Posts tagged salt lake city

Choices

2

I remember waiting for the bus in Salt Lake one day while a bag lady with a shopping cart was making her way down the sidewalk. Her shopping cart was so full of cargo that things would fall out every few feet and she’d have to stop to pick them up.

I must have muttered something like “that sucks” out loud, because the man standing next to me at the bus stop answered me:

“Choices,” he said, as though correcting me.

At first I honestly thought that maybe he knew the lady or her story so that he could say something like that, but it only took a moment to realize that it was just his opinion of the homeless. I was bothered that he had said it, but I said nothing.

I still regret not going to help her put her things back in the cart.

Shelter

2

It was just barely a year ago that Kelly and I moved out of our apartment in Salt Lake.¬†We were using a POD to move so that we wouldn’t have to drive a U-Haul truck across the Cascade mountains in the middle of the winter (which ended up being a great choice: it was hard enough getting the little Honda over those mountains while they were covered in thick snow). We’d already fixed the schedule for the POD, so we had to scramble (and go without sleep) to get everything packed in time, but we made it (barely).

We spent our last night in our basement-sweet-basement the same way that we would spend our first nights in our apartment here in Seattle: on a blow up mattress in an otherwise empty apartment.

The next day we cleaned the apartment and packed up the car to go. We had some things that we weren’t taking with us, either extra boxes that we needed to recycle or things that we needed to donate. We had other errands to run before we drove out of town (both moving and Christmas preparations) so we split up to get it all done.

Among the things that we were donating was a pair of pillows. I don’t know if we thought that the DI wouldn’t take them or if we had some other reasons, but for some reason we thought that it would be better to give the pillows to the homeless instead. That was on my errand route, along with the recycling (which I would have been just as happy to throw away, but you know Kelly). So I hunted around for a recycle bin big enough to hold cardboard boxes, and then headed over to the homeless shelter. (I had contemplated offering the boxes to the homeless, too, but it just seemed a little too much like rubbing it in, so I stuck with the pillows.)

It was late by the time I got to the shelter, and the street was empty (unlike other times when I’d been running past there and the street was full of homeless people). At first I was a little confused about which building it was; for some reason I’d always thought that it was on the opposite side of the road. It didn’t help that the sign said something generic, like “community center”. There was another sign on the building, though, saying that I could drive around back with the donations, honk, and someone would come out to get them. But there were hours for the donation drop-off, and I was there too late. I felt stupid, and I almost turned around and drove away.

(Have you ever sat outside of a business and been indecisive about whether you should go inside or not? Maybe you’re thinking of getting some gift and you’re not sure if it’s right, or maybe you’re at some office building without an appointment and you’re afraid of being laughed to scorn for just walking in uninvited. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s a familiar feeling.)

As I was sitting there getting in and out of my car, a homeless man walked by. He had been looking in a garbage can down the street and was now moving on to another one. As he walked past, he asked me if I knew what time it was. I told him, and he walked on. There wasn’t anything more to the exchange than that, but for some reason that did it for me.

I walked up to the main doors with my pillows, still feeling stupid, convinced that they’d just tell me that I should have read the sign outside and known to come during donation hours. The doors were locked, but the lady at the front desk saw me and buzzed me in.

Inside the air smelled like urine. It wasn’t the sadly subtle kind of smell that a nursing home has. It reeked of it. It was almost over-powering.

“Front desk” might be the wrong word for where the lady that had let me in was sitting. It was just a folding table (like from a cultural hall event) with a clipboard where she had been letting people sign in. She asked what I was there for, and I sheepishly told her I had these pillows and thought someone might like them. She didn’t seem phased at all, and just sent me down the hall to (what I think was) the nurses’ station to give them the pillows.

When I got to the end of the hallway I saw the scene that makes me still think of this event. There were probably 40 people there, lying on the floor, fully clothed and covered in blankets. I don’t know what the rooms looked like, but I assume they were full if all of these people were out here on the hallway floor.

I gave the man at the nurses’ station the pillows. He offered a receipt for tax purposes, which obviously I didn’t need for my measly donation. And that was it. No further exchange. I left and drove away.

