Fake Faces

As I’ve mentioned, my February Level Up was to learn how to apply my own makeup. I attended a makeup lesson on Saturday, and have been putting off talking about it, to make sure that my initial reaction wasn’t an over-reaction. Since this year is about becoming stronger, and sometimes growth involves growing pains, I want to give myself the time I need to adequately interpret new experiences and feelings. I walked away from the makeup lesson feeling sad and resentful, and that emotional response has actually grown into a gnawing discomfort in the pit of my stomach. Guess it’s valid.

To begin with, the lesson wasn’t bad. The makeup artist was very nice, and she patiently walked me through each step with care and kindness – even though I was asking remedial questions that probably blew her mind. She introduced me to some product types that I’d never even considered using before (like a brow pencil, which is totally unnecessary), and the look she created was absolutely beautiful. I went out that night, and got a bunch of compliments on various aspects of my makeup, so I know that the job she did was masterful.

Though the look was lovely, it was a mask. I didn’t look at all like myself. I didn’t even look like an improved version of myself. I just looked like a different woman. On top of that, I could feel the makeup on my skin, a thick, humid mask, suffocating my epidermis. It was disgusting. The foundation was too thick, the lipstick kept smearing on everything, and I was so highlighted that I glowed like a Twilight vampire. (I should note here that my overall skin tone is very pale, and it’s one of my favorite features, so I’m not necessarily upset to look like a vampire, just HOLY SHIT this wasn’t a costume look – this was a recommendation for my “basic” look for work.)

I can rationalize that everything I’ve talked about thus far can be corrected. I can put on less foundation. I can skip a majority of the highlighting and contouring. I can tone down the lipstick, skip the bottom lid eyeliner, and make sure that everything is smudge proof and ready for all kinds of weather. These are all fixes. I can still learn from my experience, even if the lesson is more about what I dislike than what I like.

But the real experience came after I stepped out of Sephora.

I live about 20 minutes’ walk from the center of the French Quarter, and had arrived at the makeup lesson appointment wearing a yoga capris and a t-shirt, with my hair up in a headband. I love that look, especially now that I’m losing weight. It’s not fancy – but neither am I. I’m interested in long hikes, contraband whisky flasks and beef jerky tucked into the bottom of a 60L pack, sharing big thoughts around a small campfire. I know who I am. I am disappointed that I haven’t yet met my match out here, but hell, maybe that will never happen until I get out of this town, or get out from behind a blog, or who knows what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m figuring it out, right?

Anyway, you might be able to see where this is going. I walked out of the Sephora and got ogled within the first minute. And again, and again, and again…all the way home. People were openly smiling and flirty in a way they just typically aren’t, and at a volume that made me wholy uncomfortable. It wasn’t rude, but it wasn’t welcome, either. I felt like here I am, pretty awesome and still somehow invisible, but then I slap a fake face and all of a sudden NOW I’m worthy of being seen? What’s the point of it? Why live like that? Why do we do this to ourselves as women? And no wonder we find ourselves conditioned to feel worthless and ugly in our own skin, when the truth of the matter is that it’s fucking difficult and lonely to remain naked and vulnerable, when we know that wearing a mask will get us instant results. It’s so much easier to give up and just hide our selves, and accept the resulting second rate attention focused solely on this illusion of physical attractiveness.

Lucky for me, I’m shit at lying. I just can’t stomach wearing a fake face. I might have trouble loving myself, but that’s OK, I can keep working on it. And if finding myself means staying alone for the long haul, by the gods I can haul better than most anyone. I’ll make exactly the amount of effort that makes ME feel pretty and loved by MYSELF, and not one step more. I think that after Mardi Gras, I’m going to look for another makeup artist to see if I can get a different perspective from someone with a much lighter hand. I’m definitely buying that under eye brightening cream, though – MAGIC.

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The Importance of “No”

I’m emotionally worn out. It’s been many, many days since I had a solid chunk of alone time, and for me that’s a very unhealthy thing. As I write this, I’m trying to do the math in my head on when the last day was that I got to wake up, do my own thing, and not have to interact with any other people for the whole day. Maybe Sunday, February 3rd?

So when’s the next day that I can potentially have the entire day to myself to recharge? That’s easy – March 2nd. This is no good. This is mentally and emotionally damaging for me. We’re talking Code Red.

