For reasons known only to others, many people have tried to tart me up over the years. I remember when I was young I worked at State Farm Insurance (compiling a historical paper library, and other odds and ends sorts of tasks). One day the girls teased me saying that a male middle manager wanted to see me in makeup. I retorted with what I thought was humor, “If he wants to see how makeup looks, he should wear it.” They were aghast at my audacity, and I knew I was lucky not to be fired that day. There was sexual innuendo in that request, and I was having none of it at work. Later in life, I remember a boyfriend who asked me to meet his parents, then bought me a slinky, low-cut dress to wear. I dutifully wore what he provided, and was amused to see how just a change in clothing gave people an entirely different and dubious first impression of me. Recently elderly girlfriends nagged me that a haircut that just “grows out of your head” is not good enough, I should cultivate some style. When I was younger I thought of my hairstyle as neo-barbarian-biblical, but now I keep it cut to an age-appropriate length, hopefully cut at an angle so that my fine, Scandinavian hair curls in under tidily toward my neck. This is not necessarily what I want, it is more who I am. I am true to myself.
I experimented with pretty makeup when I was a very young woman, going so far as to wear the then new gold eye shadow at high noon. But after a while I decided that the expense, fuss, and potential chemical harm were not worth it. Plus, eye makeup stung my eyes, how do others manage? A fresh clean face nicely oiled is what I have presented to the world for most of my life, topped with the best smile possible. Some men say that this is attractive.
My au naturel appearance was definitely not in sync with chic San Diego, California, USA in the early 2000’s, and being in my fifties did not give me a pass on conforming. Sooo, when my best girlfriend in San Diego, let us call her Ruth, decided to see how I looked in makeup, I was willing but I had no makeup for the transformation. Ruth took out her red-red lipstick and applied it to my lips, and went so far as to smudge some on my cheeks as rouge. Curiously, I recalled that my late paternal grandmother also smudged lipstick on my cheeks for special occasions when I was a child, the purpose of which remains a mystery to me. I was not good enough as I was?
Ruth invited me to usher with her for a Shakespeare play at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park in San Diego. She had been an usher there for many years. I completed the application and was accepted, but my eyes were over fifty and I soon found that I could not see well enough to navigate the aisles, much less guide anyone else. Walking through the park on the way to the theater, Ruth caught a glimpse of sunburst breaking through trees in a pretty way, so she quickly got me tarted up with her lipstick, posed me under the tree, and caught this image of me. I balanced on the narrow, slanting roots of the tree for Ruth’s compositional requirements.
I met Ruth at an introductory meeting of the Sierra Club-San Diego Chapter. I arrived just after the meeting started, scanned the room, and chose to sit next to a fairly tall, trim woman who seemed both quiet and pleasant. I was new in town and hoped for both outdoor activities and friendship. We talked enough to know that as a previous member of the Phoenix, Arizona Sierra Club chapter I already knew that I liked Sierra Club activities, but she decided not to join; I enjoyed SCUBA diving, and she was a former professional SCUBA diver. Bingo! I was amazed that a woman could find and handle employment maintaining underwater fish farm apparatus, but subsequent swims with her confirmed that she had excellent underwater competency, certainly much better than mine, and I was certified down to 100 feet. At the conclusion of the Sierra Club introductory meeting, they invited those interested in the “nude” subgroup to stay. Ruth and I could not get out of there fast enough, no naked hikes in the woods for us. Is that even legal?
Ruth and I did different activities together after work. I worked at Phogenix as a technical writer/photo illustrator, and she worked as an administrative assistant in the office of a nonprofit organization. She invited me to join a dozen of her colleagues from work to see a comedy review. She also set me up on a blind date with an old SCUBA diving buddy of hers whom she described as peculiar but intelligent. She told me that once when they were SCUBA diving she had warned him of a shark in the water, and he had immediately asked “Where?”. When she pointed out the direction, he took off like a mad man swimming after it. I thought chances were good that he would have some entertaining stories to tell. He was an engineer with a good job, house, vehicle, motorcycle, interesting hobbies; and was reasonably presentable. He said that he had broken up with his girlfriend and he was lonely. He had the odd requirement that each date must start with a session at a golf driving range, with each of us hitting at least three buckets of balls, very specific. I was dubious about even dating him, and I had zero interest in golf, but I wanted to talk to him at a restaurant like the San Diego Melting Pot for Fondue in the Gaslamp district of San Diego where he had offered to take me. I was looking forward to hearing about his SCUBA adventures and other life stories. I dumped out some balls and proceeded to quickly drive them into the range so as to complete the task of empting the buckets so we could proceed to dinner. He admonished me to take care or he would not keep his promise. These additional conditions on our date made me angry so I fixed my eye on a flag about halfway down the range, and knocked the stuffings out of that little golf ball. The range was all downhill, and there was no wind. With fantastical, good or bad luck depending on how you looked at it, my ball rang and bounced off of the top of the flag pole. His jaw literally dropped. Then he sank into a foul mood that lasted all evening. He could not, would not articulate his anger, so I plied him with “Who are you?” questions while I enjoyed the experience of fondue in a fine restaurant. Perhaps we had the Classic Alpine which features pungent Gruyere, Raclette, and Fontina cheeses, melted with white wine, garlic, and fresh nutmeg; into which one dips beef tenderloin cubes, shrimp in oil, mushrooms, succulent fruit, and assorted breads. He really provided a lovely meal, but he maintained a snarly attitude toward me and the waiter throughout. It was embarrassing. Also, he did not tell me one story, not even one detail of his life. The meal went quickly although it was not very filling. We had a window seat and a pleasant appearing man walked past. He caught my eye, made an odd face, and gestured the sign of the loser, with his thumb and index fingers extended in front of his forehead in an “L”. Was this directed at me? What had I done? Then I realized that my snarly dining companion was stealing food from my plate. He need not have stolen it, he paid for it, he could just send me home and eat both plates if that is what he wanted. But he appeared to be enjoying the theft as much as the meal. I did not call him on it, and I never called him again. When we got back to his house for me to pickup my vehicle I saw a youngish woman stalking around his garage. “Who is that?” “Oh, that’s my girlfriend.” “After you’ve just taken me on a date?” “Well, yeah, she lives here.” Hopeless. I subsequently encountered him on the sidewalk outside of my apartment, but he said he was just in the area. I never went out with him again, he was too old to be so immature, too complicated for a relationship with me.
It was when Ruth and I went country western dancing, that I realized that she was not really interested in the men. I was a good enough dancer that most men were willing to give me a whirl on the dance floor, and I really loved to dance with them, even if I never met a keeper. The last time I went dancing with Ruth as my winggirl, a tough old coot confronted her for her obvious male moves on the dance floor (tight hips, mannish shoulder moves, etc.), and warned her off while the band stopped and the room watched. I was very frightened for both her safety and mine for being with her.
Afterward, Ruth steamed artichokes in lemon at her apartment to treat us while she told me her story. She had been a male college professor with tenure, but threw it all away to be a female. She said that she had had no idea of the discrimination that women faced, especially the low salaries. After her transformation, (it would have been impolite to ask the extent of it, but she felt that it was irreversible), she was struggling to make financial ends meet. Social integration was another obvious difficulty. I am neither lesbian, nor multi-gendered, so all I could do was give Zim pity, which Zie did not want. Ruth was a sad, courageous person, and I admired zim for trying to be what Zie was despite the huge social cost, for being true.
Caption: Annmarie Throckmorton at age 62
posed and photographed by best girlfriend in San Diego, California USA, 2002.