My upcoming memior with the working title, The Makeup Artist Must Die: Taking Off the Mask, shows my transformation in learning how to take off the mask of not just cosmetics, but also insecurty, perpetual hiding, and our cultures dictations of what it means to be a woman. I am seeking representation for the book, and hope you enjoy reading chapter seven in my ten chapter memoir.
Ch.7 Aliens, Politicians, and Life in the Greenroom
Six months after the girls and I moved to Boulder, Colorado, from Ellensburg, and about two weeks after Marian called from Gaia TV needing a makeup artist, I worked on my first Gaia show called Beyond Belief, with George Noory. Ruby was in sixth grade, and Ripley in fourth in a K-8 school that was walking distance from our apartment in Boulder. I found a reliable babysitter for after-school care, and set to work growing my business. Now forty-seven years old, my determination to get a job as a copywriter was lessening, and my focus on working as a freelance makeup artist was taking shape. In the Colorado media market, an artist had to be able to work in television, print, film, and weddings in order to make a living. Unlike my experience in DC, which was mainly in live television and video production, I now had to develop a website and reach out to photographers to get print jobs and test with models. In time, I began working with an agent and developed a broader professional reach for my skills.
Arriving at my first shoot with Gaia, though, I felt apprehensive. Much of my nervousness came from the fact that my alimony from Jim would stop in a month and I would be left with just child support and a part-time job at Nordstrom with Chanel cosmetics. With a certain amount of commitment from Gaia for their other shows, I would be able to quit Nordstrom and focus solely on being a freelance artist. A lot was at stake. I quickly unpacked my makeup and hair supplies in the newly built and spacious greenroom and headed into the control room to meet the director, producer, and other production crewmembers working the show that day.
In my due diligence researching the company, I’d discovered that Gaia TV operated as an online subscription-based network devoted to developing human consciousness and included talk shows, documentaries, and films on subjects like aliens, conspiracies, and government cover-ups. George Noory, with his popular late-night radio talk show, Coast to Coast, had all the connections to bring his guests from radio to Gaia television. My own experience with live television had taught me that you can say just about anything if you look good and are relatively convincing, and that 90 percent of what’s said on camera is probably false. Because of this, I didn’t trust or watch news, and I certainly didn’t adhere to conspiracy theories, although given the enormous amount of deceit I had observed at the networks, I felt that most conspiracy theories were probably grounded in some morsel of truth. Before most politicians went on camera at the networks, his or her advisors would discuss how to spin information while I made them up. If anyone knows how to conceal, manipulate, and avoid discussing certain topics with strategic stealth, it is the politician.
“Hi, I’m Jason the producer.” The man approaching me was in his early sixties, tall with wild silver hair, and wearing a dirty blue shirt. “Marian said you’d be able to handle all of the madness here. I mean, you’ve dealt with politicians the most corrupt people on the planet so this should be easy.” Jason chuckled, fiddling with the tail of his shirt that refused to be tucked in.
“I’m good with madness, and glad to be away from politicians,” I responded with a grin.
Everyone else on the crew busied themselves setting up for the first forty-minute show, where George would interview his guest in front of a live studio audience. In total, George would host four shows that day, with four guests in back-to-back succession. As I studied the lighting for the show in preparation for the best makeup to use, George and the first guest arrived and I got to work.
Once they were made up and on set, I sat in the control room to watch the show until the next guest arrived. As I tuned into the interview, the guest was gesturing wildly with his hands.
“9/11 was absolutely an inside job,” Noory’s guest said as the studio audience sat riveted.
“The planes taking out the Twin Towers is the seminal event that the Bush administration has used to subvert civil liberties, conduct preemptive wars, and bring the world perilously closer to chaos,” the tall, balding man said.
“How was the administration able to make this attack look like it came from terrorists and not the powerful leaders you say actually planned it?” asked George, cocking his head to one side in interest.
As the guest continued on, Jason leaned over to me in the control room and asked, grinning, “So what do you think?”
“I . . . I have no idea, but it’s pretty interesting,” I stuttered, wanting to be accepting but not too committal on my first booking with the company.
“I tell you something else that will blow your mind,” he said, relishing in the opportunity to show all his secret underground knowledge, “Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse are the same person. She put out two albums and didn’t expect them both to do so well, so she had to pick who she was going to be, and she chose Lady Gaga,” he said with a mischievous grin. “She killed off Amy Winehouse on purpose . . .” he enunciated slowly, and then doubled over laughing at my expression.
