Before heading in for my pedicure, I grabbed a mocha over at the Armenian cafe I used to frequent immediately after I was laid off.
I wrote my parents the following email:
I called but Mom’s phone is off. I took my new phone apart and blew dry the inside on a cool temperature which didn’t work the first time, but did the second.
The phone was on, it just wasn’t registering touch.
Its working now, thank God. No word from gig yet and the electricity just went out as I was typing this on a coffee shop toilet.
No toilet paper.
I get it. One of those days. Talk soon.
Sent from my LG phone”
Just as I was skipping to my car, I got the call to go down to the Long Beach Convention Center to prep for the hair show at 4pm. In my excitement, I accidentally kicked my change drawer in the car and smudged my nail polish. I could either go to the convention center now with an imperfect toe nail and be there on time, or have my Korean woman fix my nail, since I was already right there, and be 20 minutes late.
I was 20 minutes late.
People look at you different when you say you’re a model. Now, we all show up looking the same, hair unkempt, no make-up, big sunglasses and Victoria’s Secret sweatpants. That’s what a model looks like before a show.
When you tell the guard that you are a model, his face changes. His eyes soften, the corners of his mouth go up, and you realize that you have become a fantasy, just because you told someone you were a model. A second ago, I was just a girl without any cash blocking the parking lot entrance. When the word escapes you, ” . . . model” you transform in their imagination, and fairy dust floats around you in the company of men.
When I arrived, they left me waiting outside for a while. But my book was so good:
“They know. They know exactly when the flesh is ready, when the spirit cannot fight back. The poor are always crossing the Sahara. And the lawyers and bondsmen and all that crowd circle around the poor, exactly like vultures. Of course, they are not richer than the poor, really, that’s why they’ve turned into vultures, scavengers, indecent garbage men, and I’m talking about the black cats, too, who, in so many ways, are worse. I think that, personally, I would be ashamed. But I’ve had to think about it and now I think that maybe not. I don’t know what I wouldn’t do to get Fonny out of jail.”
Things haven’t changed so much, Mr. Baldwin, now it just doesn’t matter what color you are.
My escort came out to meet me, apologizing, “I am so sorry you had to wait out here. I couldn’t hear my phone down there with all the blow dryers and noise.”
I said, “That’s ok. As long as I have a good book, I am perfect.”
She said, “Wow, you’re a breath of fresh air.”
I wondered, the other models must be total bitches.
When I entered our suite, a few girls were getting their hair done, and complaining that it was so radical a change, their latest headshots and portfolios they paid hundreds for are now obsolete. I mean . . . you did accept a job as a hair model. I am convinced people just have to complain. They don’t know how not to.
I sat down while my escort tried to find out who would be cutting my hair, if it was going to be cut, and what cut before she permed.
I sat there and continued to read.
Someone came down to give me a cut that would be easy to work with. He said, “I am thinking since we are so commercial with the other girls, maybe we can go asymmetrical and have fun with this one.”
I must say, anyone “having fun” with my hair and going “asymmetrical” with it frightens the hell out of me.
He said, “How much can we take off?”
I said, “I would like to keep some length, you know, on the shoulders. I still have to audition for commercials.”
He nodded and went to work.
He said, “What are you reading?”
I said, “James Baldwin.”
Me, “Gritty, 60s, Black literature.”
Me, “Something about the way homosexual men write about female characters is so much more powerful in love stories.”
Hair Cutter, “I’ll take your word for it.”
I laughed, and the Hair Dresser across from me leaned in to share a smile with me. She didn’t want me to feel bad.
I didn’t. No one reads anymore. And no one cares. So I will just keep it to myself. They are my jewels to discover.
There was no food, so someone went around and gave each of the models 4 corn nuts. I was ecstatic!
They decided the perm should wait til the morning of the show. I had to arrive at 7am for a fitting and more prep and then the show.
Once I said my goodbyes, I walked across the street to Sharky’s and got three tofu and vegetable tacos. Eating made me feel uncomfortable. I had to eat to keep healthy and sane, but when you eat after avoiding food, your stomach grinds against itself.
A few men invited me up to party with them in their apartment. I politely declined and thanked them for making me feel pretty.
