Blush and eyeliner

The office where I work is on the eighth floor of a department store, above seven floors of pants and pillowslips and toaster ovens and everything else that powers the American economy.

The store doesn’t open until 10:AM, and I gotta be at my desk at 8:30, so to get into the building, I have to flash a badge at a security guard on the main floor.

After that, I can turn left and make my way past all the boxes in the backroom, toward the employees’ elevators.

Or turn right, and emerge on the as-yet-uninhabited and thus dimly-lit first floor of the big store, and walk past all the dark counters toward the customers’ elevators.

There’s a third option, I suppose — walking up eight flights of stairs, but that's never happened yet and never will.

Going through the store is quicker, because there are eight customer elevators and no customers yet, so no waiting. If I choose the backroom route, there are only two elevators, and they’re freight elevators, which climb much more slowly. But I usually choose the backroom and freight elevators anyway, because there’s a time clock in the backroom, so I can punch in, and get paid to wait for an elevator and ride it, instead of elevating on my own time. 

This morning, though, I was running too early to punch in — you're not allowed to click on-duty more than 7½ minutes early — so I entered through the store, for the first time in months. Which brings me to what I wanted to say:

There’s something authentically American about a fully-stocked department store, hours before opening. No customers yet, but oh yeah, we're ready. There are dozens of shelves stocked with panty hose in hundreds of colors, all sizes. Past the panty hose is the enormous, sprawling cosmetics department, with acres of weird chemical compounds for women and some men to hide behind.

Each brand of these odd products has its own counter on the first floor, where powders and perfumes worth pennies (if they’re worth anything) and sold for many, many dollars. Employees stand there all day, dishing out false compliments to anyone who brushes or puffs a free sample.

None of us measure up to what we're supposed to be, what we want to be, or even how we see ourselves. That's the human condition — dissatisfaction with ourselves. We know it, we live with it, and maybe we work on making ourselves better. 

There's something despicable, though, about taking that human dissatisfaction, and turning it into a huge, highly profitable industry selling people concoctions that don't work or (maybe) barely work, and selling them at insane markups.

I’m not criticizing the customers who buy this slop, but I’m definitely criticizing the companies that make and sell it. I work for one of those companies, and I’m a man, so go ahead and tell me I'm a hypocrite or ignoramus. You're right, I'm both, but also ... c’mon. Something is seriously screwy and wrong about everything on the first floor.

♦ ♦ ♦

Darla’s dad isn’t expected to recover, and she wants to be with him at the end, so she called to say she wouldn’t be at work today. Very strangely, she called me at my desk, before calling her boss, Babs. I mumbled some kind sentiments, and meant 'em, and told her not to give the store a moment’s thought. I certainly won’t.

♦ ♦ ♦

Beatrice canceled our beer night again, saying she had to work late. Am I disappointed? Actually, to my surprise, yeah, a little. I like her, and I'm looking forward to hanging out with her some night.

It’ll happen, and it was her idea after all, so I’m sure she’s not trying to weasel out of it.

♦ ♦ ♦

Another phone message from my mom. Guess what? “Please call me.”

I didn’t and won’t. I'm tired of even typing about it.

From Pathetic Life #5
Thursday, October 20, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


Pathetic Life 

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