So, the anxiety. It always comes when I need to show up in person, and meet people who don't already know me. I'm less worried about the subject, who seems utterly down to earth and unimpressed by mere appearances. Her agent on the other hand. He will be in our meeting, too. He is based in LA, land of the beautiful people. He and I had a warm, connected conversation on the phone; he sounds like an empathetic, sensitive man. Of course, I also googled him and he is simply beautiful, with sea-glass blue eyes, white blond hair with a perfect wave, bone structure for days. A middle aged Adonis. And then there's me with my ungainly limp and girth, awkward and introverted and frantically devising excuses to cancel having to appear altogether.
I thought I had a good one—excuse that is. I went to get my hair trimmed and colored last week in anticipation of showing up this week. My usual hair person was out of town, so I went to another woman who comes highly recommended. I didn't love the trim, but the color was a disaster. My usual color is light brown, but my hair came out almost black, with auburn red highlights at the tips. It was so stark against my face, and made me look sallow and washed out. I hated it, especially in the morning when I first looked at myself barefaced in the bathroom mirror.
I immediately bought a box of L'Oreal color that was one step lighter than my usual cover-the gray shade, and applied in that very morning. Even though the color red was coming off on my plastic application gloves as I stroked in the color, when I washed everything out the box color had made about a five percent difference. I looked ridiculous to my own eye. I almost picked up the phone right then to cancel my meeting, but instead I called my friend who does the same collaborative writing work that I do. Even as she brainstormed solutions to the hair drama with me, she insisted that I refrain from taking myself out of the running for this book that falls right into my social justice sweet spot, and which she knows I would love to write.
In time, the hysteria passed. I made peace with showing up looking wack. I tried to remind myself that the way people look doesn't really matter to me, so why do I assume my own physical self is so off-putting? I'm sure it has to do (in part) with growing up fat in a family and a culture where everyone else was mostly thin and willowy. My mother, who was slender, was always impeccably turned out, cool and elegant, while I tugged at my dresses and the lace-edged socks that were always sliding down into my shoes.
My daughter took this picture of me when we met for dinner last Friday before seeing the a cappella play Choir Boy (which left us both a little sad). My sweet girl says the picture proves that I don't look crazy with the darker hair, that I look normal and fine. The color doesn't appear as midnight auburn here as it does in life. Makeup also helps make the look a bit less stark, and me a bit less sallow. In any case, I am resolved now, I will show up on Friday. I will do my best imitation of an appropriately socialized human and stay open to any lessons the experience might hold for me. But there is no way around it, I will be all kinds of anxious until then. Nothing to do but let it be.