At 5am the next morning, I tried to get the dogs up for a walk before dawn. They weren’t having it.
I drove into Long Beach and entered the building more easily this time.
First, they had to fit me. There is a rack with about 20 vintage outfits hanging next to a jimmy-ed changing room shrouded with a few black drapes forming a three cube L. Inside, there were 30 pairs of shoes, a corner to change and a wardrobe girl.
They tried me in two outfits that didn’t work, and finally put me in a silver top with a low V-neck and a mini-skirt so short, I could feel the air conditioning on my ass.
I couldn’t fit into the size 4 garments with my bra, so I had to strip down to nothing but my black panties. I didn’t care anymore. The black drape was lifted so people could weigh in on accessories and the overall look. There I stood, in bare breasts as they negotiated high heels.
The straight guy was the one staring at my tits and smiling.
The gay guy said, “Is that comfortable? I know when I wear high heels, I have to go bigger.”
The female hair dresser who shared my smile the night before said, “You have big breasts, don’t you?”
I said, “Oh God, thank you. That’s what I have always wanted to hear.”
An intern was assigned to take me down to shampoo my hair. I dutifully followed her and politely asked questions about New York and working for the hair designer. Turns out the hair designer’s wife is the one who shared the smile and said I have big breasts. That was kind of refreshing. She was no model, but she was a regular, middle-aged woman with kind yet knowing eyes.
As she washed my hair I said, “NPR recently had an article on how companies are exploiting interns now with the economy. Its being treated as free labor without any educational benefit.”
Wow, ok. No one wants to talk about anything but the weather and my very limited modeling career. So I held on to my book and read as she permed me:
“He listens. He cannot tell what time it is, but it doesn’t matter here. The hours are all the same, the days are all the same. He looks at his shoes, which have no laces, on the floor beside the cot. His prick hardens. Absently, he strokes it, through his shorts, his only friend. He clentches his teeth, and resists, but he is young and lonely.”
My hair was being twisted and turned like screws into my skull. I could feel the bone lift up to meet my hair. I winced.
“He strokes himself gently, as though in prayer, closing his eyes. His rigid sex responds, burning, and Fonny sighs, dragging on the cigarette again. He pauses but his hand will not be still- cannot be still.”
Hair Dresser, “Have you ever had a perm before?”
Me looking up from my book, “Me? Oh, um, nope.”
Hair Dresser, “Are you excited?”
Me, “More anxious to see the final look.”
“He lifts himself out of his shorts and pulls the blanket up to his chin. The hand will not be still, it tightens, it tightens, moving faster, and Fonny sinks and rises. Oh. He tries to think of no one, he tries not to think of me, he does not wish me to have any connection with his cell, or with this act. Oh. And he turns, rising, writhing, his belly begins to shake.”
Model, “This haircut makes me look 10 years older. I can’t stand it.”
Other Model, “I like it. You look very sophisticated.”
Model, “I can’t stand it.”
“Oh and the great tears gather behind his eyes. He does not want it to end. It must end. Oh. Oh. Oh.”
Hair Dresser #1, “Its like Darryl Hannah.”
Model facing her, referencing her new hair style, “Splash’ Darryl Hannah, I hope.”
Hair Dresser #1, “Yeah”
Model facing her, “Not Kill Bill.”
Hair Dresser #2, “No, or Blue Lagoon.”
Model, “That was Brooke Shields.”
Hair Dresser #2, “No its not.”
Model, “Yeah it is. She has thick eye brows too, but its Brooke Shields.”
Hair Dresser #2, “There was a new one.”
Me, “You’re right. There was a remake.”
Hair Dresser #1, “Have you not seen the original?”
Hair Dresser #2, “Fuck. I guess not.”
“He drops his cigarette on the stone floor, he surrenders totally, he pretends that human arms are holding him, he moans, he nearly screams, his thickening, burning sex causes him to arch is back, and his limbs stiffen. Oh. He does not want it to end. It must end.”
Hair Dresser #2 to me, “We have to leave this in for 20 minutes, ok?”
Me, “yeah yeah yeah-”
“He moans. It is unbelievable. His sex trickles, spurts, explodes, all over his hand and his belly and his balls, he sighs, after a long moment he opens his eyes and the cell comes crashing down on him, steel and stone, making know he is alone.”