“Really?” I gaped. “How do you know this?” I felt gullible and uncomfortable talking to Jason, as I inwardly grappled with how to respond to his attempt to shock me. Questioning his claim wasn’t good for my job prospects since he was head of content for all the shows, but sitting there like a wide-eyed schoolgirl felt somewhat minimizing as well. Men are allowed to debate and disagree, but in women this quality tends not to be tolerated. Compliance, for women, is taken as a good thing. Given this truth, I decided to go along with the story.
“Just look at pictures of both women, and you’ll see that it’s the same person. Plus, I know insiders in Hollywood that told me it’s true,” Jason confirmed. As I got to know him better, I would learn that he adhered to fringe ideas like that the moon landing was fake and the investors blew up the Titanic because it was a money loser. He reminded me of one of those crazy geniuses like Pythagoras who develop the Pythagorean theorem and democracy but also believed that beans are evil and that we should be pacifists, but then died in a fist fight. Jason’s intensity was such that he would bounce of the walls in the studio and then try to secretly exit the building to take a few hits of marijuana in his car before returning to the set. I was horrified and fascinated by him.
As the show that day continued, I went into the makeup room to ready for the next person. The previous day, after receiving the call sheet, I had looked up each guest so that I’d know who they were and what they were up to. I wanted to be able to talk to them on their level about things they were interested in. The next interviewee, Corey Goode, claimed to have been abducted by aliens as a child. He postulated that he had been taken to live off-planet in the secret space program and now was stepping forward to tell the truth about aliens, the government, and the future of our world. He was a sensitive and kind man, but his message about our planet being controlled by a secret organization called The Illuminate, and his recommendations to raise the consciousness of humanity to effectively combat the evil of this group, shocked me when I read his website. I had heard of such people, and their claims were disconcerting and put my on edge. I didn’t like living in a fearful state, so I didn’t consider too deeply those things that frightened me. Now as I studied his face as I made him up, I mustered up my courage to ask him a few questions.
“What’s it like to come forward and talk about all of this scary stuff?” I asked.
“It’s hard,” Corey said softly, “because I’m saying things that the establishment doesn’t want out in the open. I fear for my family sometimes, but I feel I have a responsibility to share this information,” he conceded without a drop of arrogance or ego.
“Does knowing all of this raise peoples consciousness and bring enlightenment, or just create a lot of fear?” I asked. “I’m wondering how to handle this knowledge. I mean, I have two kids and I have to feed them and pay bills and stuff.” Talking with Corey was already convincing me that he was telling the truth about his experiences.
“It can either raise awareness or make you build an underground shelter, it just depends on how you look at it,” he said with the calmness of a man used to such questions.
“I honestly don’t think anyone would say the things you say unless there were some truth to it, even though, for me right now, it’s frightening to consider the levels of lies the government or powers that be would have had to concoct to hide such a thing,” I said, finishing his makeup.
Jason came into the makeup room and he and Corey began discussing content for the interview with George, and I left the room and went to the buildings entryway to breathe for a minute. I felt out of my depth and overwhelmed. In the last hour and a half, I’d heard that the collapse of the Twin Towers was orchestrated to gain control over citizens, Lady Gaga murdered her alter ego, and that there was a secret space program conducted by The Illuminati, an international group bent on mind control. When I worked at CNN and FOX, no one ever ventured to step outside of what would be acceptable. The only way they covered fringe movements and ideas was to poke fun and discredit them. As much as I wanted to say that what I learned that day was a bunch of misinformation and fear mongering for attention, I couldn’t hide the fact that some of it resonated with me, and that should I work for this company on a bigger scale, I would have a lot more of this type of knowledge to consider.
I wanted a regular job with benefits and nine-to-five schedule, but that’s not what was showing up. Gaia was about ten minutes from my house and they needed an artist with a background in television to run the makeup department. Gaia didn’t need a full time stylist, so in this situation, I would run the department as a freelancer, which meant more freedom to schedule other jobs, but less security.
After the shoot with Beyond Belief, Gaia put me on the schedule as the go-to artist for all the shows. Within a few months I was able to quit my Nordstrom job and support the girls and I on a freelancer’s income. It felt like I was jumping off another cliff into uncertainty, but it also felt right, exciting, and freeing.
