Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RemembeRED: Turning Heads


This year Mom took me shopping at Masquerade Madness, the dusty little costume shop downtown bursting with glorious wigs and unexpected treasures, a whole wall of movie makeup and an old man behind the counter who can turn you into anything, anything at all.  I picked my way past the rustling ball gowns that have hung there longer than I’ve been alive, the twenty different varieties of vampire fangs, the vials of black-red gelatinous blood and the Marilyn Monroe wigs on faceless wire busts.  I made my way to the back, to a long white dress.  A glossy black wig, so unlike my own newly-permed cloud of hair.  Gold jewelry, lots of it, all snakes and winding things.  And makeup.  So much makeup.

Early in the morning I wrap my hair up tight, cover it with the cap like the old man showed me.  I adjust the heavy black wig, admire the way my skin glows fair beneath it.  Such a change.  I apply makeup slowly, carefully, following instructions I’ve clipped from Seventeen.  Smoky Egyptian eyes.  Red lipstick.  If I keep my mouth shut you can’t even tell Cleopatra wears braces, the bands orange and black for October.  I am transformed.

I walk to school.  This is always the worst part, on Halloween, the solitary walk to school, head down.  It’ll be better when I get there.  When I'm surrounded by monsters and fairies and the flirty, almost-slutty nurses who are sure to appear now that we’re teenagers, but we'll all be in this together, all of us pretending, playing, all of us transformed.

I hold on to the memory of myself in the mirror as I left the house.  I tell myself I am stunning.  Conspicuous.  So unlike the invisible girl I am.  I’ll turn heads.  I am brave.  I am beautiful.  I am transformed.

By the time I arrive my feet are already protesting their strappy gold sandals.  I smooth my wig, feel the lipstick, waxy on cold lips, lift my head high, and step onto the middle school campus.  Into the den of lions.  I’m thirteen and this is the fall of my eighth-grade year.  I’m going to make an impression, one that will carry me into high school, one that will change everything.

I survey my audience.

I turn heads. Yes I do.  I make an impression.  Because I?

I am the only one in costume.


 

This was my first contribution to the Write on Edge memoir-writing meme RemembeRED.  Here is the prompt:

Reach back to a costume that made an impression. Was it yours? A friend’s? Maybe it was a costume you never got to wear. Show it to us with your words, draw us into the emotions it evoked at the time.  Word limit is 400.
Head over to Write on Edge today to read the work of other writers responding to the same prompt!

29 comments:

  1. Oh no!
    At 13, I'm pretty sure uf it had been me, I'd have walked directly back home. Maybe tried to convince my mom
    To let me change schools.

    But I hope you didn't. I hope you were brave enough to look at them all like they were the ones out of context.

    I'll bet you were beautiful.

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  2. Aren't we all self-conscious at that age? I was every bit as mortified as you're imagining. I think I went to my first class and tried to disappear into the wall, but just a few minutes in I gave up and went to the office and called my mom to take me home to change. I cried. But I went back to school and tried to pretend Cleopatra had never happened.

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  3. This is well done, the transformation of a young teenager, hopeful that changing the outside will change everything. I can't imagine the surprise you felt. What happened next? I would have been mortified, but I was incredibly self-conscious at that age. (Well, still, I guess.)

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  4. LOL! Awww, that's so sad. Poor thing. I'll admit, I cried and called my mom...but I was 13. Wonder how I would react if the same thing happened to me now?

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  5. I had an "Octobeerfest" party on Oct 29th last year beer tasting and celebrating my sister's birthday. My sister and her boyfriend dressed up, but only like 2 other people did. One girl, who was the date of a friend was one of the ones dressed up, and she literally started crying and went to her car and changed. We're all 30ish, we don't really care! She looked cute as a witch, too.

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  6. Thank you so much! It came as quite a surprise to me, too. ;) I'm glad you enjoyed it and thank you for the kind comment.

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  7. Oh Alyssa! I loved this piece. I was right there with you, proud of such an awesome costume. And then the shock at the end when you were the only one in costume? I was taken completely by surprise. I love the word choice right at the end; I think it helps pack the punch at the end.

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  8. Barbara_at_de_rebusOctober 25, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Oh boy!

    Well done! Way to build the anticipation! Oh! the adolescent angst! Love it!

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  9. Adventures in AlyssalandOctober 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Well. Did you make an impression that carried with you all the way into high school?

    Really vivid post. Me feet hurt reading it.

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  10. O.M.G.

    I would've died. Right there. DIED.

    But you didn't talk to any of your friends about what they were wearing? At that age I spent more time on the phone than I did sleeping!

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  11. You are AWESOME!! Great piece! I bet you were the best Cleopatra that school had ever seen! :) And, like Roxanne, I love your final punchy short sentences ... the slow down to the big reveal. Well played, my friend :)

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  12. I KNOW!! I wondered that too, as I was remembering and writing. I honestly don't remember. But clearly I did NOT speak to anybody about costumes. And actually? I can't clearly remember who my best friends were in 8th grade. It's possible I wasn't very close to anybody in school at that point in my life. I had only been in that school district for a year, an awkward 7th-grade year, and my BEST best friend was still back in my old district. She's the one I would've been on the phone with planning outfits, even though we wouldn't wear them together anymore. I don't think I really hit my stride in the new district until after this, so it's entirely possible I wasn't talking to anybody outside of school. That's probably part of why I was so determined to...ahem...make an impression. :-/

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  13. Can we hang out together in Alyssaland? :) I don't remember any actual teasing or hurtful comments that compared to the brutality of my own self-loathing at 13. So probably no, this impression did not make it all the way to high school with me. Thank GOODNESS.

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  14. I still hurt for you when I think of this.

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  15. That last line! Oh that slays me.

    It makes me think of that episode of Modern Family when Mitch went to work at the law office wearing his Spiderman suit.

    I love the language you use, casting us in as you make your transformation.

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  16. Adventures in AlyssalandOctober 25, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    Yes we can hang out together in Alyssaland....

    As mean as kids can be I think it is our beating up ourselves that does the most damage.

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  17. Thanks Renee. :) I tried to be brave but alas, I ended up calling my mom and going home to change. I did return to school though, and made it through the rest of the day with everybody asking me "weren't you dressed up? I heard you were dressed up!" :)

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  18. Thank you! And yes, when I saw that episode of Modern Family I sooooo felt for poor Mitchell!

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  19. Thanks, Mom. :) And thanks for picking me up all those years ago and rescuing me.

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  20. This is so gorgeous. I love it. I'm sorry you were the only one. At 13, that is so terrible. But I"m sure you were beautiful.

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  21. Thank you so much! It was terrible at the time, but 17 years later I'm happy to say I can laugh about it. No permanent damage done. :)

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  22. Oh, wow. I'm so, so sorry. I can completely imagine how this felt. You poor thing. 13 is the worst age. The absolute worst.

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  23. It really is, isn't it? :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  24. Nice work, you. I really enjoyed it.

    (Remind me to tell you about the time I smelled like skunk in high school and was forcibly sent home early. I'll see your Cleopatra and raise you...something.)

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  25. Thank you, friend. And might I suggest you blog about your high school skunk experience? Like, ASAP? :) Or at least email me about it ASAP. (Seriously. ASAP.)

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