I sat in for make-up, and they painted gold glitter over my eyes and fake eyelashes. The glitter was falling into my contact lens, as I forced my lids open to take the eye liner.
Make-Up, “Can you see?”
Me, “Kind of.”
Make-Up, “Just think of the vampires.”
Make-Up, “You know when the vampires first change, they see things differently . . . whats that movie? Brad Pitt is in it.”
I told her.
Half of my hair was in perm rods and I had to walk through the convention center in heels, a loin cloth and a black, sleek hair dressing apron. We all walked out together in one unit.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
Model, “I am freezing!”
Two of the youngest models in the demonstration with me were sisters. They were both wearing very thin, V-shaped leotards that hiked thinly up their pelvic bone.
I said, “Good thing you waxed!”
She said, “I didn’t. I carry a razor in my purse.”
Her sister, “Why did WE have to get the leotards? That was supposed to be for the catwalk.”
Me, “You guys look great. Anyway, better you than me.”
We all were pushed into an elevator.
Just before arriving to our floor one model said, “I can just see myself getting chopped in half by an elevator.”
Me, “Jesus Christ.”
We walked through the corridor and into the darkness behind the stage. There was the echoing of someone on a microphone, and we fumbled through the black, tripping on cords and clacking passed all the audio and video equipment.
Another model, “I am going to fall. I am going to fall on stage. I know it!”
Me, “Stop saying that. Now, I am going to fall on stage.”
We lined up on the far wing.
My hairdresser, “Now, when you get out there. Look up at me, but look pleasant.”
My hairdresser, “That’s . . . too much. Just a small, soft smile.”
I said, “Don’t worry about it. I have hair modeled before.”
My hairdresser, “There is nothing to this. Just sit there. No one is out there anyway.”
The intro was all very 70s, the music, the video clips and effects. All the models looked gorgeous. The clothes and style looked amazing, their hair and make-up looked amazing. My perm . . . was not looking amazing.
They worked on my hair on stage in front of 300 people, and when they were done with the perming segment, my shoulder was tapped and I followed the intern out.
Two people bookended me, pulling out my perm rods, I extended both my arms out like a tree, “Don’t let me fall.”
I spun around and came back on stage to sit and smeyes as the hair cutter started taking cuts out of my hair.
A term coined by Tyra Banks; to smile with your eyes.
You see the hair start falling around you, and you think first, “Gosh they are cutting a lot.” Then you feel profoundly sad.
There is some connection with our hair, some strange, spiritual connection. No matter how prepared you are for a hair cut, you feel an inexplicable loss.
Hair Cutter, “I like that you are smiling. Most of the girls are just sitting with a frown.”
With my face frozen I said, “I am trying to not do too much.”
All the girls had walked. All the demo girls had walked. Now it was my turn. I was the last girl. Terrifying.
The celebrity hair designer who cast us, and who I desperately wanted to impress, waited for me at the end of the catwalk.
I walked confidently, concisely, lifting my knees up a little just so I could pretend I knew what I was doing.
Stopping at the end of the blaring lights, I heard the voice of the main designer and pivoted my body and then my head as I smeyed up to the ceiling.
I turned three different directions, and saw my face was plastered across all the big screens and monitors around the stage.
I refused to look, if I knew if I was displeased with the hair cut, it would kill my confidence.
The Celebrity Hair Designer tapped my shoulder and referenced the camera behind me. I posed and then returned to the line-up just before the crowd erupted in applause.
We jumped off the side stage in back like little dominoes.
We walked through the lobby as bystanders took pictures of us. We all complained about being cold.
One model said, “How do you like your hair?”
I looked in the mirror. It was curly and off my shoulder.
I said, “I look like my Mom. Oh well, its me now.”
Down the elevator and through the first show room with tons of demonstrations everywhere, I saw 1991, the hair designer that auditioned me and had me stand for 90 minutes in heels, then offered me half the rate I was now paid.
He was bending down to instruct the camera at a low angle and sweating a little. He videotapes himself having sex, I can just tell. Shudder.