The thing is, it’s so damn hard to explain to people who enjoy socializing why it’s actually zero fun to go to yet another social engagement. Like, negative fun. Think more along the lines of torture. There’s a reason I look miserable sitting here at the bar, sans cocktail, and it’s not because I’d prefer to have a whiskey in hand – it’s because I really, SERIOUSLY, can only scrape up the energy for one decent social engagement per week, and I’m WAY over my allotment by this point.

It’s Mardi Gras season here in New Orleans, which means that there are a million and one parades and parties and “fun times” to be had. Turning down social engagements one night elicits odd looks, but two nights gets you a squadron of Jewish grandmother wannabes, all guilting you for being not just a party pooper, but a bad friend.

And try as I might, explaining that this isn’t something I enjoy gets me sympathetic looks and nods, followed by a “But it’s Mardi Gras! It’s fun!” No it’s fucking not, Karen. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like loud noises. I don’t like people I don’t know touching me. I loathe people throwing things at me, and don’t even get me started on MOOP. The reason I like to stand at the back of the crowd is because the entire time, I’m dealing with a flight or fight response, and my #1 impulse is to throw an elbow at the next person who touches me.

Giving up alcohol has taught me, most of all, that the reason I drink is to deal with how much I dislike social engagements. Not because I need social lubrication, as much as because I’m bored and don’t want to engage in the inane, surface level bullshit conversations that abound in bars.

Anyway, this post isn’t supposed to be about being angry and annoyed as much as it is a reminder for me to say no. I went to a parade tonight even though I was exhausted and didn’t want to. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to adequately explain that I wanted to go home and hide, so I ended up going to not one, but two bars with friends. I enjoyed talking with them, but ultimately, all I wanted to do was get into my pajamas and hit the hay. I’m tired. My life force is on low battery. My entire 10 hour work day is all about talking with people about inane crap that doesn’t actually matter. I don’t want to be forced to make more small talk on my own time. I want peace and quiet, a good book, and a cat or three.

Tomorrow I have to go to a hair class, a parade practice, and a makeup class, and then there’s another fucking parade that is apparently everyone’s most favorite thing that they’ve ever done in their entire lives, and so I must want to love to see it too. (Spoiler alert: no, I do not.) My assignment for tomorrow is to just say no and stay home. Wish me luck.

February Level Up

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One of my Bold Goals for the year was to learn something new every month, and since it makes me happy to give things official titles, I’ve decided to call this my Level Up. As in, “How are you leveling up this month?” It doesn’t have to be a HUGE undertaking, like teaching myself to crochet – just something creative that will add depth and beauty to my life.

Even though I didn’t specifically announce it, my January Level Up was joining a Mardi Gras dance group and learning to be a chorus girl. Of course, this is an ongoing project (I’ve actually got practice tonight), but the hardest part is getting started, and that’s what I did last month. Pretty sure we’re going to find out what our parade/performance costumes will look like at tonight’s practice, and I’m super excited. The group’s costume designer showed us the base piece last week, and hands up for sequins and short skirts!

Next Saturday, we also have a hair tutorial for creating the perfect 1930’s inspired chorus girl curls. In fact, the upcoming hair tutorial is what inspired my February Level Up. Confession: I am not really big into hair and makeup. It’s something I find pretty, but overall I’m low-maintenance (I seldom wear makeup to work, and consider it a great morning if I remember to brush my hair). It’s not that I don’t enjoy getting dolled up, but I don’t find it necessary the way some people do. I’m already pretty without the paint, and if I can’t wake up, get ready, and get out the door in under ten minutes, things need to be cut from my routine. When I do apply makeup, it’s a very simple routine and a natural look, and takes me about three minutes of application time.

As disgusting as it might be to me, I recognize the need in our society to be physically attractive in order to be respected as a woman, especially in my visible position as an events professional. Since my goal at work is to get promoted in the next two months, work one more year in New Orleans, and then get promoted out of the city, I need to do the extra work to make sure I’m noticed and elevated. I’ve scheduled a makeup lesson at Sephora this month to revamp my products and see if they can help me find a way to upgrade my look without wasting too much time. While I’m there, I’ll pick up the makeup that I need for chorus girl looks (no natural beauty there – I need red lips, rouged cheeks, and horror of horrors, fake eyelashes).

