“My eyebrows are melting off!” I moaned dramatically to the girls sitting near me. Our managing editor perked his head up with a perturbed expression.
I wailed pathetically as someone searched for a tissue. The girls were giggling sympathetically. The heat was doing horrid things to everyone’s make-up. But I’m new to the eyebrow game and I’m not used to this. How could I have known that if you pencil in your eyebrows when it’s hotter than 80 degrees they will end up all over everything before the day is out?
I couldn’t have. Because before I left for Europe, “On fleek” was not a thing.
ON FLEEK – Adj. 1) (slang) a state of completeness and flawlessness, the quality of being perfect 2) the combination of fly and sleek . Synonymous with on point. Used most often to describe eyebrows.
The enjoyable aspect of culture shock for me was catching up on two years’ worth of slang that I missed while living abroad. So it’s back to Urban Dictionary. As a language enthusiast, this kind of stuff is right up my proverbial alley and I will walk it all night long.
“They look fine,” said Asia, the Momma of our gaggle of women – actually, she might only be the Momma to me. All I know is that whenever I really need a hug or someone to get lathered up into a righteous rage for my sake, she is who I go to. “They’re not messed up at all, really.”
Asia has perfect eyebrows. She would know.
“Well, that’s a miracle because they’re all over my glasses,” I said, glowering at my chunkie blue frames.
“Why do you guys do that to your face anyway?” asked our managing editor, typifying the well-meaning clueless male.
“Because,” was the obvious answer that we all chorused with one, dignified sniff. It took me less than three months at home to become a huge eyebrow snob. What is America doing to me?
Glasses cleaned and self-confidence mildly restored, I slipped back into my heels and stood up (the kids in the newsroom are always getting on me about walking around barefoot, but what’s a girl to do?).
Ella, our incredibly competent multimedia editor chose that moment to sache in, ladden with film equipment and ready to rumble.
“We’re gonna be late,” she said with assertiveness. I grabbed my camera bag and followed her quick, short steps out of the school newsroom and across the sweating campus. It was the kind of day that was so hot, everything stood still – the trees, the grass, the sky. Nothing moved for fear of shattering into a million heat-ruined pieces, or withering away into wilted dust. In the earth’s silence, we trampled across bark patches and glistening sidewalks baking under the glare of the sun.
Our destination: La Jolla. The job: San Diego’s annual film festival. The excitement level: through the roof.
We had both dressed up for the occasion – not that either of us needs much convincing to dress up. Ella is one of those girls who always looks impressive.
How either of us got ourselves actual press passes for this shindig is still beyond me, but there we were, lost and running late in La Jolla, on our way to meet the Stars.
We ended up parking half a mile away and walking over to the ArcLight theater which was decked with all the glam required for a red carpet event. Scurrying around timidly with our bulky equipment, we found the press credential check-in and got our name badges.
“I feel so official,” I said happily as we scouted for a spot on the carpet to sneak onto. We hadn’t reserved one ahead of time and had shown up so late that there really wasn’t much room left anywhere.
“Dude, I know,” said Ella – who, by the way, also oozes ‘cool and casual’ like it’s part of her DNA. “I’m going to head over to the media line. Do you know where you’ll be?”
I shook my head and gestured clumsily in a vague direction.
“Okay,” she said simply and perkily walked towards her destination with the confidence of a very self-assured jungle cat.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If Ella was a guy, I’d ship us.
SHIPPING – Verb. This is most often used on tumblr by fandoms. Fandoms will ship everything and anything. Shipping comes from the word relationSHIP. Basically it is when you want a fictional character, real-life person, or cartoon people to be together.
I’d ship us because she’s the quintessential good-guy that every girl never goes for. And because her hair toss is on point.
But we’re currently friending it up pretty hard and I’m okay with that.
The red carpet was L-shaped and I placed myself on the outside of the corner. Already making his way up the cherry stem towards the theater doors was a young man whose name was written on a clipboard held by a pretty blonde at the end of the carpet. ‘John Boyega.’
The name meant nothing to me so I kept adjusting my camera lenses. It was tough coming into the semester as photo editor. I had no experience with the position or with anything like it. On top of that, I’m not really a great photographer either. I learned how to take pictures the way someone learns their first language – I recognize a good angle when I see one. I can press buttons and turn knobs and things turn out alright. Explaining to someone who doesn’t know how to work a camera how to do what I do would be like an American trying to explain subjunctive verbs to literally anyone. We know how to use them, we just aren’t totally sure why.
And then, of course, I wanted to make a good impression. I didn’t want to come in and just flop. Quitting, flopping, failing or in any other way not being on top-shelf level is not an option, doggonit! I had a lot to prove, too, because the last photo editor’s ghost basically indwells the hearts of the current staff and I see flickers and shadows of her everywhere, both inspiring me towards and intimidating me away from greatness.
Semi-VIP’s dressed to the nines and looking very forced-relaxed were shepherded down the carpet. Half an hour slipped away while I wrestled with my camera and tried to navigate the continuous, fidgety flow of photographers cramming for better shots.
