An elderly woman forgot the unlock code to her lock hanging on her gym locker earlier today. WomanOne.
A women’s locker room in a private club during almost-office-hours in the morning is a mirage of boobies big and small and hanging and firm and dripping and dry and scarred and yellow and black and white. At nearly 70, this lady walked around naked in front of huge mirrors set up for these club members to eradicate their insecurities with their bellies big and small and hanging and firm and dripping and dry and scarred and yellow and black and white. She paced east and west, sparking zero interest. There used to be a time when she was the only person of interest. She used to be a performing- dancer, these streets lined with Broadway musicals were painfully familiar to her, like the back of her head. After pacing a good ten minutes, she confessed to one gym personnel, a touch shy to fit to the stereotype of being almost seventy and now forgetting to remember. That same one gym personnel came with a massive chipper (cannot find a better word to explain that tool) to break her lock so WomanOne could now dress herself. I caught her laughing with a blow-drying lady; number unidentified; as the one gym personnel left the room with the lock now dangling. “Just stay in the bed from here on, girl,” WomanOne and woman unidentified laughed together. Her laughter brought the entire space’s attention to her and the brief encounter with the mirror at that same point of time took her back to being the dancer. In the 70s.
There is a lot of talk of the 70s in this locker room. About how aerobics was so new and everybody was coming to New York to audition for these dances that are now funded to be exhibited at museums of modern arts around the globe and how Jeff was that stunning dreamy Lord of a human being; the B-roll A.D. for these covert projects; who ended up sleeping with all girls who came for the auditions. These women, dancers once, on these same streets where much younger girls now play their roles in the musicals they once lived; looking at the reflection of themselves in the mirror holding all their words that they have to tell the twenty-something next to them, dabbing kilos of makeup blue and pink and salmon and red and muddy, to feel a little more secure. womantwo. This is a twenty something, a first generation immigrant raised in a country in South Asia nobody can pronounce properly. She thinks of her grandmother some afternoons in her cubicle after writing notes for C-suite meetings dominated by the majority. Mostly, the opportunity to educate for them is after a handshake, “Where are you from?” Her grandmother is probably the only living person in the family who can pronounce the name of their country with perfection. She has just joined corporate America, overcoming all the legalities that they have created to bar her stellar GPA and leading experiences to create a glass ceiling only she and her HR know, because she is from over the seas, because she does not have the green, because she has boobies-big and small and hanging and firm and dripping and dry and scarred and yellow and black and white. This private club with a sunroof deck Olympic size swimming pool is an irony of the lots, nobody is happy here. The ones who have now spent 40% of their salaries to get this membership are stuck in a whirlpool of buyers remorse. The ones who have spent 8% of their salaries want to be in places that cost 40% of their salaries. womantwo catches me staring at her unconsciously and shoots me a look. She feels judged for dabbing so much layers on her face. I want to tell her it is okay to, but decide otherwise. To all the strangers in the world, we are deaf and dumb and blind. I moisturize my face- spf 15, dab some lipstick and sprint out of this women’s locker room. Lipstick.
This is not the same locker room. I have come to one of the rooftop screenings of a summer series we try to attend every year. I am pulling my off-shoulder-salmon-blouse and dabbing some lipstick in a jiffy. This mere touch-up is second nature for us women. I catch an older lady with a cast on her left ankle staring at me. womanthree smiles, I blush. Dabbing lipstick in public is a private act we should pay no attention to. I have now been caught trying to be perfect, wanting to be perfect. How embarrassing.
“You look fantastic.” womanthree stuns me, oh so she can speak.
“Thank you.” I knit some words from the air, how weird it is to realize that we are in fact able to exchange words with strangers. I fix my lipstick, she is next in line. Check eyes, check lips, check teeth, covertly.
“As is.” womanthree is still talking?
I shoot her a puzzled expression.
“I meant as is, Miss. You look fantastic as is. With or without that lipstick.”
I breathe a heavy sigh as a response to her beautiful remark and we both laugh. I see those wrinkles on my face.
I left home when I was 20. Faint wrinkles are forming around my loudly laughing mouth and now I have eyebags because, occupational hazard. My mother has deeper wrinkles in order to retain her sea of wisdom. Ma’ cannot see me every day. I cannot see Ma’ every day. We make do with sometimes filtered other times pixel-lated versions of ourselves and laugh about things. Neither of us talk too much about aging. As if our insecurities are silenced when we do not talk about them. How long will it take to admit that the noise is the loudest inside of ourselves?