Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Karen's epiphany

Karen is a housewife in the San Fernando Valley part of Los Angeles, neighborhoods of single family residences complete with lawns and swimming pools and gardeners. Suburbs. All of it.

So anything to get out of there, over the hill into the city, is a get out of jail card. Going to the opthalmologist in Beverly Hills was an occasion for khaki dress-up carpi's, a Brooks Brother polo shirt and good gold hoop earrings, fresh loose curly hair and lipstick. Obviously mascara and concealer were out of the question. Oh well...

"Traffic's so light we have time to stop for your suit at the tailors,"she said. The car's air-conditioning blew her hair like a stylist's fan. "How do I look?" she asked her husband. 

He had picked up a mobile call from his office which went on most of the way. Oh well...

Her husband stood ramrod straight in front of a three-way mirror in his new Burberry suit with a Barney's tie and Brooks Brothers shirt as an elderly Russian tailor pinned the jacket.

Karen flipped through a W magazine. Cat eyes and electrocuted hair on  14 year old, she thought. Who actually wears this bizarre stuff? The booty shoes aren't flattering on anyone. 

Her years in the l980s in New York City came back like a dream. Standing on the corner of 43rd street and 9th avenue with two friends. Karen had worn a starched short white cotton low cut wrap dress with a sash that tied twice around her tiny waist. Tanned ballet-trained legs and arms, perfectly coiffed big hair, and Oscar de la Renta neutral suede flats. 

"You look good enough to eat," her boyfriend, not yet her husband had said. 'We'll make an early evening after you get back."

She had known what he meant.

The friends shared a cab to the townhouse where Moss Hart's widow lived to  convince her to give them the rights to one of his plays for an off off Broadway play. She had agreed, but... 

"It wasn't meant to be," Karen's boyfriend had said later at their candlelight dinner. "Not enough money. It happens to a lot of would-be producers. Find it somewhere else."

Desperation bubbled just beneath the surface. Nothing worked out until Oscar de la Renta stopped her on Madison Avenue, and asked if she would try out his new rain boots. She wore the red boots, his beige suede ankle strap shoes, a brown jersey evening gown cut to the waist, held together by one tiny ribbon, his afternoon dresses. If you can succeed in New York... 

When he invited her to a salon at his Hampton beach house, she hadn't even RSVP'd. The other girls will be thinner, taller, more beautiful, they wouldn't get drunk on champagne. There had been a hundred excuses.

Our wedding was special, Karen thought. So what if I switched to denim skirts and flats. Heels and a baby stroller don't go together. My hair always looked great. Usually looked great. Oscar de la Renta's gifts hung in the closet for years. I donated them to a worthy cause.

She walked over to her husband with the W magazine and showed him a particularly provocative outfit. "I could have worn this," she said.
"Just a moment, sir," the tailor said, pining the pant's inseams. "I don't want to hurt you." 

Flipping her hair, pouting her lips and turning sideways with her arm on her hip, Karen gazed into the mirror. I may be a woman of a certain age but I'm only one size larger now.

"It's still there, " he said, glancing over at her. "Whenever we go out black-tie, you turn heads. A little make-up and you're more beautiful than ever."

"I really need to get to the opthalmologist," Karen said. It's the yoga, she thought to herself.