In my defense: We were at PopFest.
What is PopFest, you’re asking? It’s okay, I hadn’t heard of it either because I don’t listen to Pop98.3, the local radio station of choice for the 11 to 14 set. Of course, every Adam Lambert fan is young at heart. But is is mostly droves of tweens who attend PopFest, an annual all day concert at the local baseball stadium featuring the song stylings of Mr. Lambert and his ilk. (Rumors that Justin Bieber would show prove to be false.)
And what better place to promote Beauty U, while raising money for charity with $5 haircuts and makeup ($3 extra for false eyelashes, they don’t grow on trees)?
I think it’s important that I stop here and give you the full list of sponsors who pay to host tents lining the perimeter of the baseball diamond and every entrance to the stadium:
1. Beauty U.
2. The Marines.
3. The local community college.
4. The Coast Guard.
5. A credit union offering low-interest credit cards.
6. Another credit card company.
7. The Army.
8. Another credit card company.
Youth of America: Your future is bright. With clear career options (war or facials?). And plenty of debt.
With that kind of competition for market share, it’s important to have a gimmick to draw the crowds. The Marines give out water bottles and t-shirts. The Army tent has a giant inflatable Army Dude that bops around to the music and poses for photos.
And we have 13 Beauty U students, poised to give haircuts and makeovers. We’re pretty popular, especially when word spreads that we have false eyelashes. Because 12-year-old girls LOVE false eyelashes.
“I think I look at least 14 now,” one tells me, after I smear her with plenty of green glitter and glued the lashes firmly in place. I love that 14 is the cool age to look.
It’s hot and sticky but otherwise kind of awesome, because I don’t have to worry about making the makeup look natural (except when one mom stands over me saying, “let’s be conservative!” repeatedly — and even she allows some glitter). Or whether the eyeliner is perfectly straight. These girls want lashes and glitter and barrel curls and French braids, preferably all at once. Every group of friends that huddles around us squeals “ohmyGODyou’reSOpretty!” whenever we unveil a new set of glittery eyes or head of corkscrew curls.
I am loving their confidence and their appreciation for each other. You hear a lot about girls being catty and cruel at that age, but I’m not seeing it here. They’re belting out Train lyrics and sharing Dippin’ Dots and batting their gigantic lashes at each other like it’s the best day of their life.
I know last week, I was skeeved by a 13-year-old getting waxed — primarily because her parents pressured her to do it, but also because it saddens me to see complicated and adult standards of beauty applied to girls who haven’t first learned — deep in their bones learned — that they are just fine the way they are. Of course, I’m interacting with these girls in 30-second doses, but they seem to know that, and know that crazy eye makeup and party hair is just for fun because they’re at a giant dance party, after all, who doesn’t want to look amazing in that kind of setting? This isn’t beauty treatments as maintenance or corrections. It’s just fake eyelashes.
On the other side of our tent, the Beauty U recruiter mans a table filled with brochures about our cosmetology and esthetics programs, the flexible schedule options, and the great post-graduation employment rate in the beauty industry. It’s too crowded for me to pay attention to how many people take brochures, and I’m having too much fun doing makeup to care.
But then one of my 12-year-olds beelines over to grab a brochure. “I want to go here!” I hear her say to her friend. “No seriously. This is what I want to do with my life.”
So there’s that.
[Photo: Promotional image for the now-defunct Club Libby Lu, a mall chain that hosted princess parties and makeovers; think American Girl meets the Disney Store, with a hair salon. I’m using this image because these girls are a pretty accurate representation of my PopFest girls — though I think Club Libby Lu and Princess Culture in general is worthy of a whole other post, since it takes that “it’s just fake eyelashes” stuff and markets the hell out of it. And that I am not so positive about. Via Patrick Byers at the blog Responsible Marketing.]