Listen to Jim: http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/airbrushedreality.mp3
or read on…
I’m in the right-hand lane on 20th Street heading to the shop.
A van pulls abreast to the left of me, pointed in the same direction.
In the passenger seat of the van is a young woman staring straight down 20th, only her vision is blocked by the hand mirror in which she views herself. In her right hand is a small artist’s brush with which she dusts her face in rapid, skillfully coordinated motions. In the process, her lovely skin is covered by a fine beige powder that serves to hide her distinguishing marks, such as moles, pores, birthmarks, discolorations, scars and any trace of eccentricity.
She slowly becomes as smooth-complected as the life-sized mannequin at Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories.
The van takes off and passes by and I am left to wonder about the airbrushing ritual. Does the young woman continue dusting her neck, shoulders, chest, armpits and all points south of 20th Street? Is she now a living beige mannequin ready to face the day? Could I identify her in a line-up, since she’s all smooth and featureless now? Is she happy with her newborn self? Should I airbrush myself and would anybody notice my lovely new complexion?
This seems like a lot of trouble, the things some of us do to remake ourselves each day, but I do understand it to some degree.
I spend each day airbrushing my comments and opinions and behavior, based on what I need to accomplish. Eating is important, so I brush over my suppressed retort when someone is rude—so that I can complete the sale and continue feeding my family. I tamp down my political opinion when someone rants a thought I don’t share. I hold back a funny remark when I sense that this particular customer is bereft of humor or spirit. I avert my eyes when someone unconsciously bends down to peruse a book and displays an intimate tattoo or bit of string underwear. I pretend deafness when someone spouts outrageously personal asides to a companion shopper. I hold my breath when it’s clear a customer hasn’t bathed or brushed for days—once they leave, I sigh and spray so that the next customer won’t have the same experience. I listen patiently to the extended tale someone spins in order to impress me or make me want to buy something they are trying to push.
And so on.
Like Zelig, Woody Allen’s fictional hero, I can shapeshift and airbrush as much as possible when it’s important to do so.
But it’s also so much fun to relax and chat freely with customers who are obviously open to verbal intercourse, receptive to ideas and remarks, relaxed within their own skin. When this happens, I can be myself and not be judged, the customers can be themselves and feel safe, and for a few moments, we can all put aside our airbrushes and get on with pleasuring ourselves with the dialogues of the day
(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed http://www.jimreedbooks.com