I started a new job in March after almost six months of unemployment. I had worked at my previous company for six years, so beginning a new role at that point was a herculean task, like diving headfirst into fog-obscured depths or dragging yourself to the kitchen pantry when you’ve run out of bed-donuts. Unemployment is a slippery beast. You always think you’re going to get all this stuff done when approached with an abundance of free time, but then suddenly it’s two months later (or is it three? Who can tell?) and you’re picking crumbs out of your bed sheets while Friends barrels through its fourth consecutive loop. You didn’t clean the apartment like you meant to. And you definitely didn’t write that novel. But you did discover several plot holes in a show that’s been off the air for fourteen years and you only posted about it on Facebook like twice, so accomplishment comes in many forms. Successes like these make the world go round. And so does self-delusion.
A few weeks after I started, our team was flying out to Tahoe to meet each other and sit through four straight days of meetings to plan the upcoming year. I was a little nervous about this, as it had been so long since I had met new people in a professional environment, so I decided to get an eyebrow wax to brighten up my appearance and give me a little superficial pick-me-up. In true Katie fashion, I waited until the day before I left to get this done. I called my usual salon, but they were booked solid, so I scrolled through google until I found a place that had an opening, and (what luck!) they were right around the corner from me. I sauntered off to my appointment an hour later, ready for what would surely be an Instagram-worthy up-step in my physical appearance.
The salon was small and dimly lit, but clean. There was one slightly frazzled-looking stylist there, giving haircuts to a family of forty-seven. “I have an appointment for eyebrow waxing,” I said, and she led me into the backroom. “Lay down here,” she said, pointing at the table, so I set my coat and purse on a chair and laid down. “I want to keep my normal shape, just clean them up a bit,” I said, and she nodded. She immediately started applying wax and ripping it off my face, a procedure I was familiar with but never gets more comfortable. When she finished, she asked if I wanted her to trim them, to which I said, “Um sure, if you think they need it.” So she did. And then she casually asked, “Should we do your mustache next?”
Hold the phone. Mustache? I gingerly ran my fingers along my upper lip. Do I have a mustache?? Why hasn’t anyone ever told me?? “Do you think I need it?” I asked hesitantly. Her eyes went wide and she said, with blistering calm, “Oh definitely.”
Well shit. I mean I was 31, I knew this kind of thing could happen at some point. But just how apparent was this mustache? Did everybody else know? Was everyone calling me Katie Hairlip behind my back? Was that why my friend sent me that picture of Tom Selleck? I mean, sometimes I get crumbs stuck in there, and it does keep me warm on cold winter nights, but I thought that was a universal experience. “Yes, please wax it,” I pleaded. No way was I going to meet all my new coworkers with this nefarious lip weasel. I was going to look like a star.
She slapped the wax on there and yanked it off. I felt it with my fingers. I guess this is a lot smoother, I thought. Looks like she was right. I thanked her effusively, paid up, and then walked home, my upper lip red and stinging.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early, ready for my trip. I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes, and then shuffled to the bathroom to shower. It was a pleasant shower, as I had also bought a new hair mask from the esthetician, so by the time I got out and dried off, my hair was silky and smooth, I had shaved for the first time since the Obama administration, and I had upped my streak of not dropping my toothbrush on the grimy tub floor to two whole days in a row. I was unstoppable. I wrapped my hair up in a towel, and then, for the first time that morning, looked in the mirror. And recoiled in horror at what I saw.
It turned out that my lip skin was a bit too sensitive to handle the wax. So in place of the hair mustache I had finally rid myself of was now a new kind of mustache, one comprised of dozens of shiny red pimples. I had a solid wall of crimson spots on my upper lip, creating the perfect pussy red zit-stache. Shit.
Exfoliating didn’t help. Makeup only caked over the disaster, and I had to leave for the airport in thirty minutes, looking like Alex Treb-acne. I hoped upon hope that they would calm down by the time I got to Tahoe, but the little shits festered and grew until my lip was just one solid, shiny zit shield protecting my face from positive impressions. I kept touching it impulsively, hoping it would go away, which only encouraged the bastards to swell with confidence. “Welcome to your thirties! Welcome to the end!” I swore I could hear them singing.
I was consumed by the pus-tache for the entire duration of the trip. I tried desperately to cover it with makeup, which had a result similar to if your apartment had a roach problem so you just dumped a bucket of paint on the floor. This, of course, only aggravated the issue, and the pimples sprung further outward, audacious and defiant. While walking down the street, cars slammed on their brakes in front of me so as to avoid a traffic ticket. Bees tried to pollinate me. Passerby showered me with sympathy and EpiPens. I was overcome. I was defeated. I was lost.
The pus-tache finally did go away, about three days after I returned from my trip. If anyone noticed, they had the decency to snicker behind my back. And thank god for that-- had they said anything to my face, it would have only made them more powerful. I vowed to embrace my fuzzy lip for the rest of life after that, and keep a respectful distance of five to seven feet between myself and any future conversational companions so they don’t get tangled in my ferocious lip sweater and require the fire department to free us. I have a clean record, and I don’t think attempted kidnapping will encourage the longevity of this new job. And I really don’t want to be unemployed again. I’m fresh out of donuts.