Walking through aisles of assorted products and toiletries, we had come to the department store to look for products that made us look prettier.
“After I marry I will no longer color my hair,” Pilar stated, “I'll go back to my dark brown, if I can remember what it looked like.”
“What they see is what they’ll get from me!” I retorted, thinking that changing my hair color was just too much trouble. Both Michelle and Pilar did their hair at home, usually the same weekend, making subtle changes each time, too subtle for me to catch. They were persevering with their intentions to get just the right shade.
If the girls ran out of money before the end of the month buying too many products, they could call their parents. I needed to watch every penny I spent.
“Men are total dopes,” Michelle said out loud, “and controlling!”
“You can get them to do anything with the right perfume.” Pilar added.
I was jealous of the girls, their friendship, how they knew so much about each other and could finish each other’s sentences. Except for Theresa and Marla, I really had not confided in too many people.
“They want you to fulfill their every fantasy.” Michelle retorted. “This one time, Rob asked me to go out with my cheerleading outfit, and I would have if it wasn’t prohibited, and he went on how it turned him on, and how it was his fantasy…”
“Wow!” I said, in surprise. Michelle had never revealed that side of hers, though I had gathered that she had been a cheerleader, prom queen, an all American girl. I didn't know this pressure she was talking about.
There was an entire part of life that took place with me on the outside.
Michelle went on: “Couldn’t stand if I kept him waiting, if I talked to anybody else. At first, I was flattered, thinking he really loved me, was concerned about me. Looking back, I really didn’t see it coming.”
“It’s up to the woman to set limits, create the atmosphere.” Pilar said.
“It's just a game we should stop playing, luring men into our cave is ancient history!” I said with a bit of pontification.
“Without romance, men are apes.” Pilar stated with conviction.
“Sure,” I said, “you’d think that way, the way magazines go on and on, how blondes have more fun, that changing hair color can fool even mother nature, that perfume says more about you than anything else.”
Pilar schooled to work in advertising, didn't surprise me with her answer: " I DON'T want to look ugly, ever!"
“We are being manipulated, ladies!” I declared, “we' re told to wear the right clothes, buy the right purse and heels, use the right makeup, the right hair cut. We are being manipulated to think this way, to want to be and appear to want all the same thing.”
“Yeah!” Michelle added, “and me will love us for it.”
“My point! Men are dictating how we act, what we buy, how we serve their needs.” I said.
“It’s a man’s world!” Pilar stated, “They are in charge!The best we can do is get on their good side.”
Even though I was fighting to resist the temptation of spending my hard earned money on vanity items, I couldn't resist the call of beauty and glamour all those products promised.
Looking good to please someone else was more expensive than food.
“You know that there are lots of women right now burning bras, protesting this entire situation.” I reminded my friends, adding, “As long as we go along and buy these products, we have become accomplices.”
“Yes, but these women would still wear make-up to look pretty. We like looking pretty!” Pilar retorted.
She was right.I too wanted to look pretty and entice men; only, I didn’t like being told how to; I didn’t like to play the game so aggressively.
My mother had worried on a different plane, for her it was about “fare la bella figura”, doing the right thing, maintaining the right appearance, presenting oneself as a representative of the entire family. Every time you chose to go out of your house, every thing you said and did was designed to maintain that right image. She never went out without fixing her hair a certain way, wearing stockings without runs, a girdle to hide any bulging problems, light talcum powder under arms to retard sweat.
For her make-up was used by loose women and would have been scandalized by the choices I was making. I was returning to her rules and cultural expectations. If I had changed, I could not show it.
All around us, the world was changing.Women were demanding rights. Michelle, Pilar and I were in the middle of a revolution and still went about as though things were the same.