“Joel,” I caution, “your meeting starts in twenty minutes.”
“Yup,” he replies, concentrating on his computer, “No problem.” He then goes from shaving and showering to out-the-door in less than fifteen minutes. Amazing. I can spend that much time deciding which shoes to wear.
In December, I attended a dinner-dance fundraiser where people showed up in their best bib and tucker. I’m certain the ladies in attendance spent a considerable amount of time getting ready for the festive event, while the men did so during an ESPN commercial break.
My self manicures often go awry. After completing the warm-up activities — cleaning, filing, controlling my cuticles — I rummage through my collection of nail polishes: a multitude of small bottles holding minuscule amounts of questionable colors grown sluggish with age. I choose Very Berry and give the lid a mighty wrench; it’s impossible — like trying to twist a flagpole out of cement.
When hot water, rapping on the counter, and gripping the lid with a nutcracker fail, I enlist Joel. He twists the cap free while reading the newspaper, a casual act that makes me want to scream.
Next, I apply the polish — too quickly, too liberally. My dad once noticed a pedicure I’d given myself and said, “Looks like you dipped your toes in a bucket of red paint and called ‘er good.”
I invariably do damage before the polish dries: I reach for a pen and gouge a trench across three nails; I go to bed thinking the polish is dry and wake up with implanted sheet marks; I pull on winter gloves too soon and attend a party with fibers waving from my fingertips. I then glide through the festivities with my fingers curled into my palms — making it difficult to get a grip on the appetizers. I also smile brightly, hoping the chaos of my nails will go unnoticed because of the distraction provided by my hair.
After I outgrew an uncombed ponytail, I tried to make my hair as straight as Mia Farrow’s in Peyton Place. In the 80’s, I turned to time-consuming perms, wanting the big hair of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. When I finally allowed my hair to do its wavy thing, it was time to start coloring it — another drawn-out disaster.
Years ago, I heard a fashion expert explain successful accessorizing to a female audience. He said women should put on the jewelry, scarves, belts, and hair adornments they intend to wear, then examine themselves in a mirror and remove one item before leaving the house.
Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I remember his advice — and wish I could remove my scalp.