Let’s just state for the record that I don’t HATE makeup. I love costuming and creating fanciful looks for going out, so learning how to do a vintage glam look for dancing will be really fun. But the regular, every day me is more of an outdoors girl who thrives with a touch of sun screen and some tinted lip gloss. Having to smother my skin to be respected as a professional is just such a stifling reality. Since having to look a certain way at the office really galls me, I’m hoping that maybe taking a lesson from a professional will help me start getting excited about the creative aspect of the process. If I can see it as a form of self-expression rather than another way that society tries to quell our individuality, I’ll be much better off. Fingers crossed.

Russian Doll

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Tonight I gave myself a little break and binged a TV show, and I have absolutely no regrets. My friend and I went grocery shopping, and afterwards we went back to her house and had dinner. We typically end up watching a movie when we’re hanging out at her place, but the synopsis for “Russian Doll” looked so good that we decided to just try the first episode. Yeah right. Five episodes later, she decided it was time to go to bed, and I knew that there was no way I could go to sleep without watching the whole thing. So here I am, having signed up for 30 days of free Netflix, just to finish watching the show!

I won’t bother writing a full fledged review (but here’s what Vanity Fair says about “Russian Doll”), since this blog is more about why I’m trying not to watch television than what I think when I DO watch it. However, I’ve loved Natasha Lyonne since first seeing her in “Slums of Beverly Hills,” so it was such a pleasure to get to watch her in eight episodes of time loop madness.

At the base level, I guess you could say that the show gave me hope – for the power of friendship, the intricacy of connection within neighborhoods and friend groups, the magic of choosing kindness, and of course, the importance of badass deli cats. It’s a small world, and we have to figure out how to live here. We all have our coping mechanisms, and if we’re lucky, we find people to support us in our endeavors. Here’s to seeking the light, and learning to thrive.

Regulation

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It’s officially been a month since beginning my experiment with no alcohol, television, or Facebook. I’ve also been drinking more water, drinking less coffee, taking a magnesium/melatonin supplement at night and a probiotic/green juice supplement in the morning, and following a twice-daily skincare routine. The results of all of this are predictable, but somehow I find I’m still surprised. Pretty much all of this, aside from the skincare routine, is serving one purpose. My body and mind have stopped swinging wildly back and forth. My mood (of which there was only one – “FREAK OUT!!!! BUT HIDE IT BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL KNOW YOU’RE WEIRD!!!!”) – is beginning to regulate.

I’ve read 15 books in a month. My output at work has increased, while my work anxiety has drastically diminished. I have found it far easier to devote mental energy toward my own growth, rather than the cultivation of my rather detailed and pointless romantic fantasy life. It’s kind of amazing how overwrought my imagination can be. Maybe now that I’m cutting back on building fake futures with imaginary people, I can use those fanciful thoughts to write books or make art.

As far as sleep is concerned, though I still find myself procrastinating at bedtime, I fall asleep quickly, and sleep relatively soundly. This is a huge change for me, and one that I am still not certain is here to stay. Sleep is so important, and for the past few years, it has seemed ethereal, at best. It feels like it could be taken from me again, so I can’t afford to get cocky. In less than a month, I went from needing anti-anxiety meds and a dose of valerian to *sometimes* be able to *maybe* get four or five hours of sleep without lying in bed with my heart racing, to sleeping seven or eight hours a night, with a natural wake up at some point to drink a glass of water and pass back out. I’ve only had one anxiety-ridden night in a whole month. This is huge.

What’s strange is that when I was putting together my Bold Goals for the year, I didn’t consciously connect the fact that giving up the so-called “time wasters” (social media, television, drinking, emotional eating, etc.) had anything to do with curbing my anxiety issues. I was more concerned with forcing myself to stop procrastinating and start living. One of my goals for the year was to work on lessening my anxiety, but I didn’t really connect procrastination and anxiety together. I guess this isn’t too surprising, as I don’t believe I could see how interconnected my anxiety triggers were, given that I was white knuckling through my life. It’s hard to see the dangers when everything around you seems to have sharp edges.

