My father was a pharmacist. The store which he co-owned sold cosmetics as well as pharmaceuticals. Since his partner only had sons, as a teenage girl, I was recruited to attend cosmetic workshops designed to show cosmeticians the newest products and to experience how to use them.
I disliked using makeup—even lipstick. My nails were a mess. Although I didn’t bite them, the nail cutter snipped them unevenly and I didn’t bother to smooth edges with an emery board. Nothing my mother said or threatened changed me from a tomboy to a girly girl. While my disinterest in makeup was perfectly obvious, neither my father nor his partner thought this a reason for me not to attend the cosmetic workshop. They used the generous gifts cosmetic companies gave attendees to learn what was new and widely advertised. Why they didn’t send the cosmetician they employed, or my mother who worked part-time in the store as a cosmetician, I never understood. Maybe my mother thought the cosmeticians’ attention would make me want to use the stuff. She was wrong. Although my mother liked attention from men, I didn’t. I preferred to play ball with guys, not date them. But, my father told me to go. I went.
In 1972 I was attending a theatre conference and leading a movement workshop in San Francisco, which was not far from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, a place I’d wanted to visit for years. It’s gorgeous, with hot springs, ocean, and fascinating-sounding courses, but I didn’t want to take any of the many advertised workshops that focused on consciousness raising, unfinished business, vulnerability, etc. using the techniques of Fritz Perls, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, Sigmund Freud, and others. I wasn’t interested in becoming more vulnerable in front of a group of strangers who would disappear after the workshop, leaving me to deal with the emotional consequences. When a weekend course in Aikido at the Esalen Institute was advertised, the timing was perfect. I could go after the convention and workshop ended.
The voices were loud enough for me to hear through the closed door. “Whoever heard of teaching an honors course using fingerpaints and clay.” “I thought that was for kindergartners.” “I heard someone call her the fingerpaint lady.” There was loud laughter and more negative, judgmental comments.
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.