* * * * *
After training as a television makeup artist under Skip at CNN for about four months in Washington, DC, while still working full-time at MAC Cosmetics, Skip put me on the weekend morning shifts and asked if I was ready to quit MAC and go full-time into freelance work. Ursula, head makeup at FOX and friend of Skip’s, also put me on the FOX News schedule for the Brit Hume show, giving Jim and I the confidence we both needed for me to launch my makeup business. We’d been married about a year and a half at that point. I was nearly thirty-three years old, so taking the leap into freelance life felt right but also terrifying. Financially it was a huge risk, but with Jim’s support and faith in me, I went for it. Production companies would call CNN and FOX for makeup artist recommendations, and because I was now on those lists, my word-of-mouth business exploded.
Working at both FOX and CNN, I quickly learned that women, especially attractive women who dressed to impress, were treated much better than women who didn’t; that the networks were run by white, misogynistic men; and that by using my femininity I could build a solid business because both politicians and production companies were more interested in my looks and ability to flirt than my skill with makeup. It felt dishonest to use my looks in this way, and also empowering, because in my church, marriage, and on Capitol Hill women were second to men, and there was a part of me that felt like I was subverting the culture by knowing what was what and using my feminine wiles to my advantage. That said, I also deeply resented this reality. In church, it was preached that women were to be busy at home, submit to men, and also bring in money and convert people. The message was be quiet, work hard, look good (but don’t be sexy or impure, you must always be the good girl), and know you come second at all times.
At CNN, there were two full-time staff artists, one on the morning shift and one on the afternoon shift. Sometimes one of them would need time off and I would be asked to fill in. On one such afternoon, Skip was away and I was called in to work The Larry King Show, my first time meeting and working with the famous interviewer. I decided to dress up in a black pencil skirt, heels, and grape-colored sweater. As soon as I arrived I heard voices and laughter in the hallway, and King’s familiar deep voice. Skip had provided sufficient instructions and warning on how to deal with the talk show host. Expect to be flirted with and just laugh it off, said Skip, something I had become skilled at. He also told me to be sure to darken his hands a couple of shades to match his face because he often put his face in his hands, and the contrast could be striking.
Mr. King walked into the makeup room wearing black glasses, light blue button down shirt, paisley tie, and those famous black suspenders over his thin shoulders.
“Hey there!” Larry grinned with a warm handshake. “Skip must be off today, so instead I get a beautiful woman. Tell Skip to take more time off,” he said, getting into the makeup chair.
“He misses you desperately but I poisoned his food so I could hang with you,” I laughed, putting the cape around his shoulders and starting on his under eye concealer.
“You’re gonna do great in this business,” Larry said studying me as I made him up. “You have to be willing to murder the competition and flirt with everyone, and always wear heels—I love a woman in heels. Great legs will get you far in this business,” he grinned.
“Obviously you don’t have trouble getting women, you’ve had a few marriages, right?” I teased with a twinkle in my eye.
“I’ve been married seven times to eight women; I married one of them twice!” he confirmed with a chuckle, “and my current wife, Shawn, is just wonderful. She’s gorgeous. . .”
“Yes! I’ve seen pictures of her. You’ve done well, Mr. King.”
“Call me Larry, and yes I’ve managed to stay in the tabloids for nearly forty years, not a small task, you know.”
“A task only for the sturdy . . .” I responded.
“Or the stupid,” he laughed, “I love it though. We have a remote guest today out of Chicago so I get 100% of your attention.”
A this point in the banter I had put on concealer, foundation, powder, a little cheek color, and was nearly finished putting foundation on his hands.
“I’m all yours Larry, just don’t tell your wife,” I countered as I powdered his hands and the production assistant came in to take him to the studio for the live show.
“I’ll be right in to check you, my dear,” I said as he headed for the studio and I grabbed the powder, plus a small container of hairspray in case he had a wild hair that showed in the backlight.
Before heading to the studio, I flipped to the studio channel on TV to see if he was ready and how he looked. He was taking his seat as he told the young, pretty, production assistant that she could have young guys, or hot old guys like himself. Larry’s charm, charisma, and fame gave him an upper hand here. Whether or not the young woman felt uncomfortable, she didn’t show it. Dealing with men’s comments was par for the course in television. Where are the lines in flirtation? I wondered. I knew better than to say anything, but how much would I put up with to keep a job? Larry seemed harmless, but I knew there were many men who were not, and what if they all just tested the waters, seeing how far they could get, pushing the boundaries ever farther each time?
