jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Taking dresses in to the drycleaners is always a slightly embarrassing affair. Draping the empty skins over my arm, parading them down the street deflated and charmless, their bright fluttering colors demanding attention their limp state doesn’t deserve.

The woman on the subway is applying makeup with extravagant precision, theatrically swiveling her hand mirror and her head to catch the light. She is doing something very delicate and elaborate to her eyebrows, and she’s right to concentrate on her small, even-featured face. A head shot of her would not show the arms as big as Hungarian baby bathtubs, the above-the-knee skirt shows the appending flesh on the inside of her knees vibrating with the trains movement.

I look at my own flesh, my own hand, grasping the overhead bar, the space between the tendons at my wrist. I’m a long way from being what I fear, those women fighting spreading middle age by over-gyming themselves into some ropy, joyless idea of fitness. I keep seeing this one actress around town, when she stands to perform she puts her hands on her Pilates flattened stomach, reveals her secret relish, smug. She is so satisfied it practically screams through her skin: I’m hotter now than when I was 25! But she’s not.

Out of the subway at midtown I walk the ass side of 34th Street, yawning caverns of shipping bays, scratching leaning legions of delivery guys as sentries. Some days I will shake my hair loose as I pass, to hear the whip crack, head turn, eye swivel, to give a wake up call to the listing somnambulists waiting for bills of lading. But not today. Today I am feeling the vulnerability of vanity.


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