For some reason, I am really nervous about going back to Beauty U for my “Exit Interview.” Maybe it’s because it sounds so formal, even though I can already guess it will be much like the entrance interview, and thus, not all that scary. Maybe it’s because it’s always a little awkward to go back to places you’ve left. (Ever quit a job and then go back to visit a few months later? Always. Weird.)
So Meg and I schedule our exit interviews at the same time, which makes me feel better. Miss Susan, the night school director, tells us we can even come in together if we want. We say yes, please and go sit on folding chairs across from her desk in the main office, where posters of pouting models with jagged haircuts hang haphazardly in the big window that faces the parking lot and the highway beyond.
Before you go on the exit interview, you have to get your doctor to sign a form saying you don’t have any infectious or communicable diseases. This form is completely critical to the State Licensing Division — they won’t even let you sit for the exam without it. And it’s only good for 30 days. So there’s panic right at the start, when Meg realizes that her doctor dated the form wrong and it has expired. We’re all like deer caught in headlights, wondering what it will mean — until Miss Susan remembers that she can just give Meg a new form to have filled out before she mails her paperwork in.
The rest of the interview is filled with the same kinds of oh wait! moments. Miss Susan flips through our blue books and is a little upset that we haven’t filled every single signature box. I only did five mud and seaweed wraps, even though the book calls for ten. This is because nobody ever wants to do mud and seaweed wraps because they smell gross and mess up the shower. And because you don’t need to do them on the state exam, so really, Miss Stacy and Miss Lisa feel like five are plenty. (The number of required signatures for each procedure in the blue book changes every few months for these kinds of reasons.) Meg has even less because she missed more nights than me, and we’re never allowed to do treatments and get signatures during Make-Up Time.
Miss Susan tsks, but pulls Miss Marci in from the hallway and has her sign off all the empty signature spots in our books. “Should I put in dates?” Miss Marci asks. “No, they just have to be filled,” Miss Susan sighs. “I can’t put them in the file without filling them.” I don’t know who ever looks at these files once we’re gone, but it’s clear that books lacking signatures would be a crime against man and nature. She adds that sometimes, when girls really fall behind on their signatures — “like, a hundred or more are missing” — they have to come back and keep doing services until they fill the book up. “But you guys are good students, we know you worked hard.” Crisis. Averted.
Then I look over the paperwork that Miss Susan has filled out for me and see that she’s stamped Mr. G’s signature on a page that certifies I have 1000 hours of training — but of course, being estheticians, we only have 600. (Cosmetologists do 1000. That’s why I can’t cut hair.) And the form even says “esthetics” right at the top. And it’s from the state. And it has to go back to the state, so they’ll schedule our exams. Does it mean the state just made a typo? Does it mean they changed the requirements and estheticians now need 1000 hours? Does it mean every Beauty U esthetics graduate is a fraud? We bandy around theories but in the end, Miss Susan tucks all the paperwork into the correct envelope and seals it up. (The state’s website confirms that 600 hours is still the requirement right over here.)
Then she and Miss Daisy, the office manager, hunt around in the supply cabinets for a package of gold seals. “I thought we had an open one,” Miss Daisy says. “I guess I need to order more from Staples.”
Finally, the seals are found in a bottom drawer, between a bottle of hand sanitizer and assortment of pens. Miss Susan uses the laser printer and the fancy paper to print out our diplomas, affix the gold seals, and even uses a little hand embosser to stamp something on them. The stamp doesn’t go through all the way, so my seal mostly just says “SEAL.”
Miss Susan presents our paperwork to us one at a time. First my transcript, then a random “Perfect Attendance” award that had been issued after I left, and then, holding it out before me and kind of off to the side, so it flaps around and I have to crane my neck to read my name, she says, “And here — is your diploma!”
I don’t know if I’m supposed to clap for myself or shake her hand. She repeats the same performance with Meg and we stare together at our shiny gold-sealed papers.
Then Miss Susan remembers one last parting gift: A card featuring the secret-until-now weblink to Beauty U’s job board.
“Need a Job?” it asks. “We have done all the work for you! There are many occupations available from estheticians, to hair stylists and more! Just put this web address into your web browser! Job listings will be updated frequently so be sure to check back often!”
So I check, as soon as I get home. There are sixteen jobs listed. The most recent was posted at the beginning of July.
[Photo: Yup, that’s the real diploma deal. Scanned and cropped to protect Beauty U’s identity, by me.]