After getting Larry settled, I returned to the makeup room to clean up my counter space and wash the brushes. As I tidied up, I checked the breakdown on the wall to my right. This often-updated list reflected the talent ‘call times’ and ‘hit times’ for the day. Call times are when guests were to arrive at the studio, and hit times are when the respective live broadcast would air. If the guest was late, which was a common occurrence in the crazy unpredictable world of DC traffic and constant political fire alarms, it put considerable pressure on the makeup staff to do a rush job. Managing these frequently harried orchestrations was one of the primary prerequisites of artists. You had to know without thinking what would work on a guests face and apply it quickly and flawlessly. In my modeling days, an artist was usually given an hour or more to do a models face, and all the tricks and products available would be used to full affect, but in live TV, the generosity of time was not available, so speed and accuracy took center stage.
The breakdown sheet showed that Jesse Jackson was due next to tape his popular show, Both Sides with Jesse Jackson. Skip hadn’t given me any instructions for dealing with him, so I organized my products with the shade I felt would work with his skin tone.
Mr. Jesse Jackson walked alone into the greenroom wearing a perfectly fitted black suit, blue shirt, blue tie and holding a small brown leather bound New Testament in his hand. He’s tall, about 6’2”, with an air of pride and confidence to be expected of on-camera talent. He glanced at me, smiled, and plopped down in the makeup chair.
“Hi,” I started, “I’m Suzanne, filling in for Skip today, how are you?” I turned to face him and began putting the black cape around his neck.
Jesse looked me up and down and then grinned, “I want you to make me up from now on,” he chuckled.
Crossing my arms and leaning against the makeup counter, I cocked my head to the side and decided to push back a bit. That day alone I had been hit on several times, and the game was already getting old.
“Are you really a reverend?” I asked with a smirk. “I mean, you just checked me out, Mr. Jackson.” This was before his affair with staffer Karin Stanford and her subsequent pregnancy became public knowledge.
“Oh . . .uh . . .umm . . .I . . .I . . .yeah, yeah, . . .um . . .” he stumbled, obviously taken aback.
“Don’t worry about it,” I laughed, pleased that I’d made him a little uncomfortable, “I love all the amazing things you’ve done for equal rights, Mr. Jackson, and I’m looking forward to helping on the show today.” Even though I was playful, I felt irritated that race was tolerated more than sex, that women, no matter what their skin color, were still considered less than any man. Careful not to betray my thoughts and feelings, we continued to chat and laugh as I finished his makeup.
Once he left the makeup room to sit in the greenroom to work on his show, I looked into the large mirror and smiled. I was doing it. I was working at CNN and I felt a surge of pride in myself and at my accomplishments. Married, successful, and able to manhandle ‘A’ list talent, it felt like everything in life had come together into a beautiful shape. I had arrived.
* * * * *
My relationship and work with Gaia TV in Boulder steadily grew over the next year and a half after I first worked on Beyond Belief. The company eventually purchased an online yoga platform and added it to their available content for subscribers to the network. Subsequently, we began filming all manner of yoga and fitness talent, so that anyone could turn on Gaia and practice yoga with some of the best yoga teachers in the country like Rodney and Colleen Yee and Ashleigh Sergeant. Adding this to my repertoire, I began to receive calls to make up a myriad of fitness talent based in Colorado, the fitness lovers’ paradise. Most of the talent I made up I had never heard of, as I didn’t watch sports or participate in any of the many racing, climbing, or football events in the area. I did, however, enjoy working with fitness people, as they tended to be really focused, disciplined, and requiring little attention.
One of the freelance clients I obtained and cultivated during that time was the NFL, who would periodically come to shoot advertisements and interviews with Broncos football players. I enjoyed meeting the young talented men I got to make up, but because I knew nothing about football, we would talk about their families and life goals rather than the game itself. On one occasion the NFL booked me at 6 pm for a next-morning shoot. It was sudden and I didn’t have the details of who I was going to be working on. I felt anxious on the drive to Denver, with the only information on the call sheet being the words MANNING, and an address. What the heck is a Manning? I wondered as I drove. When I arrived at the address, the sign Broncos Training Camp showed me where I was. And then it hit me. MANNING was Peyton Manning, the enormously popular Broncos football quarterback who had nearly God-like status in Colorado football. I smiled to myself, relishing in the perks of being a makeup artist and getting to meet and spend time with prominent people like Peyton. I didn’t feel nervous by then, just stumped about what I could possibly talk to him about while he sat in my makeup chair.
