Veda is a pretty woman, if you consider dark-skinned women pretty, and I do. I told her once that I thought she looked especially pretty – she was dressed up, had some sort of function to attend – and she looked me up and down, and pressed her lips together. It’s hard, trying to prove to some of the mothers that it isn’t a competition, that you don’t care what you look like and besides about, oh, three or so children will use you as a napkin before the day is over. Eventually you realize it’s impossible, because they’re eyeing all the women – not only the other teachers, but the other mothers, the nannies, the summer interns, the highschool volunteers.
And suddenly every decision you make regarding your appearance is beset by thorns. Can I use coloured lip balm or will my lips look too red? Should I blot out my lips with foundation entirely, maybe? Wait, is that a pimple? Oh shit, I’m breaking out. It isn’t wrong to cover that up with a bit of powder, right? I want to curl my eyelashes – but maybe that looks too “done”.
Elsa wears less makeup to school with each passing week. She’s started wearing looser clothing too. The other day I found her staring at the mirror in the children’s bathroom, staring deeply, as if she were trying to guess the intentions of a friendly stranger.