It was such a small moment in my life. The whole thing probably only lasted 10 minutes. It’s funny how sometimes small moments have big memories.

"Most Improved" and other burning instead of beauty

12

Last week I saw an advertisement for a permanent make-up company in Salt Lake, and I was going to write a post about it, but I got lazy and didn’t do it. This week I found a new catalyst in that the young women in my ward are having a presentation on make-up as part of their weekly activity night.

Before I get into the particulars of my catalysts, let me just explain why I have a problem with make-up. I know there’s a lot of potential issues with make-up or even with fashion in general, especially when you try to reconcile it with religion, but I think the thing that sets make-up apart from other fashions is how intertwined it becomes with a woman’s self-esteem. If it were treated the same way as picking a belt or a pair of shoes, then I don’t think I would care. But it’s not treated the same. It becomes such a part of a woman’s identity that she is convinced that she is not pretty without it, and she’s uncomfortable being seen in public until after she has her face painted.

Cultural traditions are complicated and I know there’s probably a lot of factors that have gone into making and keeping make-up so connected to self-esteem as it is. I don’t know what’s to blame for that, but I do see that the make-up companies realize this connection and that they prey on women because of it, taking advantage of self-esteem issues to sell their products. You could probably make an example out of any number of advertising campaigns, but one that is particularly obvious to me is Mary Kay. When they have their little make-up parties to sell the product in women’s homes, they actually vote on who is the “most improved” because of the new make-up.

I don’t really know what my ward’s agenda is with this activity for the young women or how they’re going to present it. I think it’s entirely possible that they’re going to have a very tasteful presentation and try to teach the girls to be moderate in how they wear their make-up. Even that, though, I think is potentially damaging to the young women.

I’ve seen those reality shows where they give a woman a make-over, which usually involves teaching her how to properly use her make-up. I haven’t seen a lot of these shows, but every one that I have seen tells the woman to be more moderate and more sparing in how she applies her make-up. That’s fine. The problem is that even this approach (or especially this approach?) teaches the woman that this is the way that her face is meant to be painted. The make-over teaches her what clothes are in style, and maybe what is flattering to her out of that style, but with the make-up it teaches her what matches her, as though it is something permanent that her face needs and not something that changes with the seasons and her moods like other fashions. It teaches her that this is the right look for her features and complexion. Even if the end result is that she wears less make-up than before, it still emphasizes the idea that there is a correct look for this particular woman and that it is only achievable through the application of make-up.

So regardless of the intent, I’d just be afraid that by teaching the young women to use make-up, you’re really just teaching them that they need make-up.

Maybe it’s an extension of that idea that there is a single correct look for a woman’s face and that make-up achieves it that has led our society to the idea of permanent make-up. Anything permanent and unchangeable makes me nervous and I think the fact that there are women who are willing to have their make-up permanently attached just emphasizes how much the industry has convinced them of their inadequacy without it.

There is an additional thing that bothers me about permanent make-up. I’m sure that Salt Lake has more ads for tattoo removal than for tattoo parlors, but permanent make-up has no problem fitting in with all of the other ads for permanently changing a person’s body to fit some arbitrary image of beauty. The part of this that really bothers me is that some of the same people who have religious reasons for thinking that tattoos are immoral can think that permanent make-up is just fine. You do realize that they are the same thing, right? The only difference is the shape of the tattoo that you’re getting, but it’s still a tattoo. I think the women who find themselves in favor of permanent make-up but against traditional tattoos have forgotten why they are against tattoos in the first place. It’s so easy to be swept up in a cultural stereotype, but before long we forget our values and just start thinking that the definition of our religion is the same as our niche in that culture.

I guess it makes sense that the cultural associations blur the lines between make-up and tattoos for some women. After all, it’s only because of cultural associations that permanent make-up could ever have an appeal in the first place. Women have been taught that they don’t look good without it, and that they should always wear it whenever they are visible to anyone else, so it seems like an inconsequential step to have it permanently attached. Societal pressures have already permanently inked the make-up to our identity, so why not to skin?

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