After arriving at the room in the training facility where we would be filming and setting up my gear, the only thing that came to mind was to ask him if the neon orange football jersey that nearly everyone in Colorado would wear on a game day came in any other color. There was no way I would ever be caught dead wearing that color shirt no matter who I was supporting.
Peyton Manning entered the room for the filming with his handler, shaking hands with the NFL producer and greeting the rest of us with the politeness and courtesy of a man at the top of his game. As he sat in my chair, he and his handler continued to talk in low tones about content for the interview, with him barely lifting his eyes. I finished quickly, as he has great skin color and needs very little makeup. I really wanted to say, in jest, how proud I was of all his home runs, but his attention was completely focused on his conversation and not on chatting with the makeup artist about the color neon orange.
Putting him in front of the camera and then checking him in the television monitor provided, I stepped back to listen to the one-hour interview full of unfamiliar football jargon. Peyton Manning was a man of excellence. He worked hard and played the politics of football better than almost anyone, and, even though I knew next to nothing about his many accomplishments, I admired the way he handled himself at the interview and maintained a generosity uncommon in famous and successful people.
How a person treats members of a crew says an enormous amount about them. I’ve often been treated like a servant, a nobody, an object, or even a simpleton. If you treat the people who make you look good badly, then, in my opinion, you are weak. John Kasich, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Alan Colmes fall under this heading for me—and it’s no surprise that they are all male. Typically, a woman will be termed “high-maintenance” and heavily criticized for having specific opinions and ideas not only about her appearance but other things as well, but a man can walk in and sexually harass the artist, yell at everyone, and drop multiple F-bombs and his behavior will be written off as business as usual. The prevailing attitude is, He’s a guy and he get’s the job done, as if that justifies anything. Yet here was a handsome, successful football star showing restraint and professionalism in an arena where he would be allowed to have a temper tantrum if he chose to. The experience with him made me grateful that there were still gentlemen in the world.
* * * * *
Skip and I sat in the CNN makeup room after I had been working weekends there for about four months, sipping bad coffee and talking about life, the network, and the challenges of being a makeup artist in live television. It was freezing cold outside, and hot drinks always sounded good, even nasty CNN hot coffee.
“We hear a lotta inside information and gossip coming from guests in the makeup room that you just have to forget, Suz. I know of one artist who was offered twenty thousand dollars to rat on one particular talent, but she declined. I often wonder if there’s some mob guy sitting around a table with a bunch of henchmen smoking Opus X BBMF cigars—that stands for Big Bad Motherfucker by the way—saying ‘ya know Charlie,’” Skip started, mimicking a New York mob boss holding a cigar, “ ‘we gotta knock off the makeup artist because they know too much.’” Skip eyed me and shook his head. “Keep your mouth shut no matter what you hear, I don’t want you getting taken out,” he said and laughed.
“So watch out for the big guy with a stinky cigar,” I grinned.
“Most of the politician’s are just puppets for their party’s bigger agenda, but not all of them. Some are good people. I try to not think too hard about it.” Just then the phone rang and Skip jumped up to answer it.
“Hey, yeah . . . okay, I can send Suzanne,” he said, lowering the phone and looking at me. “You wanna make up Al Gore tomorrow with Wolf Blitzer at the White House?”
I stared at him, unable to speak, a mixture of terror and elation crisscrossing my face.
Skip chuckled and put the phone back up to his ear. “Suzanne can do it. What time?” He talked for a few more minutes and hung up.
“Don’t worry about Gore,” Skip said sitting back down and crossing his legs. “Just be sure you fill in his eyebrows and don’t touch his hair. He keeps Aqua-Net hairspray on the mantle in his office and he’ll do it himself.”
“Thank you so much, Skip!” I said, standing up and hugging him. His confidence in me was the reason I worked with the people I did, and I was unbelievably grateful to him.
