to perfect her own outfit, and I was left alone to ponder my abhorrent face. My eyelashes were clumped together with cheap glittery blue glue, and my face itself was caked in all sorts of makeup, so it looked like one of those sponge makeup applicators at department stores. My friend had just wiped anything she found on my face. To this day, I may never know exactly why she did this, but we no longer come in contact with each other.
I took a white towel from the bottom drawer, splashed it with water, and wiped it on my face. It did nothing. The water only smeared my makeup more, so I looked like a clown stuck in a rainstorm.
My friend knocked on the bathroom door and barged in.
Oh, adolescent bliss.