Week One: In the Convent Again
Every morning at 8:31 at the Esthetics Institute we have “Assembly.” All the students gather in the big fluorescent-lit two-story room to listen to the Director of Clinical Studies and the Instructors tell us the day’s agenda.
The Seniors are with us for this part, then they go out front to work in the clinic. The Director is standing in front of the Head Table welcoming us, the new September class, to the school. She has flawless skin, is probably in her early sixties, and while I can see her lips smiling, her eyes do not. The Director has steel behind those eyes.
I am starting to get that nagging, disorienting feeling that accompanies de’ja vu. I have been here before. I know this scene all too well. Then I remember. In the late Sixties I attended a Catholic girls’ college.
How I got there in the Convent, not being a Catholic, is another story. Suffice it to say, however, I got kicked out after three months for insubordination, disobeying all the rules, smoking dope, not wearing a bra, etc. The Director is reminding me of the Mother Superior. I am in the Convent again. This does not bode well.
I make it to Friday. I have not dropped out yet despite Tom’s singing “Beauty School Drop-Out” to me every single morning. I am unbelievably excited that it’s the weekend and I am going to be out of this room. One week down and only nineteen more to go. Moving right along.
We are sitting in our seats listening to Sophie instruct us as to the proper techniques for Cleansing, Toning and Moisturizing the skin. We are going to work on each other for the first time this afternoon. I am starting to space out. I get poked in the side again; it’s my neighbor, Bette, the big brunette with the purple eye shadow and the gorgeous earrings.
She points to my hand. She’s angry. She says, “You have my pen.”
I look down. Damn, I do. Again. I hand it to her, “Shit. Sorry.”
She rolls her eyes and does a big dramatic sigh. She growls, “What the fuck?”
Yow! I turn away but out of the corner of my eye I see Bette crack a smile. Then she cracks a huge smile and laughs out loud.
“Really had you going didn’t I?” she says.
“Dammit, Bette, you scared the crap out of me.”
She’s laughing a huge, wide open-mouth laugh now. I realize she has a beautiful smile, her whole face lights up. She’s absolutely cracking her own self up. She really is lovely, sort of a cross between Ricki Lake and the young Elizabeth Taylor. I give her another damn pen. She is still laughing.
It’s afternoon and we are preparing to Cleanse, Tone and Moisturize each other. Bette and I pair up. One of us is absent today, so Vivienne has to work on a mannequin. The mannequin is only rubber shoulders, neck and bald head. It is left over from when the school was a cosmetology school and they used to do hair. Vivienne names her mannequin Veronica.
The Trainee room is lined with bare facial beds called tables. Sophie has instructed us as to how to properly drape and prepare our tables and heat and fold our towels. Of the paired students, one of us is to be the Client and one the Esthetician. We are to do this professionally and prepare our products to use on each other as though this were the real thing. We are instructed to begin.
Bedlam ensues. Towels are flying everywhere. Hand sanitizer squirts across the room. Someone laughs and calls that the “Money Shot.”
I hear a “What the fuckin’ shit? You dumb ho bitch!” from the next table. Nikita.
Nikita is a beautiful blue-eyed blond with long thick curly streaked hair. She has freckles and a cute nose, looks like an innocent Barbie until she opens her mouth. Nikita has the mouth of a trucker.
I’m standing in the middle of a holocaust…my class is so noisy we can barely hear Sophie who is yelling, “Ladies! LADIES! Please!” Finally she yells, “SHUT…UUUP!” The din settles down to a dull roar.
Sophie looks over the top of her glasses and mutters to herself, “Holy Mother of God.”
Vivienne raises her hand.
Sophie nods to her, “Yes, Vivienne?”
“My client, Veronica, has issues.” She puts a protective hand on her mannequin’s shoulder. “She’s very sensitive about her height. You know, being so vertically challenged and all. She’s feeling like she’s being laughed at all the time. Also, between you and me…I’m beginning to think she may be anorexic.”
The whole class explodes all over again. Sophie gives up, tells us we’re done for the day. I am so happy to get out of there for the weekend. It’s weird, but as I sign out and realize I’ll be away for three whole days…I kind of feel like I’ll miss these guys.
~from The Beauty Girls by Carol Leonard, 2010