At eight the next morning in twenty degree weather I arrived at the entrance to the White House to make up Al Gore for CNN. Guards were conducting thorough checks of everyone trying to enter and, after going through my make-up kit and handbag; the security guard waved me through. In the pressroom, all the reporters, camera crews, and anyone involved in the media were held like hostages. About forty media personnel were hanging out, laughing, and discussing the day’s top stories, waiting for a briefing or whatever else had brought them there. It felt like I was on the cusp of world news, but the room itself was small and furnished with rows of blue chairs while at the front, on a small stage, sat the podium I recognized from televised White House briefings. I stood in awe for a minute until Wolf Blitzer came over to say hello, as we had worked together several times at CNN.
“Good morning, Suzanne. I need you to make me up first, and then we’ll go upstairs to the VP’s office for the interview,” he smiled. “Cold, huh?”
“Yeah. Wow. This room is really small. It looks bigger on television,” I observed.
“Yup! Come this way,” said Wolf as he led me to a small space with a table and chair where I would put on his makeup.
Quickly unpacking the items I would need, I realized that my concealer had frozen, so I asked Wolf to hold the container in his hands to warm it while I worked on his hair. He sat on the small desk in a grey cubicle with me scrunched in front of him fixing first his hair and then getting his foundation colors right with the nasty overhead track lighting that turned everything blue. Once Wolf was finished and I had repacked my makeup, we were led upstairs into the posh offices of the Vice President. As we neared the office, I became more nervous and concentrated on feeling my feet and breathing. Rounding the corner to his office, I carefully stepped into the world of Al Gore. His office had tightly woven beige carpet and dark wooden furniture, yet there, on the mantle of the fireplace, sat the Aqua Net hairspray. Skip was brilliant.
As I set up my materials, everyone on the production team spoke in low tones, careful not to disrupt life in the White House. Wolf worked quietly, sitting in a chair in front of the camera as lights were set up and camera’s focused. It was so quiet that it took me a minute to realize that Al Gore had entered his office. His perfectly shellacked coif, white starched shirt, and tailored chocolate-colored suit could not hide the innate flatness that pervaded the air around him. It startled me, as most politician’s I worked with wanted to be seen and heard and made much more of a statement when they showed up on a set.
Al Gore silently walked over and sat in a chair next to the table where I had arranged my products and I began the methodical routine that I followed with every application. First, I checked his skin to see if he needed any moisturizer, as foundation doesn’t blend on dry skin. Al Gore was deep in thought and not speaking. He studied the beige carpet with his hands folded politely in his lap. Sunlight tried to peek through the windows but the heavily burdened clouds kept preventing the life giving sunlight from entering the room. I shivered, and wished someone would turn up the heat.
Taking my concealer, I placed the product only where there was discoloration under his eyes not under the whole eye area, and also a bit around his nose. After that, I applied a cream foundation with a sponge, bending over to see what I was doing because he had hunched himself over in the chair, making it difficult for me to see given my five-foot-ten frame. He seemed small to me, burdened, as if no matter what he did he would be judged and criticized. He didn’t strike me as the ego-driven white male I was used to dealing with.
After foundation, I lightly powdered his face and put a small dash of pinky blush on his cheeks. And then, as I reached for the eyebrow color, Gore said the only sentence he would speak directly to me: “Don’t forget my eyebrows.” He motioned to the sides of his face while never looking me in the eye.
“Yes, of course,” I responded, and grabbed the slanted MAC brush I used for brows and a cool brown shade that matched his hair color. Once finished, Al Gore stood up and walked over to the large mirror over the mantle to check the results. Anticipating a toxic spray of the Aqua Net, I began to ever so clandestinely inch back. I ended up on the other side of the table by the time he grabbed the poisonous aerosol and gave his head a good douse.
Quickly, I packed up my bags and was directed into the sitting space outside of Gore’s office where his executive assistant sat at her desk. It was unusual that I wasn’t required to stay in the room during the interview, but this was Wolf’s show so I didn’t argue. The White House was quiet with no one around except the woman at her desk. This seemed curious to me, as I’d imagined a lot more hustle and bustle in the power center of the world, but the air was clogged with tension. How awful to work in a place like this where your every move was judged and criticized, and any measure of authenticity pummeled out of you by the media and the voters. You have to say what the people want to hear, not what they need to hear.
Thirty minutes later, Wolf came out of Gore’s office and we headed toward the exit. After we were out on the street, Wolf hurried off to CNN, and I struggled through the snow and cold to my car and the drive home to Fairfax, Virginia.
