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Please boycott the J Sisters salon for me. I am embarrassed to say that I am shaking and crying because of what they just did to me. And I am a big crier so I should qualify that by saying that this time there's snot and everything involved and I'm here typing before bothering to put my glasses on (a regular bad habit). What happened was that in anticipation of my first cross-country trip to see the boyfriend, I decided that I would not just get a Brazilian but that I would go all the way uptown to 57th Street, on a Saturday morning no less, at a time when I would usually not even have left my bed, to THE place where Brazilian bikini waxes were invented: J Sisters.
We'd written about them in Jane magazine when they first opened and my beauty director had gone there to test drive getting their brand of bikini wax (where they take off every hair from your belly-button on down, except for sometimes a landing strip or a triangle just above where the actual bigger triangle would be if you didn't wax -- which is my least favorite look cause I think it's like a caricature of a vagina, but anyway). I'm fairly sure Jane mag gave them nice mentions a few other times. I also had one of the J sisters on Jane Radio last week when we were talking about this new documentary called Why We Wax.
So as part of my getting ready to have good sex for the second time in my life, I went the extra mile and trekked up to 57th St to the J Sisters salon. My first reaction was surprise at how grimy and disorganized the place was. The elevator was rickety and kids were running around playing on their DS's while their moms, I guess, ripped the hair out of strangers' vaginas. But as I sat down in one of the chairs to wait for my name to be called, I saw Nina Garcia, also waiting for her name to be called. I know Nina from running into her at fashion shows and events when she worked at Elle magazine but now most people know her from Project Runway. Anyway, she had obviously been to J Sisters many times before--probably bi-weekly--and greeted her waxer in Spanish (might have been Italian but that wouldn't really make sense) and a double-cheek kiss. She was back out from behind that little white curtain and on her way to the Hamptons before my name was even called. I don't usually like running into fashion magazine people (way more on that many more times), but I was feeling so great about my trip tomorrow to see the boyfriend who thinks I am pretty/sexy/something that I didn't even mind her seeing me in dumb clothes and curly bad hair.
I actually wanted a hexagon, but was intimidated to ask for it, so got a landing strip. I will say that my waxer Maria made me feel really uber comfortable in an uber uncomfortable situation by acting professional and like she did this hundreds of times a day. I gather she did an impeccable job -- baby-soft skin, no redness, no ingrown hairs later. Now comes the part that has me crying.
I was at the front paying for my wax when the girl running my credit card, KAREN, AT J SISTERS SALON ON 57TH STREET IN MANHATTAN, said "Oh, are you the Jane Pratt from Jane magazine?" or something like that. And I said yes and then we had a really super sweet about-5-minute conversation about how she subscribed to both Sassy and Jane magazines and what happened to Jane mag. I told her that I'm now doing this blog so I'm so happy to know that I already have my first reader, blah blah blah fill in more super-sweet stuff here.
KAREN then introduced me to the girl next to her who also worked the front desk and told her that I started Sassy and Jane. Then I left and went back to the grimy elevator down the hall, feeling like what a drag on the transit time but mission accomplished in my attempt at being my new boyfriend's perfect girl (WAY more on that co-dependent neurosis later). But partway to the elevator I realized that we were only on the second floor and that if I were a regular like Nina G. I would know to just take the stairs, so I did. As I doubled back, I overheard the darling KAREN talking to her fellow receptionist after they thought that I was out of earshot. KAREN talked about what she liked so much about Sassy and Jane and why they were so different from Seventeen and Cosmo and Glamour. She clearly was a real reader as she went into lots of specifics, so I stood there on the third step down texting and emailing on my phone but really lingering in order to eavesdrop to hear more compliments and more useful feedback for this Jane.com project. Like a free focus group where they don't even think you're behind a one-way mirror.
She said so many nice things about how the writers in Sassy and Jane seemed like real people with unique voices and points of view. How political and outspoken and opinionated we were. Then she started to say that another difference was that I'd put lots of pictures of the staff in the magazine and that we would be involved in every story ourselves. And it was around that time that I got a feeling in my stomach that I've had before: flee because I am about to hear something that I really don't want to hear (other times I've been surprisingly eviscerated behind my back tk). But I stayed, as I always do, and then heard this:
KAREN: She just looks soooo much older.
Other (potentially clueless) receptionist: How old do you think she is?
KAREN: She must be mid to late forties. (I'm 46.)
Other: Really??!? She looks sooooo much older than that! I would've guessed 60's.
KAREN: Well, partly I think it's because she was 28 or something when she started Sassy (I was tempted to yell out "24! I was 24!", but didn't). So it is shocking to see her with so many wrinkles and just looking like an older lady." This is when I walked down the rest of the stairs, though they were just getting started, already crying and hands shaking, so I don't know exactly everything they said after that but that was plenty.
Even as I stood on 57th St. calling friends to talk me down so I could get back downtown and get on that flight tomorrow and appear on an E True Hollywood Story the following week without an emergency botox, fillers, whatever I needed to make me look like the way those girls at J SISTERS YUCKY SALON thought I should look.
I knew my extreme stress overreaction was happening for a reason. Just like when I was being emotionally abused and calling women's shelters and battered women's hotlines every night in fear for my life a number of years ago, I knew that it would one day make me better able to help other women in that situation. But both experiences still sucked really badly in the moment.
I called my mom, who also put my stepdad on the phone to say how he had commented that on their last trip to New York I had looked happier and more beautiful than ever. I called my fellow-mom-friend Dawn, who is younger and said what a bad business move that was for the salon but didn't say that the receptionists were wrong in their assessment. Then I got into a cab downtown and throughout my iPhone AT&T dropped calls situation managed to have another brief talk with my mom and to hear my Bay Area boyfriend say "You just need to get out here," to leave two messages for Courteney asking what emergency work I needed done and to get a text back from her saying nothing and that the girls were mean idiots. I mean, I didn't want to be like: you guys are famous and we are all aging, so you must have had more experience than I've had with people commenting negatively about your aging looks, but I did figure that my friend Michael would also have some good words of wisdom, so I called him and he had an amazing story about going back to this bar he used to go to after working at a Georgia Waffle House and his opinion that the flat foreheads and puffy lips of today will look as outdated in a few years as big hair of the 80's does now. Michael also made me promise that I wouldn't get anything done to my face until my trip to Athens, GA in a couple of weeks for a vacation there with my daughter. Then he could tell me if this idea that I look really really old was ridiculous.
One more thing: when the cab driver, who heard me crying on the phone to various people as he drove me from 57th St down to my much more relaxed neighborhood, asked me what just happened, I blurted out that I had had a really bad experience at a waxing salon. He said, "Oh, you mean you got a burn!?" and pointed down to his crotch area. I thought that that would be a really bad experience at the J. Sisters salon and it put my tragedy into some more perspective.