Vampirically Preppy with Too Much Lipstick

Detail, "House of Fire II," by James Rosenquist

Detail, “House of Fire II,” by James Rosenquist

My mother briefly worked as a cashier.

One day I walked into the drugstore and there she was.

I ducked out.  Horrible of me, I know, but I was stunned to see her working a minimum-wage job.  I lived with my father, who had custody of me, and I had not realized she would need to work after their divorce.

She was no longer young, and despite her college degree, there was no suitable work.  Later she got an office job.  Still underemployed, but at least not humiliated.

And now we, too, are middle-aged, well-educated, and unsuitably, under-, or un- employed.

Retail could be our future.

I thought about this idly on Saturday when I was shopping for clothes.  Department stores employ quite a few middle-aged and older people.  Maybe I could hang up garments.  I once had a job where I sat outside the dressing rooms and gave out plastic hangers telling the number of garments people were trying on.

I don’t see anyone doing that job now.

On Saturday one helpful clerk, possibly in her sixties, was so charming and funny that one did not notice her age.

Another was ancient. She would not smile.  That is what made her seem old.  This unmannerly woman, with long, carefully-combed gray hair, was wrinkled and miserable. Perhaps in her seventies?   What was wrong?  I wondered.  She looked ill.  Was she ill?   I adjusted my face from smiling to sympathetic.  Still no reaction.   She wanted me to open a charge card.  I made a joke about cards.  No smile. She repeated the charge card offer.  No smile.

I gave up.  She hated me because I was shopping, not working.

If my mother had been there, she would have assured me that I was the best, most delightful, kind, polite woman in the world–yes, in the world?  Got that!– and that the cashier was mad or undeserving of sympathy.

We would have gone out for coffee or Diet Cokes.

As it is, I felt slightly worried about the rude woman.  What was wrong with her?

I missed my mother again today.

I was shopping at a box store. She loved box stores; I do not.  I was dressed in a “vampirically preppy” outfit (black sweater, blue turtleneck, and black jeans) of which she would have approved except for the black, which means she wouldn’t have approved.

And later I wore too much lipstick.

When I say too much lipstick, I mean too much lipstick.

It was new lipstick.  Two for one and a half.

I’ve never had red lipstick before.  Let’s face it, I’ve only owned three lipsticks in my life.  Would the red distract from the weathered look…?

That was my thought.

I smeared it on.

In the mirror it looked…red!

Hours later my lips were terribly red, and, worse, there was a puffiness.

Puffy lips!  No, I don’t want the puffy lips look!

It was a slight allergic reaction to the lipstick.

Again, my mother and I would have laughed about it, unsurprised, because I am allergic to most makeup.

I do miss her.  “Throw it away.”  That’s her voice in my head.

I threw the lipstick away.

Back to the crayon thing that barely colors lips (I’ve had it for years) and is perhaps just a fancy chapstick!