Later that week, when Jim and I watched the interview on television, Al Gore took credit for creating the Internet and started a wave of criticism leveled toward this claim. Years later, when Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was released, I remembered him using the toxic hair spray, so contrary to the films premise. His entire manner and level of confidence and presence was considerably higher in the film than when I’d worked with him. It’s as if the pressures and role he tried to fill while in office debilitated who he really was, and that by getting out of the White House and pursuing his own interests, he became more authentic. I related to this, as I felt obligated to take a subordinate and submissive role as a wife and worker, rather than explore what gave meaning to me as a person.
In our culture, we have concrete ideas about what’s supposed to fulfill people and the roles we need to play in order to make society work. A woman is fulfilled if she is married with children and serving her family, and a man is fulfilled if he brings home as much money as humanly possible given his profession. These ideas keep us as slaves to a system that is broken and ineffectual for many. I felt my rebellion toward all of these views bubble up at seeing how limited and fragile Al Gore seemed in his supposedly grand and seemingly powerful job. In my marriage, I was starting to feel that same crushing essence of being boxed in and trapped, but according to my church, I should be happy and at peace because I was doing what women were created to do and be. Many women and men I knew seemed happy in a clearly defined roll, and try as I might, I just couldn’t.
* * * * *
Dating in Boulder was proving to be an enormous failure. After having lived there a year and a half and experimenting with dating websites, apps, and flirtations, the pattern was always the same: I’d meet someone I liked, and they wouldn’t ask for a second date. Baffled, I turned to Belen for help and advice, as she had conquered the dating world and married Joshua with great success. Plus, Belen was always honest, even if I didn’t always liked what she said.
“I don’t know, Suzy,” she said as we sipped wine at a local restaurant. Sometimes you just have to keep trying. I didn’t meet Joshua until I was forty-three, so it’s not like I figured it out early in life.”
“It’s just so depressing. I really thought once I finished my degree that I’d meet someone, but obviously I repel men in some way I can’t see. I think the fact I haven’t met anyone is my own fault, that I’m doing something that’s keeping men out of my life. I don’t know, maybe I’m scary . . .” My voice trailed off.
“Oh, yeah, you’re terrifying,” Belen laughed, and then conceded, “You’ve done a lot in life and sometimes guys are intimidated. It could also be that you’re sending out negative signals, like you have a wall up that keeps men out. Just a thought,” Belen said.
Once home that night, I saw I had a Skype message from Pablo, the Argentinean man I’d met on Tinder several months prior. He would periodically message me to say hello and chat and say sexy things, but he lived in Argentina and I lived in Boulder, so I wasn’t sure why he was flirting with me with such a low hope of ever meeting up.
We started messaging, and he sent a shirtless photo of himself with a wedding band on his finger. Totally disgusted, I confronted him.
“Your body is amazing, Pablo,” I responded.
“Thanks!” he typed.
“You must lift weights.”
“I do, beauty, a lot.”
“I love that, and I love the tattoo’s,” I continued.
“Mmmmm,” he said.
“I especially love the wedding ring.”
After two minutes of silence, I started to cry. Why was I doing this? Messaging a man I would never meet who was wearing a wedding band. I kept attracting relationships with no future, and I couldn’t figure out how to alter this.
Finally, Pablo messaged back. “I don’t like to talk about it, but my first wife died in a car crash, so every year on her birthday I put on the wedding ring. I’m sorry, I know how this must look, but I’m not married now. I am living with someone, but you and I are just flirting so it’s okay.”
“It does matter,” I shot back. “If we were together I would want you all to myself. I wouldn’t share you with anyone. I wouldn’t put up with it. I want love and devotion, not more casual relationships that don’t go anywhere. I am going to sleep now.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I like you and I want to keep in touch.”
I paused. Was he telling the truth, or should I just yell at him at how dumb and unfaithful men can be and that I didn’t want to talk to him anymore? In anger and frustration, I started to type my thoughts, and then I paused. What if he was telling the truth? He still lived with a woman, which made him dubious in my eyes in any case. Hitting the delete button, I took a deep breath and made a decision.
“Okay, you can contact me again if you want, but I want it clear that I won’t meet you for a fling if you come to Colorado to ski again. I’m done with flings and I’m going to bed now, Pablo. Goodnight.”
“I understand. Okay Suzanne. Besos (kiss).”
As I turned off the computer, I felt sad and stupid. The next day I was back at Gaia for work, and decided to stop dating for a while. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be in a relationship and I should just forget it, I thought, and I deleted my Tinder app.