So far, cutting the pointless noise of time wasters out of my life has functioned very similarly to cutting refined sugar out of your diet. Have you ever noticed how, having eaten one slice of cake, you now crave more carbs – sugary soda, bread, potatoes, it doesn’t matter, just GIVE ME MORE!?!? It’s generally never a good choice. It’s enjoyable for about two seconds, until your stomach hurts and you get all crazy from the sugar rush, then you crash like a toddler about an hour later. The same thing happens with the time wasters. It’s a momentary jolt of excitement, followed by hours of mindless semi-engagement and background dismay/guilt/disappointment, and after that a poor night’s sleep because I’m anxious about all of the things that didn’t get done because I couldn’t tear myself away from Facebook stalking or binge watching some show on Netflix that won’t mean anything to me three days from now.

Another good thing (TMI warning – I’m going to talk about bodily functions, so stop reading now if you get grossed out easily) about staying hydrated, getting more rest, and being calm is that it’s helping to regulate my digestion. Or who knows, maybe regulating my digestion is making me calm. It’s probably a little of both. They say that your gut is your second brain.

The giant glass of water every morning is followed by a green juice/probiotic supplement, and then I try to eat yogurt with honey and berries or apples. Lunch always has added fiber of some sort – generally something from the salad bar at work – and dinner is simple whole foods, like eggs and a veggie stir fry. Many, many glasses of water throughout the day, added flax seed wherever I can, and the magnesium supplement at night mean that my generally sluggish digestion has been pretty regular for the last week and a half. (It’s taken me all month to get to a point where I’m comfortable setting a routine in this department, and that’s OK. I can take my time, and I can change anything at any time if it’s not working.)

Oh yeah, that’s another thing. I’ve started being very clear with myself that I’m not allowed to be a bully anymore. It’s OK to have plans and schedules, but in my personal life, not meeting an imaginary timeline doesn’t automatically make me a failure. Straying completely off course doesn’t make me a failure. Changing my mind completely – pulling a 180, even – is OK. It doesn’t make me a failure. The only thing that makes me a failure is cruelty to myself or others. I’ll always support what I can see is in someone else’s heart, so why not offer myself that same loving hand up?

This has me thinking about my worth in a different way, too. I’m suddenly looking forward to investing in myself. It’s not “fixing” my undesirable parts or hiding my flaws. It’s emphasizing my strengths and finding ways to appreciate and bolster my differences. I am beautiful. I have worth. There’s nothing here that needs to be replaced or forgotten. I have this feeling that if I continue to take care of my brain, giving myself space and time, minimizing my exposure to things that make me anxious and scared and otherwise emotionally unwell, I will naturally also begin to hone what it is that makes me powerful, memorable, and unique.

No matter what, I’m excited to continue this journey. I’m staying off of Facebook, and have decided to continue to abstain from alcohol and television for as long as it suits me. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for bed. Saturday morning means no alarm clock. Bliss.

Ob La Di, Ob La Da

It’s Day 27 of 2019, and to quote the Beatles, “Lala, how the life goes on.” It’s a curious feeling, knowing that everything’s both the same and different. Here I am, same person, just a slightly different way of looking at things.

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of refraining from the time wasters and keeping up with my learning/doing goals:

Social Media: My chorus girl group communicates primarily through a FB group page that we’re required to check daily, so I have been back on Facebook. However, I give myself 5 minutes a day, and am only looking at the group page. I’ve been doing my best to keep Instagram to a minimum, but have also tried to balance that with improving my image quality, so I go back and forth there, really.

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Click through for my Instagram page.

Television: So far this month, I’ve watched one movie at a friend’s house. It’s much harder living without television than I’d thought it would be, mostly because I just love stories so much. I’m hoping that by keeping myself away from Netflix and Hulu, eventually it will encourage my brain to shift and focus more on writing my own stories than watching others’. We’ll see.

52 Books A Year: I’m well ahead on reading. I’ve read 14 books so far this month, and yesterday I FINALLY accomplished a goal that I’ve had for about 12 years now – I visited the nearest library and got a new library card! It was a pleasure to realize that even though the local library branch is pretty tiny, they’ve still got a nice non-fiction section. I chose a funny memoir by an airline attendant, another funny memoir by a Zen Buddhist monk, and a book on Norse mythology.