Quickly, we were led into another room, where we stood around a platform, and took turns modeling each hair cut while two hair stylists lectured how to achieve each cut.
Maybe it was me, but I could tell no one was really thrilled with my hair cut. When I got on the platform, one hair dresser said to the other, “Do you want to start on this one?”
He shook his head and smiled.
They still sold it, but let’s face it, I looked like a single mom with a jerry curl best left behind in the 70s.
After strangers came up behind us and touched our hair, asked to post pictures of us on their website, and drifted away from us, we were all escorted back to the prep room.
Once we crossed the lobby a final time (clack! clack! clack!), we burst through the double glass windows and all stopped walking at the same time.
Model 1, “MY FEET!”
Model 2, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”
Model 3, “You too? Good. I can’t walk anymore. Its like spikes up my ankles.”
I waited at the head, but kept my shoes on. We were one small flight of stairs away from our room and I just didn’t want to be cold anymore.
We got in and I changed. I shook the hand of the hair designer that permed my hair. She saw I was disappointed but said, “See you at the next show.”
I smiled politely and walked out to my car. It was only noon.
I took this picture immediately after the show.
I was in Long Beach, so I drove out to Abe’s in Costa Mesa. He had a bathtub and would make me feel pretty.
Driving, I texted Abe a few times to wake up, since usually he is not up for his first bowl until about 1or 2pm.
I called my mother, and she tried to calm me down.
Me, “I have bad hair. I am stuck in traffic. GREAT! LIFE IS GREAT!”
Mom, “Calm down. It can’t be that bad.”
Me, “Its that haircut from the 70s that should have been left in the 70s.”
Abe called me just as I pulled off the 55 freeway.
Abe, “Good Morning.”
Me, “I am coming over. I have to wash my hair. I want you to document the process.”
Abe, “Um . . . ok. I am just getting up.”
Me, lower, “How was Vegas?”
Abe, “It was . . . ”
Me, “Did you get a lap dance?”
I tightened my mouth. Why am I asking this?
Abe, “I couldn’t afford a lap dance.”
Me, “Would you have if you did had money?”
I squinted. What was I doing?
Abe, “It doesn’t matter because I don’t have any money.”
I said, “Well … (tapping the wheel) were they prettier than me?”
Abe, “Not all of them.”
Me, “Not . . . all of them.”
Abe, “No. Not all of them.”
Abe, “Look, I don’t want to talk about this. Call me when you’re here. I have to get dressed.”
He hung up. My heart was just dropped off the side of the planet. Not all of them?
I WAS GOING TO KILL HIM!!!!
I showed up and parked my car. He met me outside and reached to hug me.
I was limp.
Abe, “Way to be disconnected.”
Me, “Well, I am not a stripper and I am not on Craiglist, so what connection could we possibly have?”
Abe, “Come on, let me cook you breakfast.”
Me, “I can’t eat with this thing happening on my head. I can’t sit here and live with this.”
Abe, “Its not that bad.”
Me, “So, the strippers were prettier than me, but not all of them. What, not the ones in the dimly lit back room.”
Abe, “I was the good one. Everyone else got lap dances. I sat there and just kept turning down girls and eventually I was left all alone.”
Ok, I should say here, it was Abe’s cousin’s bachelor party. He is a guy around Abe’s age, loves to joke about his farts, invented an app and has some kind of career- but who also made it very clear he did not like me.
We met twice, and everytime I asked a question, he looked bored, offered a quick answer and otherwise ignored me. Later, he told Abe to “Watch out for me.”
Now, the cousin’s fiance is a gorgeous, intelligent and nice girl, also around my age, who went out of her way to make me feel comfortable at that same dinners.
The idea that HE, Abe’s cousin, went to Vegas and blew all sorts of money on nasty strippers just before going home to her, made me furious.
I know they say men should get it out of their system, that one last hoorah- but I couldn’t stand the idea that he had to do that. He loved her, why would he want some nasty bitch on his lap?
I said, “I HATE that men go to strip clubs. I HATE MEN. I HATE the way they act. I HATE how all they do is think about fucking. PIGS!”
Abe was down on his knees and looking up at me, “I know you hate them.”
