30. June 2014 · Comments Off on Not Beautiful Enough · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

Our apartment doors face each other across the carpeted hall.  My friend Claire has a roommate, Elke.  They are both stewardesses, working for different airlines.  They are seldom home at the same time.  Claire says it’s like having her own apartment.

On the other hand, Claire has mother hen instincts, and there are so many young women coming and going in both our apartments that we sometimes just leave our doors open.   We are high up in a new hi-rise with a doorman.   We give not a thought to safety except for known dangerous neighborhoods, which we avoid.

We are up-to-the-minute on the world’s romances and intrigues.   Eventually our conversations circle back to clothes, make-up, and how to look beautiful.  This is the city where vampire night magic never sleeps.

We are talking about artfulness here, made up glamor to dazzle and bewitch.   We know that this beauty is shallow and fleeting.   It has to be constantly re-created.   It is high maintenance.   But nowadays, anyone can be made over.


eye fashion


We feel the city’s energy.   It is our energy too.   We are its new face. We are the young blood.   It is our moment.

Even in ordinary daylight we are conscious of how we look.  We spend hours devising make-up routines that can be applied in rush hour minutes yet look natural (enough) in offices and banks.

We shower compliments on one another’s successes.  For all that high maintenance, no one thinks of herself as being beautiful enough.

No one, we think, except maybe Bobbi.  Bobbi is a top fashion model.  She is perfect.  She is from down south.  Her whole life she has been told she is beyond beautiful.  It doesn’t seem to help.

After her boyfriend leaves her with a baby when she is fifteen, she gives her little boy to her grandma to raise.  Then she hops on a bus to New York to see if her face is her fortune.  Not only her face, but her slim body and long legs are made for runway glory.

They work her into fantasies so surreal that often we squint at fabulous magazine spreads to find our Bobbi.  The images are one more gorgeous than another, but who are these creatures?

Our Bobbi is beautiful even when her face is scrubbed, though not in the same way.  That’s when we see the fragile, endearing little girl with the enormous, impossible green eyes.  We want to cradle her and keep her from breaking.

We cannot.   She disappears for days.   She denies.   She empties every bottle of vodka.   She makes boozy long distance calls to men who run off to meetings.   Or the stupid operator disconnects for no reason.

After her last show in Paris, she buys a heap of extravagant clothes that they wore on the runway.  Even at a discount, that wipes out her earnings.

She earns more money than several of us put together and then some, but she never has enough for cab fare, for take-out food, for phone bills.

Bobbi disappears for weeks.  We notice that she is drinking more and working less.  Her face is getting a little puffy.  We wonder how long her career will last.

When she drinks, she is never violent.  She curls into herself, sometimes whimpering, and eventually passes out.  I would rather see her drunk on my sofa than in some bar.

One night, sprawled out on my sofa, Bobbi gets talkative.  She starts a rant about her life as a professional beauty.  It is so painful to hear that we try to stop her.  But she shakes us off her boney shoulders.  She needs to do this.

After that night, we hear that Bobbi slipped out of her apartment.  She left no forwarding address and no phone number.  I hope she made her way back to her grandma and her boy.

We ask ourselves what it is about Bobbi that attracts so much evil.  Was it her lousy parents or just bad luck?  Someone says maybe she is too beautiful.

No, no, no!  Like the furies, we chant in unison.  You can never be too beautiful.   No one is going to make our Bobbi an object lesson.

Don’t you remember?  When Bobbi was on, it made people happy just looking at her.   Sometimes, it made their day.

Once, as traffic lights changed, I saw Bobbi, dressed in couture for the Oak Room at the Plaza, slowly walk across Park Avenue as though it were her runway.  A cabbie leaned out his window and spoke for the row of drivers stopped in her path.

See that?  What a knockout!  Now you really know you are in New York City.

The more I thought about Bobbi, the clearer it became that Bobbi’s tragedy was that she did not own her beauty.  It was something created by others for still others.   The men who pursued her wanted the fantasy of the moment, which vanished quickly.


bazaar ny


One evening, there is a happy commotion right outside my door.  I open it, and in come Claire, Elke, Lorraine and Rachel.  Rachel?  Oh my god, is that you, Rachel?  Rachel dances around and shows me her profile.  She has a new nose!  It transforms her whole face.

Wasn’t it terribly expensive?  Well, yes and no.  There is this plastic surgeon, Dr. Benito Rish.   He is amazing.  He reconstructed the face and body of a man, changing him into a gorgeous woman.

Yes, I saw the pictures in a magazine.  It is wizardry.  But it must cost a fortune.  Rachel says for celebrities and socialites, yes.

But nose jobs are routine for Dr. Rish.   He gives a discount for ordinary girls like us.   Anyway, he did Rachel’s nose for just $500.00.  In 1960’s money, that is still a lot.

Now I am thinking maybe this is possible.

That same week, I receive a check in the mail.  Since I became a permanent resident, the Government is returning the deposit they required for my voyage back.  The check is for exactly $500.00.  Talk about signs.

Dr. Rish says there’s nothing wrong with your nose.  It suits your face.

I say, I think it could be more refined, at the tip.

Of course he knows just what I mean.   He agrees that it would make a difference.   But it is a risk.  It is cartilage right here, and there is no guarantee that it will heal just so.

I think he can do it.  I will take the risk.

Do you want to be a model?  No.

You just want to be more beautiful?

I say I always felt that nature needs a little correction there.   Now that I saw what you did for Rachel, I have to at least give it a chance.

He smiles.  Yes, he says, I will do it.

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