This picture, taken outside the Indiana Roof Ballroom at about 12:30 Saturday morning, is proof positive that the prom finally got here after months and months of waiting. We bought the tickets in late January. We bought the dresses in early May. We found the shoes, the jewelry, the desired hairstyles....as well as a glittery hair spray that made the girls' hair look like it had been sprinkled with diamonds. Everything was very lovely.
Unless you were at our house about ninety minutes before we left to take the girls to the dance.
You probably suspected that all had not gone smoothly, right? Because these things just never do. Formal dances exist, I believe, to give families practice for weddings, so that when a groomsman's shiny shoes aren't included with his tux, or when the cake turns out to be not exactly what the bride had asked for, or when certain individuals on one side of the family come to the celebration wearing faces more appropriate for a funeral with matching attitudes, or when the service is unaccountably messed up, or when the matron of honor turns out to be three months pregnant by the time the wedding rolls around and can just barely zip up her dress, people can deal with these things without flying into a thousand screaming pieces. I know, because all of the above things happened at my wedding. And see how normal and calm I am, all these years later?
Our only enormous problem with prom arose from something I told Meelyn she should do to treat herself, and that was have her makeup done by an associate at the local Salon Professional Academy. True, the associates are still students, I told her, but by the time they get to the point of being allowed to do prom makeup and hair, as the sign outside the academy advertised, they are competent and well-equipped to make a girl look like a fairy princess.
Or so I thought.
Aisling's appointment was first because she opted for the whole hair and makeup package. The associate who did her face came in, Aisling said, with an enormous suitcase fitted with different compartments for her huge collection of cosmetics. They talked about the look Aisling wanted -- pretty and pastel, no harsh colors -- and the student-artist went to work, creating a look that Aisling was thrilled with, and indeed she did look very lovely when the girls came home later.
But Meelyn, my poor Meelyn....
Meelyn was asked to work the lunch shift at the fast-food restaurant she's been employed at for the past couple of years: the manager is finding it difficult, despite these hard economic times, to find employees who will actually come in when they're scheduled to work, and then lift a finger once they're there. So Meelyn went in to pick up the slack, which meant that she didn't get to go for her makeup appointment until 3:30 (since her hair is short, she felt she could manage it by herself, unlike the updo Aisling had for her longer hair.) Meelyn drove home and took a quick shower and then set out for the salon, where I'd dropped Aisling off an hour before.
Thankfully, Aisling chose to sit in a nearby chair and watch Meelyn's makeup being done instead of sitting in the waiting area with her book: otherwise, we probably would have had to have Meelyn's face sandblasted to remove the thick layer of orange pancake makeup the technician -- not the same one who did Aisling's face -- trowelled on. While watching the student smear the awful stuff on her sister's face, Aisling, whose personality is more, well, forthright like mine, rather than sweet and more aquiescent like Meelyn's, said, "Uhhm, should you be trying to blend that a little more?" when a traffic-cone-colored line appeared along Meelyn's jaw.
"She looked at me and rolled her eyes," Aisling said indignantly. "She ROLLED HER EYES. Like she knew what she was doing over there with her stupid Cheeto foundation!"
"I was turned away from the mirror, so I didn't know anything bad was happening," Meelyn sobbed, bright-white tear streaks marked on her face. "But when Aisli said that about the blending, I could tell something was wrong. And then there was the look on her face, like she was about to scream or vomit or both."
Apparently, the technician replied, "That's all the foundation we have" and went back to slapping the orange on Meelyn's face. You see, the students at the salon academy have to supply their own beauty products, whether those products be for hair or skin or whatever, and somehow, someone missed the fact that Ms. Facepaint was not exactly ready for that advertised prom makeup, especially since her only other accoutrment was a black Sharpie marker, which she used to color in Meelyn's eyebrows.
That was the point where both girls cracked.
Aisling said, "Okay, that is just not right," and she went up to the front desk to request that an instructor be sent over to parlay. When the instructor came over and surveyed Meelyn, sitting tensely in the chair while the associate carried on with the eyebrows, she immediately offered the services of the same technician who did Aisling's makeup.
"The instructor turned me around in the chair so that I could see myself and I knew I was going to start bawling in front of them all, so I said I didn't want anyone else to work on me and that I just wanted to leave," Meelyn sniffled, scrubbing her face with a face cloth and about a pound of cleansing wash.
Horrified, I said, "You didn't PAY for this mess, did you?"
"No," said Meelyn. "I just walked out and Aisling scampered out behind me. She'd already paid for her hair and makeup."
The two of them spent the drive back across the city to our house with Meelyn sobbing and bewailing her fate and Aisling trying to hold back her own sympathetic tears as she came as close to the line between Cussing and Not Cussing as she could without incurring parental wrath, yelping the story out to me via mobile phone. When they flung themselves into the house, I was standing in the foyer, uselessly flapping my hands and trying to keep myself from reeling and writhing and fainting in coils.
"LOOK AT ME!" Meelyn screeched. "I'M A FREAK! HOW'S COME AISLI ALWAYS GETS THE GOOD PERSON AND I GET THE IDIOTS WHO WOULDN'T KNOW A MASCARA WAND FROM A GARDEN RAKE??!!"
I hugged her and she cried into my shoulder and I don't know if I'll ever get that dreadful orange color out of my top, so my Oxy-Clean has its work cut out for it. Meelyn charged up the stairs to go to work with the aforementioned facial wash and warm cloth and I threw myself into one of the chairs in the foyer, aghast.
"What on earth happened?" I asked Aisling. "How could this have gone so wrong?"
"That student was a....a....complete and total beeyotch," Aisling replied flatly.
I gave her a narrow-eyed stare. "Be very careful."
"Well, she was. How could you be that bad without knowing how bad you were? How could you agree to do someone's PROM MAKEUP and not even have a basic understanding of skin tones. And how could you make someone's eyebrows look like that?"
"I don't know," I responded wearily. "It's beyond me. But I do know that I'm going to place a strongly-worded telephone call just as soon as I can do it without screaming."
When Meelyn's skin was purged of the horrible color and the drawn-on black eyebrows, she and Aisling went to work and made her look very lovely indeed. How fortunate to have a young, fresh complexion, because I guarantee if we'd been trying to make ME look better, it just wouldn't. Have. Happened. Once her makeup was sorted and she was glowing, Meelyn did her hair, which looked very cute: a quick spritz with that really very nice glittery hairspray, and the two girls were ready to get into their formal gowns -- classic black and white for Meelyn, apple green for Aisling -- and then into their chariot (otherwise known as the minivan) to be taken to the ballroom for an evening of dining and dancing - the most grown-uppy fancy party they'd ever been to, especially without us.
We picked them up, yawning, five hours later. As we drove home, their happy voices spilled over each other as they told us about the dinner, their friends, the music, the dancing, and most of all, the beautiful Indiana Roof Ballroom, which looked like a fairyland with slowly swirling stars projected onto the floor all evening.
"When I went to the prom," I said reminiscently, "it was in the Girls' Gym at the high school and there were paper streamers hanging off the basketball goals."
"We know," said Meelyn. "You've told us a thousand times."
"Ten thousand," corrected Aisling.
"You both look beautiful, even after dancing for hours," my husband said. He took my hand and squeezed it. "Two young ladies, barely girls anymore."
"Unless they say 'beeyotch,'" I declared.
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