I could tell by the tone of voice, he had come to some conclusion about me. That secret I told him a year ago, in my Pasadena bedroom just before we had sex that last time, it was about my past. He hadn’t forgotten the secret. In fact, I could see all over his face, he had thought about it quite a bit and concluded that I was a shadow of a victim.
He said, “Its just a last hoorah before he got married.”
Shaking his hand off of mine, I said, “Yeah, they have strippers before getting married and then, after the wedding. they end up going on a date with a girl like me and begging for sex.”
He tilted his head and said tenderly, “aww.”
I stood up suddenly and said, “Let’s take pictures of this disaster so we can document it.”
In the bathroom, I took a long bath and Abe joined me, once again on his knees.
Abe, “I didn’t necessarily want a lap dance.”
Me, “Don’t worry. Someday you will find a girl worth marrying and everyone else can buy you one.”
Abe, “It doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t have to see strippers.”
Me, “I get it. I know you are oblivious of what you say, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.”
Me, “You make me feel inadequate.”
He splashed warm water over my exposed legs. Then he got up and said, “You don’t need anyone else to leer at you. I will leave you alone.”
I said, “You don’t have to. Will you stay and take pictures?”
He did. Again, I didn’t like many of the pictures he took. The framing wasn’t flattering. So I took some of my own:
I washed up and smoked a few cigarettes.
He said, “Have you been smoking a lot?”
I said, “Not at all.”
In a moment of weakness, I texted Alan a picture of my new hair. He was texting me back, trying to comfort me.
Abe said, “So I was looking at jobs down in San Diego, there are some jobs in production houses.”
Me, “Why would I want to move in with you? Don’t you think I deserve someone who loves and appreciates me?”
He thought for a moment and said, “Yeah, you do.”
Me, “Thank you.”
He turned his back on me.
Abe, “You need to find someone that isn’t emotionally void.”
Texts from Alan poured in. Once again, they are missing from my phone.
Alan wrote: “I will pay for your gas and your ticket to the Wild Animal Park if you come down to visit me. The offer stands.”
Abe picked up the phone, “Oh, and you’re mad at me.”
Me, “I didn’t have sex with him, and it wasn’t because I didn’t have any money.”
He walked inside.
I started pawing at my hair, “My hair . . . ”
Abe, “You do look like- Ronald McDonald.”
Text from Alan: “Come down and I will take dirty pictures of you and make you feel better about your hair.”
Abe, “I know, I’m an asshole.”
Me, “Yeah. You are. I gotta go . . .”
Abe, “Can I come up and visit you this week?”
Me, “You asked the same thing last week but you had to ‘take care of your shit’ and go to a strip club.”
I got in my car and drove away, offering a very curt wave back at him.
I sent Alan a picture of me in the bathtub.
He texted back, “Hmm, its missing that post-multiple-orgasm bliss about it.I can do better.”
Things turned in the conversation. Alan was drilling in how I took from him and never gave back.
To which I wrote: “It has been difficult being someone who relies on favors, without resources while in a constant state of crisis. It makes me feel like a piece of shit to all the people who continue to help me.”
Alan was harsh, making statements similar to what he said on my birthday weekend- reiterating I am unaware of the damage I do, I am a user and the least I could do was give him my body.
Now, though I hadn’t cried really over my hair, or had anything to drink, I was in a weird fog of thought. When I look back on it now, I just had to get food, get weed and get home.
Meanwhile, I was stuck in traffic and miserable about what Abe said and what Alan continued to text.
At the marijuana clinic, the clerk still gave me a ridiculously good deal on my weed. Usually, they give me 60% off their product with a few goodies. I asked him about my hair, he smiled and said it looked good.
Then I went to Taco Hell, and the Drive-Thru boy said he liked my smile.
Maybe the hair wasn’t totally devastating.
I got home and pinged Alan back:
“Fine, Alan. You think I owe you a night in bed for all you’ve done for me. You win. You got it.”
He wrote back: “I accept.”
By the time I got home, his chat box was open on my computer:
“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. Me saying things is usually not good.”
Me: “I am off Wed and Thurs
I was going to try to book audience work
but I can come down
I am depressed
so maybe it will be good for me”
Alan: “I am too. Maybe good for both. Either way.. your hair looks sexy.. I think you would like to go out and show it off.. so yea.. I need you.. way too bad to be logical or do the right thing.”
