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The holiday season is here, and some of us want to look our best for all the fabulous parties we intend to host and attend. But this isn’t exactly the greatest time to lose weight—demonstrated at my house on Thanksgiving Day as we mowed our way from a bowl of M&M’s through caviar, crackers, and brie, then sat down for the feast, then force-fed ourselves three different kinds of cake, finally ending a couple hours later collapsed in front of the TV, masticating an unmentionably large amount of strawberry licorice before bed. I could not have slept on my stomach last night even for a lower mortgage interest rate.
So, while weight-watching and calorie-counting are not currently priorities, the ever-important “maintaining of the complexion” still ranks very high, at least it does for me. For as bloated or vomity as I might be at any given party, I still aim to glow: I channel all of my obsessive-compulsive behaviors into exfoliating so that when it’s time for holiday pictures, I stand out as the shiniest and healthiest, at least from the neck up.
The other day, home from having coffee with yet another potential love interest, I was feeling itchy on the face as I graded papers, but not really thinking about it as I clawed at myself. I went to the bathroom later, looked in the mirror, and saw white flakes of skin standing up all over my mustache and beard area: white whiskers. I looked like an elderly dog. How long have I been walking around like this? Why hasn’t someone said something? I’ve been exfoliating, yes…this must be the day that lust and gluttony peel off…no wonder there are so many flakes. And I went shopping too, talking to people and making conversation as if nothing was wrong with me. What must these people have thought, like at the grocery store? What about my coffee date? “She’s a pretty girl but her muzzle is graying.” Jesus.
As I picked each piece of dead skin off my face, I was reminded of the only singles mixer I have ever attended: It was at a fancy Phoenix resort in the summer of ’95, when resorts would throw pool parties for the locals because tourists don’t come around when it’s 120 degrees. I was a sweaty beast as usual (having already earned the nickname “Sweaty Betty” from my girlfriends, as in: “She’s a Betty, but she’s sweaty.”) Since I was dripping with perspiration, we decided that my friend Kerry should make the first beer run so that I could stand in the shade and cool down. Lucky for me, I remembered that I had a Kleenex in my purse, so I took it out and dabbed at my face, soaking up the rivulets of sweat.
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Kerry was taking a long time, so after the dabbing I leaned back against a railing and took in all the cute guys. They were checking me out too—I was getting a lot of looks. When Kerry finally got back, carrying two huge plastic cups of beer, she took one look at me and slammed the beers down, grabbed me by the arm and hustled me to a more private spot.
“What do you have all over your face!?” she said, picking at me.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just wiped off with a Kleenex.”
“Well you’re wearing it, man. Look,” Kerry said, whipping out her compact mirror and holding it up. There I was, bits and pieces of Kleenex all over my neck and face and forehead, plastered on with sweat. I wondered what all the cute guys had been thinking as I stood there, gazing at them with my bedroom eyes, posing in my tight sundress, smiling through my shredded veil of Kleenex. Kerry cleaned me up, but it was too late—no guys wanted to talk to Sweaty Betty.
There was one other time when my face let me down at the most inopportune time ever. I was having acne problems in grad school, so a doctor had prescribed some pretty strong cream. It made the skin on my face very dry and tight. While I did not have a boyfriend at the time, I was always gunning for a fellow classmate named Danny, who was cute and sexy because all Dannys are. Sometimes he would let me stay the night in his apartment, but he’d never want to pass second. Of course he was in love with another girl.
I remember these as very frustrating times.
Anyway, the last night I stayed over at Danny’s place, I didn’t have my moisturizer (as usual), so we just finally fell asleep after a long kiss-fest…much to my chagrin. We stayed in bed and talked face to face the next morning, with me telling him again why we belonged together even though we never even took our clothes off. Can you believe that?
After our talk, I got up and went to the bathroom, where there hung a small mirror, big enough only to see your face and nothing else. I looked into it and saw that once again my muzzle was covered in flakes of white skin, but this time I had bled too. I looked like a hyena having just lifted her face from a bloody carcass. My skin was peeling off everywhere that Danny’s scruffy face had rubbed it when we kissed for all that time the night before, and blood had crusted over the abrasions.
I panicked, realizing that Danny had just stared at me looking this way for at least an hour…without saying anything. He must think I’m some kind of molting leper. How unattractive! Oh my God, what to do, what to do?
I left the bathroom, turned down the hallway away from Danny’s bedroom and towards the front door. I rushed out without saying goodbye, one of the only times I seemed to have the upper hand in this relationship that I had created in my mind, my two minutes of I’m done with you! glory in the two years of never even having him in the first place. Layers of fraud and treachery peeled off my face in sheets and flags that waved a bloody and permanent goodbye to Danny.
The Bearded Lady, exposed.