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I decided the time had come when I reached into my duffel bag for what I thought was my brown wool dress and came up instead with an inside-out Cleveland Browns sweatshirt. There I was at a four-star hotel—O.K., so I checked into a four-star hotel with a duffel bag—getting ready for a business dinner and coming to grips with the fact that I had brought clothes more appropriate for a tractor pull at Meadowlands Arena. Some insect repellent and a can of Right Guard were where my makeup should have been.
I travel a lot. Sometimes my bags don't get unpacked and repacked, they simply get added to. And they never get added to with the thought of going to dinner as the wife of an executive. They get added to with the expectation that one might-even when changing planes somewhere—have an opportunity to swim, ice skate, snorkel or jog. Therefore, the bottom of the duffel bag has a sort of perma layer of aerobics togs, long underwear, diving mask, knee pads, Reeboks and tapes for my Walkman.
And so, on my return, I—a sports fan who considered it the apex of grooming to rinse my hair burgundy and stick gold glitter on my face for Redskins games—decided to grow up. I would enter middle age gracefully. I would turn myself over to the grown-up ladies' salon down the street from my office in Washington.
They have at this salon a total makeover program called something like "Your Big Chance." For a couple hundred bucks they would take the old me in and spew a new me out.
The old me opens the heavy wooden door at 10 a.m. and runs smack into a sales rack of $189 serious, career-advancing blouses with little ties at the collar. All the other ladies waiting for the elevator are wearing them. They probably don't even own Cleveland Browns sweatshirts. Short of being invited to Face the Nation, I am hard-pressed to think of where I would wear such a blouse. I try to readjust my mindset, lest I blow my Big Chance.
Upstairs an impeccably dressed and coiffed woman—a woman with no pores whatsoever—hands me my schedule.
I will be exercised, steamed, rubbed, facialed, waxed, made up, hairdoed, pedicured and manicured. After this, I presume, I will not look like a lunatic football fan but, rather, will acquire that cool, understated wife-of-an-owner image.
The exercise session is easy. A pony-tailed, preppy woman stretches my little group to relaxation music. It is infinitely more pleasant than the exercise classes at my health club. Those feature 19-year-old former high school track stars screaming out orders to the soothing backdrop of 20-decibel rap music.
Once stretched, I'm off to be steamed. A pretty blonde woman (who also has no pores) puts me in a little hotbox. This is to rid me of toxins. I must like my toxins because in 60 seconds my heart and lungs and entire epidermis are screaming at me. I can't move my arms.
Several years ago, my husband and I steamed potatoes by burying them in the ground at the edge of a volcano in the Azores. Now I know how those potatoes felt. Toxins intact, I flee the steambox.