Stepping Out of Comfort Zone + Learning A New Thing Each Month: Dance has been going well. I’ve got the basics of both our performance routine and the parade routine down, and am not too worried about getting it really tight by the time we are called to perform. Our parade is in late February, and I was pleased to find great deals on parade shoes and my character heels for the “stage” performance (whether or not there will actually be a stage remains to be determined). After some serious bargain shopping, I found gently used pairs of shoes on Poshmark, and together with shipping, the two pairs cost me slightly less than one brand new pair of parade shoes would have cost. Pretty stoked about that, especially as it means I won’t have to work quite so hard to break everything in (for being an avid hiker, I’ve always had stupidly tender feet, and do a lot of work to avoid blisters and bruising, so it’s nice that one small step is done).

Self Care: I have to admit that I fell down on the job with my skincare routine these last few days. I’ve still been using serums and moisturizer, but I’ve been washing my face once a day rather than twice, as directed. I’m not sure if I’ve seen much of a difference over the course of this month, anyway, but I’m still interested in working at it, at least until I run out of product.

Alcohol: Still haven’t had a drink, and can’t say I miss it. The worst thing about not drinking is that I’m even more strongly reminded of just how far removed I am from the social engagements that I would truly enjoy attending. I enjoy learning, playing games, dancing, being active, exploring, creating things, but I don’t have a social outlet for these things in New Orleans. It’s not that I won’t ever be able to find the right people; it’s just that, for the moment, I haven’t found my niche. It’s nice to see this for what it is. The next step is to figure out how to fix it.

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Other Time Wasters: I haven’t really talked about it here, but one MASSIVE time waster that I was looking to give up this year is men. This doesn’t mean that I’m not keeping my heart open in case the right weirdo comes along, but my life has been one agonizing dead-end crush after another (and sometimes a few, piled up on top of each other), interspersed with relationships where I put in 80% of the emotional labor, lose my personality, drain my bank account, and am eventually left behind as an empty, sad little husk that has to rebuild from scratch. Of course, being a Scorpio, I do love to burn it all down and start over again, but I’m 37 now, and I’m very, very tired.

All this being said, I don’t know that I’ve ever loved myself as much as I do right now, and I really just want to spend my energy on myself from here on out. So far, I feel pretty good about not letting my daydreams and momentary crushes waltz out of control this year. I’m proud that I’ve been practical and have been able to rein myself in when I felt any flights of fancy coming on. I’m sure there will always be some girlish intrigues on my mental platter, since it keeps life fun, but I need to focus on being able to clearly see things for what they are. Hopefully, working on just being the best possible me will attract someone genuine and self-sufficient, who can take up his own parallel track. If not, I need to find a way to be OK with that, too.

Chorus Baby

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Image via The Times Picayune. Click here to read “40 Nutty Mardi Gras Dance and Marching Groups…and Counting

Earlier this week, I let wrote a tiny post about joining a Mardi Gras dance group. As of today, I’ve been to two practices, so I thought I’d give you an update, plus a slightly better explanation of just what it is I’m doing.

First off, for anyone who doesn’t live in New Orleans or know much about Mardi Gras, a little background on what I mean by “dance group.” If you’ve ever watched a television program that featured Mardi Gras, you might have some idea of what a parade looks like here. First off, parades are funded and thrown by a social group called a “krewe.” A typical parade will feature large, colorful floats, pulled by tractors. Most of the time, the floats are coordinated to match the theme of that year’s parade – some themes are political and/or satirical, others are magical and family-oriented. There are many parades each Mardi Gras season, and there’s something for everyone.

Parades are made up of multiple components. No two parades feature the same make-up, but generally speaking, the bigger parades have floats, marching bands, and dancing/walking groups. Some parades have people on horseback, the bigger ones have flambeau men (people who carry these special flaming torches), and then there are other groups that have special contraptions to get around (for instance, my mind immediately brings up the Krewe of the Rolling Elvi, a group of Elvis and Priscilla impersonators who ride scooters and other wheeled devices).

Though there have always been dancing and walking groups, they’ve gone in and out of popularity over the years. When I first moved here nearly 20 years ago, there weren’t very many dancing groups that allowed adult participation. I remember being absolutely in love with the school color guard and dance teams that marched alongside school marching bands (check out the video of all of the marching bands in one of the biggest Mardi Gras parades, Bacchus, above).

One of my friends even dressed up as a schoolgirl majorette for a couple of Halloweens, just because we were all so obsessed with getting to wear those cute little ankle boots with the pom poms, and OMG, the sparkly leotard and little matching headband! I was bummed that I’d never had the chance to do something like that in high school (though I did march in every local parade as an Air Force JROTC drill team member).