Me: “My mind is having a hard time
you kicked the shit out of my character all afternoon
and now feed me compliments about sex and my body
its a serious mind fuck, my friend
I feel totally unlovable right now.”
Alan: “Its what I do to myself all day. Besides I’m still mad at you.”
Me: “and I you
but i am not sending you a laundry list of complaints
now I am sitting here thinking I am only good for a fuck
that’s how everyone else treats me
so it must be true”
Alan: “Wow that’s deep. Be a dude. We are good for even less. At least your very presence is worth something. I might as well blink out as exist.”
Me: “me too
there is tons of pussy in this town
I am just unstable enough to fall for anything”
Alan: “Or.. understand that I want you.. and we can talk about more.. but we have to be honest.. and that’s means you understanding that I can’t commit to you till you are capable of returning it.. you are not”
Me: “I am not capable of a relationship
I acknowledge that”
Alan: “But you can make me feel like someone cares for awhile while we both get our shit together”
Me: “that doesn’t make me any less sad
I get vulnerable with sex”
Alan: “You still don’t have to fuck me. I think I got through to you. But you also know I’m not into it if you aren’t. Se we shall see.
We might just get soup. As long as we talk about sex I am happy it seems.”
Me: “I worry we are both destructive people, Alan”
Alan: “You know I’ve been in a bar this whole time right?”
Me: “I have no reception
I am depressed about my hair
I had to hear about what a shitty bitch I am from you
and then I was stuck in traffic”
Alan: “sounds shitty.. sorry if im mean”
Alan: “but if im not you just keep repeating the same crap over and over
mean is sort of how i snap people out of that
Me: “I wasnt even talking to you
how could I be repeating shit”
Alan: “i never really thought you’d get this..
i knew you weren’t ready for a real relationship.. i think you’d still banging your ex probably
but like.. i dont really care.. i thought we had a real future.. you just had to give me enough to hold onto until it was time
i dont really want more than that..
and don’t fucking punish me for screwing up..
that’s not that much to ask i thought”
Me: “I can’t comment on our exchanges anymore
I am far from perfect
I am a real fuck up
but I gotta heart”
Alan: “and mine got chewed up and spit out a long time ago
you ain’t the the only one with issues babe”
Me: “I know”
Alan: “and i did read some of what you wrote”
Me: “i know”
Alan: “just not the blog”
Alan: “you left over an IE window and it kept making these obnoxious sounds
it was your google talk and you were chatting with some dude
basically just ranting about what a piece of shit i was”
Me: “hard to believe”
Alan: “that hurt a bit..”
Me: “dont know”
Alan: “but yea”
Me: “I think you misread it”
Alan: “i closed it.. but i dont think so
i think it was your private talking time
and none of my business”
Me: “I may have said you were not a good person once. because i believed that you weren’t.”
Alan: “but still shitty”
Me: “but ranting on you
I wouldn’t have the time to do that
nor the passion for it
I closed you out, but wasnt upset with you
when i visited”
Alan: “gave a detailed synopsis of me getting you off
and about me begging for more
that sort of thing”
Me: “sounds like a basic theme to a blog
but not a conversation I would have
I need to consult my therapist before we talk anymore
I am feeling spun around”
Alan: “they’ll probably recommend against fucking me
i would to..
because im a trained cognitive therapist
im not drunk anymore..
my brain got gooey
it was a nice drunk
my brain is telling me i tricked you into sleeping with me..
are you dumb or something?
and did i enjoy it ?
Me: “I am dumb
I fall for every basic manipulation in the book”
Me: “while consciously acknowledging it”
Me: “thats why I am in therapy
maybe you were a level above it
but you knew what you were doing
and so did I”
Alan: “did I?
what the hell is going on ?”
Me: “guilting me into having sex with you”
Alan: “oh.. did that work ?”
Alan just lawyered me into a night of sex. And I was going to follow through, because even though I love Abe, he said all the wrong things. Alan said all the right ones.
And after a bad hair cut, a girl needs, more than anything, to hear the right words:
Alan: ” … that hair really does look hot as hell..”