By Deb Baer Becker
So, the Hubster and I recently attended a birthday bash at an uptown restaurant for Bill, one of our best guy friends. For the occasion, I’d bought a new a black jumpsuit and a new bright lipstick; a standout coral, a stark and glowing departure from my comfort zone color: Nude. As we set to leave the house, the Hubster looked at me and said, “You look beautiful.”
We gathered in the restaurant’s wine room, shared some funny stories, roasted and toasted Bill, and then dinner was served. It was all so lovely. That is, until the guys went outside to smoke cigars and “Darlene” slid into my husband’s empty chair. “I heard you’re a new grandma. What’s your grandma-name?” she asked.
“Mimi,” I said and rooted through my purse to find my phone and pull up a few thousand pictures of my grandbaby. “Here is my darling little Violet,” I gushed.
“Oh, she’s cute,” she said as she slid her phone out of her pants pocket, swiped through her phone’s picture files, presumably looking for a pic of her grandchild.
To fill the empty space, I asked, “How’s your new in-town house?”
“Oh! I love it,” she gushed. “We just had the grass pulled out and we put down artificial turf—no mowing, no weeding. And when the dogs poop, I just hose it off.”
I had sooooo many questions: Does plastic grass smell like melting plastic under the hot sun? What are the potential VOCs? And I felt sorry for the dogs whose natural grassy world had just been uprooted and replaced with plastic.
I mentioned that we have a large yard, and I don’t actually mind the grass and weeds, so long as they are green and mowed, but Darlene was off on another tangent. “Here is the picture I wanted to show you—my granddaughter’s in it.” I looked at a happy Darlene with a sweet little two-year old with curly blonde hair and a sweet smile.
“She’s darling!” I said.
“No—yes, she is cute—but what I want you to see is how different I looked then, in this picture, and how much better I look now,” she said, and pointed to her mouth in the picture, and then held the phone’s picture up and beside her face.
I looked again, focused but perplexed, thinking this was some kind of a test - like those spot-the-difference games where you try to find five subtle differences between two nearly identical images.
“I don’t know, Darlene, I give up,” I said, and pushed my chair back a bit.
“It’s my lips!” she said, pointing to her lips, “Can’t you see the difference?” She pointed again, at her mouth in the iPhone picture. “I had my lips filled! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It makes my whole face look younger,” she said brightly.
Now, Darlene is already a good ten years younger than me. She is tall and thin, statuesque. A mane of blonde hair frames her face. She looks great, so much so, that it took me by surprise that she felt she needed to do anything at all to her features.
And then she added, “You should get your lips done, too. It only takes a couple of hours, and it lasts a year.”
I said, “I make it a point to avoid painful procedures, a little something I picked up after a year of cancer treatment. Didn’t those injections hurt?”
“Well, I did leave there feeling like someone smacked my mouth real hard, and I didn’t look or feel well over the weekend, but it’s so worth it,” she said, and once again showed me the picture of her “before” lips.
She pointed to the image on the screen, “See, how thin my lips were? You can’t even see my top lip---they looked just like yours do now,” she said, beaming at me, and I wondered if I have anything in common, anything at all, with this self-designated princess of plastic grass and artificial lips.
Something you should know about me: My beloved Grandma Mae wore Revlon’s “Love that Red,” a brilliant, crimson red lipstick. She called it her power lipstick. When I was a kid, I’d watch her carefully apply it, and then blot her lips with a folded tissue. She’d turn to me and purse her lips like a kiss and then smile, and say, “You can face anything life throws you when you’ve got your power lipstick on.” I thought she had superpowers.
That night, I must have conjured the powers of “Love That Red” because I didn’t strangle Darlene. I had truly inherited Grandma Mae’s superpowers.