Tonight we return to Beauty U after a glorious, if sweltering week off.*
Even though it’s been sunny for days, it turns cloudy as I drive to school, in that hazy summer way that makes you notice all the cigarette butts in the corners of the parking lot, and the way the chain link fence that divides our strip mall from the highway behind is so busted and kind of folded in on itself in places.
The wipe-off poster board propped on an easel by the front door of Beauty U still says “Congratulations, June Graduates!” even though it’s now July. And nobody has bothered to reorder supplies or update the chart in the break room that tracks the progress of our 600 hours, sorted by student ID.
In other words, welcome back.
The inertia settles over us like the humid clouds outside. There aren’t any clients, so it turns into a workbook kind of night, because nobody can be bothered to make hot towels or fill up the steamers and actually do stuff. I secretly love the workbook, because as long as you follow along in the right chapter of the textbook, it’s pretty uncomplicated and satisfying to fill in all those blanks. I’ve started doing it in cursive because it makes it take longer and I love the way the pages look when they’re all filled up.
Then Miss Stacy reminds us that us senior girls are almost down to our last 30 days. Which means lazy workbook nights are all well in good, but we also need to start planning for What Comes Next. She passes out a long checklist of supplies that we need to gather for Our Kit, which is everything you need to sit for your practical exam at Beauty U and then for your state board exam six months later. Meg estimates that it’s going to cost us at least $100 to get everything, so we start planning a dollar store field trip to hunt up cheap makeup brushes and Q-tips and such. We also have to get busy actually finishing the workbook, so Miss Stacy can go over it with us next week.
And then we take a practice version of the written final exam, which consists of 100 randomly generated multiple choice questions on all 21 Milady’s chapters, and is also supposed to mimic the state board’s written portion of the licensing test.
We decide to do the practice run cold, so we can see how much we’ve retained. I work my way through, check my answers, and count up 19 questions that I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten wrong, but I have no idea how to make them right. Don’t scoff. Do you know the name of veins that supply blood to the head and neck? Or the purpose of iontophoresis? Without rushing off to Wikipedia now, just off the top of your head.
Anyway, you can get 30 questions wrong before you fail, so I figure this is a good starting point — except then I get it back, and I do have 19 questions wrong, but they’re a different 19 than the ones I thought. (Random nerd moment: In almost every case, the right answer was one of the two I was deciding between. SAT coaches and Beauty U teachers alike tell you to “go with your gut” in either/or situations. So I did. And it kept ending up being the other choice. Why is my gut so not trustworthy?)
So we’ve got about five weeks to close the gap on that margin of error, plus finish the workbook, get all our signatures and pass the practical exam. Oh and figure out what comes after Beauty U.
And yet, things feel kind of stalled.
When we go on break, I order a McDonald’s Snack Wrap on autopilot, completely spacing on the fact that I packed a granola bar and a bag of cherries for once and don’t have to eat (such very tasty) crap.
We complain, yet again, about how the day students never do the laundry, forgetting that in a month, this really won’t be our problem.
We talk obsessively about our plans for graduation itself (they involve various kinds of alcohol, the Beauty U parking lot and possibly a ritualistic burning of the infamous black apron). But even though you get a temporary license right after you graduate (like a learner’s permit before you take the State Board), nobody says much about how they’re interviewing for jobs or building up their client roster or what not.
I think it’s some pretty understandable digging in, in the face of uncertainty and change — as much as we gripe about the aprons and the day students and the ever-weirder rules, we’ve gotten comfortable here in our strange little 6 pm to 10 pm world of pores and cellulite and unwanted body hair.
But I’m also surprised by how little Beauty U is doing to prepare us for this next stage. It advertises “lifetime job placement” on all of its promotional materials, but so far that seems to have consisted of Simon Scott’s workshop and a couple of nights we spent looking at the resumes of other Beauty U graduates.
Miss Stacy showed us hers, which featured an objective line: “To find a challenging and rewarding job in the field of Esthetics.”
It sounds nice in theory.
*That turned into a bit of an unintended blog week off, too and thanks for letting me be a slacker, by the by. We’re back now, in full force.