Fast forward a few years, and suddenly, adult dance groups started to pop up. It turns out that my friends and I weren’t the only ones getting wistful about missed opportunities to strut our stuff. I moved to Chicago in 2008, and upon my return in 2012, swore that “next year” I would join a dance group. “Next year” kept getting pushed back, and now here we are.

(It strikes me that this is actually me following my own advice – “Girl, get your shit together!” – look ma, I did! I have! I’m gathering this shit, and dragging it with me as I dance my ass down St. Charles Avenue next month!)

Anyway, I always wanted to join a dance group that actually danced in the parade, not just got drunk and staggered down the street for the entire 6 miles of parade route. Believe it or not, this is a thing. I’ve also marched with Krewe of Chewbacchus as a Red Shirt (parade security) for a few years, and am all too familiar with the drunk folks walking in the parade, and drunk folks walking outside of the parade, and the very specific fun that is involved with keeping the two groups separated. This all goes to say that you’ve got to be selective about what parade groups you join, and make sure that they’re going to fit with your personal needs and aesthetic. I just wanted to put more effort into the routine, and look smoking hot strutting my stuff, you know?

But as you might expect, the groups that work really hard on dance routines also have auditions to choose new members. Some really popular groups, like the Pussyfooters, require you to be sponsored by current members to get in, then there are hours of mandatory volunteer work, and the costumes are intense. I love them so much, but I’m not cut out for that level of commitment. I’d never make it into Sparkle Motion.

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I needed a group with a short rehearsal window and a sense of humor. I also wanted a group that was known for adorable costumes, and was hoping for a place where I could meet friends and continue to dance throughout the year if things worked out with parading. I also love old dance movies, and am minorly obsessed with Weimar Era Germany, so any chance to wear a bob and do some synchronized dancing to old jazz is kind of a dream come true.

Miracle of miracles, I’m pretty sure I’ve found exactly where I belong, with the NOLA Chorus Girls. It’s not a traditional Mardi Gras-centric dance group, which is something that I think works in my favor. It’s kind of a cross between a dance class, performance team, and social group. The membership works in sessions, and you can sign up for as many sessions as you’d like, and take a break whenever you’d like.

Every session learns a new dance routine, and every performer has the chance to perform the routine they’ve learned in a public venue at least once per session. During the Mardi Gras session, we get to learn TWO routines – one for the parade, and one to perform at a later date. There are two rehearsals per week this session – one for the parade, and one for the regular dance routine.

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Sexpot Marlene Dietrich in ‘Der blaue Engel’ (1929)

My first rehearsal was Wednesday, and I fell in love immediately. Our teachers (aka. “Dance Moms”) are funny, kind, and informal, while being super knowledgeable. They made it clear that we’re all here to have fun and learn together, and that we don’t need to feel pressured to perform perfectly or to even perform at all, if we don’t want to. The laid back vibes and warm welcome made me instantly comfortable.

We spent most of the class period introducing ourselves and talking about costumes, makeup, and other assorted factors that will come into play for the performances. The last portion of class was spent learning some of the routine (cue sheepish grins from Dance Moms who’d let us gab for a lot longer than originally intended). There were about 30 of us in the class, and we fell into the practice with little effort, and lots of smiles. I was sad to go at the end of the night, and found myself already planning a future as a chorus girl.

Today was our first parade practice, and there were at least 80 of us. There are three separate groups of dancers, meeting Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to learn the same dance routine. Some (but probably not all) of those dancers are also performing in the parade, and then there are parade performers who are not learning the routine during the week. It makes for an interesting mix, and was fun getting to hang out with so many women, all excited to learn a new, but old-fashioned, parade routine set to old-timey jazz. We practiced marching to the beat, then learned part of the parade routine and practiced doing it in formation down the street. I feel pretty good about how much I could remember, given that it was my first day trying it.

At some point, I’ll share more specific insights about learning to be a chorus girl, and what shoes, makeup, hair, and costume look like. I’m cautiously hopeful that I’ll make a friend or two. I love our teachers already, and there are a couple of women that I already feel comfortable chatting with, so fingers crossed at succeeding in dance and life, all in one fell swoop!