At last, a hush fell over the crowd and a car pulled up to the curb, ferrying a very famous, much-anticipated actor – the one and only Adrien Brody.
It should be mentioned that I had a huge Brody crush for about six months in high school. I was pretty excited to see him in person. He’s the youngest Academy Award Winner to get Best Actor and he has a knack for playing a diverse range of adorably oddball characters. And that nose. I guess he’s what you’d call Hollywood’s Talent.
TALENT – Noun. Synonymous with weight, power, ability and attractiveness. The one who has a bit of everything.
On the corner of that carpet, between the fans and the line of reporters waiting to get their fifty seconds with him, I got a rare glimpse of the man before the mask came on.
The moment he stepped out of the car, I felt my heart sink. Not in disappointment, but in sadness. The middle-school teacher inside me lifted her head and felt immediate empathy for a tired, lost little kid who doesn’t want to sit in his chair anymore. Adrien Brody looked beat. For three seconds, as he buttoned his coat and disentangled his legs from the car, he looked tired and in need of a sandwich.
But as soon as he turned to face the fans and cameras, there was that smile – disarming, charming and completely convincing. There is a man who knows how to step into his job.
I got a few shots of him, but that face had taken it out of me. I couldn’t see him as an actor once I’d seen him as a tired boy who’s staying up too late to do his homework before school.
We waited on the carpet after Brody disappeared in doors, not sure if we should pack up or wait around. Evening had given the breeze a cooler touch, but it was still stuffy around the collected mass of media and onlookers. Cameramen, photographers and reporters from varying stations stuck stubbornly to their place in line, checking their equipment and comparing notes. I had almost repacked my camera when a car drove up. From the back seat slid an elegant woman in a black dress. She embodied sophistication and class from the straps of her heels to her neatly parted hair.
I’m a recent Davis fan. Only a few years ago, I watched “A League of Their Own” (this was during the height of my new-found passion for baseball). I think she’s a real lady. Honestly, she’s the kind of woman I had expected to turn into. Turns out life had different plans for me, though I’m hoping there’s still time to get my act together.
She glided down the carpet, smiling graciously at reporter after reporter who asked her the same questions.
My camera lens fell to the ground and I bent down to pick it up. Glancing forward, nearly level with the ground, I noticed Davis’ shoes. One was on her foot, the other was off. She was standing on the red carpet barefoot while interviewing.
This classy woman.
When the interview concluded, she softly put her hand on the reporter’s shoulder for balance as she stepped back into her shoe. It was as simple and natural as anything I’ve ever seen.
After she swept into the theater, the media line thinned out. Fox News, ABC and Getty Images all packed up their bags and went home.
Ella and I lingered, running our hands across the velvet rope and getting inconspicuous selfies in front of the backdrop because we’re basic.
BASIC – Adj. Used to describe the typical girls who think they are cool because they’re artsy, can make a duck face, carry around coffee cups, and wear designer brands. You’ll know a basic when you see one.
Someone handed us a spare program as we turned to leave and it was only then that we discovered that John Boyega, the young man on the carpet when we first arrived, is the new lead in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Talk about some fangirling.
It was nearly dark when we got back to the newsroom feeling rather triumphant from our long evening.
Dan took me home once I got all my pictures uploaded and sorted out. I’m learning not to feel embarrassed when I have to ask someone to give me a ride because I’ve missed the last bus. People love to be helpful and it’s okay to be the person who needs helping.
I told him about the red carpet, recounting the events with the onslaught of chatter I use to communicate in as we rolled down the hill away from the college.
“I had a huge Adrien Brody crush,” I said. “Probably because I refused to like Brad Pitt and Justin Timberlake, or whoever it was that everyone else liked.”
“Why not?” asked Dan in an unpresumptuous tone. Dan is a very even-keeled individual.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “I guess I didn’t want to be like everyone else.”
“What’s wrong with everyone else?” he asked.
There he had me. Nothing is wrong with ‘everyone else.’
“I mean,” I stuttered uncomfortably, “I just want to be myself. I don’t want to be a stereotype.”
“Oh Mary,” said Dan with a condescending little coo. “Are you a Special Snowflake?”
“What’s a Special Snowflake?”
SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE – Noun. A member of that newly-adult, me’er-than-me generation which expects attention and praise just for being themselves — doing anything to deserve it is completely optional.
“It’s okay to be like everyone else,” Dan said. “You can’t not be – you’re human. And you can’t not be a little different too because. . . You’re human.”
By the time the college had disappeared from sight, the sky looked like someone had spilled a blue ink bottle across it and then poked out two or three holes for light to shine through. We call those stars.
Funny thing, stars. Some people are labeled as Stars because they shine brightly and everyone can see them, etc, blah, blah. Truth is, they’re just people. People who are trying hard to make it to the top, people who have to put on a good face for work, people who’d just rather be barefoot. They’re just like everyone else.
And that’s okay.