At the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians’ Washington Mardi Gras Ball this past weekend, I marveled at the effortlessness of twenty-something, the gorgeous skin, shiny hair, and perky figures of what I repeatedly and casually describe as ‘little girls.’
The princesses, escorted by their fathers, wear white wedding gowns and tiaras for their debut. They smile nervously but oh-so-prettily at their grandparents and the cameras, making their families proud of their youth and beauty on this, the biggest night of their lives so far.
I find it difficult to remember details of dress and hair from my own twenties and yet, although I abhorred beauty pageants, I recall as though yesterday dreaming of elaborate costumes and rhinestone headpieces, especially following the year that my cousin Flower Anne reigned as Queen of Alla in Gretna.
Knowing that we had neither the money nor the connections, I convinced myself as much as my mother that it just didn’t matter, and that I was happy with the star-power accompanying my half-time piccolo solos and pom-pommed roller skates. The truth is, however, that I wanted to be Queen.
A friend of a friend in Palm Beach brags about the Brazilian butt lift, along with the three years it took to extract every hair from her body.
“Everybody’s doing it!” she exclaimed, pointing out her smooth skin and the specific areas of nip and tuck.
Tempting as it sounds, I think I’ll pass for now, devoted instead to a daily yoga practice and my husband’s razor. Although not nearly as effective, they’re free, and there’s no pain or anesthesia.
The festival queens at D.C. Mardi Gras wear magnificent costumes with towering crowns. Their shoulders hold heavy capes with symbols from their hometowns: The Rice Queen from Crowley, The Fur and Wildlife Queen from Cameron, The Shrimp Queen from Delcambre.
They look perfect, these little girls, their teeth bright white, their skin flawless, and their hair thick and shiny. If there’s a fault to be found, it’s that their shoulders tend to arrive at the dance floor before their feet. This is when the buried princess in this New Orleans lady sashays by, silently thankingmy mom
, who put a book on my head at age twelve and a glass on that book at fourteen.
In Las Vegas, these young girls trade in their tiaras and gowns for a different princess wardrobe. They run in packs, sporting tiny black dresses and tossing their hair simultaneously while texting the guys they met last night in LIGHT (or MIST or FOG or DIRT), all while planning tomorrow’s coordinated attire. My husband and I study them like an anthropological art project.
But who wants to be twenty again anyway? The body would be great, but only if I could take my forty-something years of experience with me. So for now, I’ll bleach my teeth, ‘highlight’ my hair, don eyelash ‘accents,’ and pop anti-inflammatories (reducing the arthritic edge as I descend the stairs in stilettos), convincing myself as much as anyone who cares, that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For that matter, I study my friends, most of them fifty or sixty-something, and I see elegant and bewitching women, the type that I look to for not only beauty tips, but also guidance in the true beauty, the joy and regalness found in a sincere presence and a compassionate life.
Dolores Pepper (a.k.a. Wendy Rodrigue)
For more by Wendy Rodrigue visit "Musings of an Artist's Wife"