Thursday, October 20, 2016

Beauty, Ugliness, and the Big Easy

I was a little off-kilter the whole time I was in New Orleans. I worked the weekend before the trip (I worked until 6 hours before I got on the plane), packed terribly, did not believe it would be 85 degrees and humid there (it WAS). Felt unprepared to interrupt my routine.

My priority before this trip was to pick up most of my Halloween costume at thrift stores. I’ll dress as the Jack Nicholson embodiment of The Joker for a children’s event this Halloween. I needed a bold purple suit so I can be scary, ugly and masculine.

I found a suit jacket and silk orange shirt for about $10, and then only had one work obligation before my flight: driving teenagers to a haunted house.

I work for a youth development nonprofit. Every October we run a haunted house that teen participants design and run. All proceeds go to charity. The young people who make this fundraiser work are smart, capable and kind. And every night I watch them put on makeup and costumes to turn them into hideous living dolls or maniacal clowns.

I know who they are under all of that makeup, but I still can’t walk through the Haunted House. They’re too scary, and they call me by name. It doesn’t comfort me, it makes my fear worse.

I felt real anxiety as my plane to New Orleans took off during the last rains of a tropical storm. We rocked in turbulence for 45 minutes. But what really unnerved me was that I would be presenting at a national conference in NOLA. I’d have to dress like a professional woman, and be confident in women’s suit jackets and makeup. Not Joker-style lipstick, but lipcolor that is seasonally appropriate and delicately applied. I agonized about how my precious few business clothes would fare on the plane.

The day before this business trip, I got a haircut and immediately hated it. Too short, too asymmetrical, and some bangs. I felt like a miserable 15-year-old again, waiting for the fringe to grow out.

Got to be a lady sometimes:

But I'd rather be a fiend:

Masks everywhere I turned:

But then I got swept up in a work conference and New Orleans, being overwhelmed and impressed by both. It seemed fitting that on our first night we had dinner at Mardi Gras World, where many of the parade floats are stored all year round. Are these things beautiful, or ugly, or exaggerated, or fun?

Making floats!

THIS is how I got my beads, so stop asking.

What's up world, I have the coolest boss:

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