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It’s an amazing and daunting thing trying to figure out your life. I knew what I wanted to do, knew that I wanted to amount to something. I knew that really young…the trouble was that I didn’t know how I was going to do it. Shit, does anyone? I spent my entire late teens and the majority of my twenties working for a photography company, living off the road like a rock star (or a roadie, or a dirty corporate hippy, whichever), and making way too much money for doing almost nothing. Teenagers are the worst, their parents even more so. As an adult, I realized my generation was the last generation that really had a childhood. And a disciplined one at that.
It’s amazing how a few years makes a drastic age difference and maturity level. And that’s going both ways. Regardless, after five years of traveling from one high school to one college, drinking in the car before going inside to deal with several enraged mothers and overprivileged teenage girls and tech-jock boys…I threw in the towel and went back to college myself. You heard that right, every photographer and their assistant has been intoxicated on the job one way or another to take your senior high school or college photo (not to mention all those ones you hated in elementary and junior high, too). There’s literally no other way to handle that line of work…the level of crazy you put up with is so mind blowing that half the staff has to do a line. One photographer in particular once said that if you could work for a school photography company and do the work that we did, any other job after would be a breeze. While others smoked weed in their hotel rooms, drank whiskey, lost their shoes, and had to tie plastic bags on their feet —
Relationships were also difficult to maintain outside of the company (YES, we know, don’t shit where you eat…except for photo companies). Many of us were either unable to keep our significant others, or couldn’t find the time to meet someone in the first place. I fell into both categories, and others got dumped during the busy college travel season. When this happened, one of the photographers that was secretly a chaotic, reckless alcoholic who spent money on hookers while on the road smashed one of his hotel windows to pieces so he could piss outside of it. He was promptly banned from the hotel, and one of the contractors had to reimburse them a heavy sum in damages. Yes, ladies and gentleman, these are the people taking photos of your children. Part of me hated to leave that company; I would miss the escapades…of course, I would find out soon enough that there was another industry that had plenty of its own chaos to keep me on my toes...Viola, cosmetology.
Before I wandered into the field of beauty, fashion, and slander, however, I took a semester in the fall of 2013 at the local college. I was accepted without question into the high honors English program, and considering that I wanted to be a writer, I couldn’t have been happier. It only took me a few weeks to discover that I was not a good candidate for lecture classes spanning over three hours. More importantly, I disliked being told I couldn't use the bathroom, and if I did, the professor would lock me out and mark me absent. Crushing my credit status. The lecture was a weird, jointly taught class by two partially unsuccessful men. One seemed harmless with his pastel button-up shirts and monopoly style white hair and mustache. His biggest sin was that he mostly put the class to sleep. His companion, Professor of Misery I call him, was an arrogant prick. He brought about the same amount of boredom, but made sure to sting the class awake by poking fun at one or two of us. Usually, I was his target. Which amazed me, since I sat half way in the back of the class, and unlike most of the other students, did not have my eyes glued to my iPhone. Like the girl next to me, Cassandra, who would constantly ask me questions regarding the assignments.
Often, I was hungover or just barely waking up. I'm not a morning person by any means. Usually, I shrugged or said something along the lines of, “All we had to do was read, right?” and Cassandra would laugh. Cassandra was the only person worth talking to in that class. She was funny and had no problem talking about her adventures from the night before. She was always late, chewing gum, absent, or sipping coffee at our table with Professor Prick glaring at her. One morning, her phone kept buzzing and this had Professor Prick turning his head around the whole class, sniffing for this phone interrupting his lecture. I would struggle to hide my face, which was often snickering behind a veil of over-sized black sunglasses. You know, to keep my eyes from burning in the morning sunlight. When Professor Prick finally seemed to give up looking for the mystery phone, she whispered something that almost had me fall out of my chair:
“Do you read 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?”
“Excuse me?” I almost shouted with laughter. Professor Prick spun around for a second, then turned back to his mess of papers. “What the hell?” I whispered.
“I’m seeing this guy…well, not really, he’s my sugar daddy.” Again, I had to stop myself from hysterics. Cassandra went on to tell me that she had several. Apparently it was only one of the many ways young girls got through college. She teased me once for not having another financial tactic to “support my education.” My one big flaw is pride.
“Anyway, this guy is into some kinky stuff, so I was thinking of doing this Fifty Shades kinda thing-” I hid my face behind my hands, she laughed a little and asked what was so funny. I never got around to telling her how hilarious her idea of kink was.
“Would you like to share your thoughts on this piece?”
We had been discussing several articles on “Women in the Workforce” in the early 20th century. This excited several hardcore feminists in the room, and while I appreciated the endeavor, I don’t take feminism to the extreme. You know the type, they’re usually new age hippy-type lesbians. Why are lesbians these days so angry anyway? Anyhow, my thoughts on the subject derived from a particular article that spoke on the subject of women coming into executive positions in the fashion and beauty industry (go figure) and why women’s interest in cosmetics had exploded seemingly overnight in the 1920s and 30s. While everyone’s response had been inspired by “women being tired of men telling them what to do,” and that they were “rebelling,” I argued that there was one thing people were forgetting that had influenced women of the era.
“Films,” I piped, my voice awkward and scratchy from the early morning. “Women might be 'rebelling' against men, but really, I think they liked the idea of wanting to immolate their favorite actresses. Just like they do today, this was a new thing at that time. And with factories mass producing and mass advertising from the media, and starlets covering magazines, young women wanted to look like them.”
Some of the students eyes widened, muttering, “Oh god yeah, duhhhh.” But somehow, Professor Prick was not impressed. He chuckled at me, standing in front of my seat, spitting disapproval. “That wasn’t a subject in the article, Amaris. You’ve failed to acknowledge the assignment.” I could feel my brows knitting into disapproval, matching his spiteful gaze.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered. A sly smile came over his stupid mouth, the one that had spent so much time sipping coffee that it smelt permanently like shit. The guy reeked of it. “I’m sorry, what was that?” he asked, pushing me to challenge him.
“Nothing, except that it has everything to do with the article. It was a question of why women drastically started having an interest in cosmetics. There’s more to it than the 'dominance of men,' in fact, I think other than men changing what they found attractive, they had little to do with the influence.”
Professor Prick frowned at me, seemingly lost for words and stewing up something in his miserable brain. Finally, that stupid grin came over his face and he answered with:
“And you want to be a writer.”
At this, I stood up, took my books with me and said, “Yeah, I do. And I don’t think I need your class to allow me to do that.”
Despite this mini feud, I finished the semester through Christmas. By then, I had already started looking into my options outside of college. Plan “B” kept looking more promising by the minute. Perhaps I shouldn’t have let a single person ruin my pursuit of my dream and finally becoming a college graduate, something my mother hadn’t been and that I had always wanted to be. To be fair, however, there were other factors that swept me from college to trade school. It was the threat of becoming a lifer at the photography company if I didn’t jump ship now. Plan “B” meant that within a few months I could have a career instead of in a few years.
Plan “B” stood for Beauty School.