Chic-ing out Carly
Chic-ing Out Carly – Ecstasy Factory
Carly was a hippie chick from my neighborhood. She had light brown hair and bright brown eyes. Her hair was a pure rat’s nest. It was in dreadlocks: all thickly matted with about a dozen cat-o-nine-tail like tubes of filthy thick woolly hair sticking over her sides like some modern Medusa.
She usually wore overalls or layers of dirty flannel and cotton tee shirts. On her feet were old work boots.
She was a sweet kid, if somewhat misguided. When she wasn’t in school (she was a sophomore at the local state college) she was protesting for ten dollar an hour wages in China – never stopping to think that forcing the Chinese to pay such a wage would jack up the price of a bowl of rice to the equivalent of seven dollars.
Carly was potentially a very beautiful girl. It was a shame that she wouldn’t make herself up. Predictably, she would tell her Grandmother, my former co-worker, Betty, that she was too concerned about real problems to care about appearance.
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Betty was a real gem. She was a tough, old, octogenarian from Chicago who most approximated what a female Frank Sinatra would be like. Hard drinking, gambling and cursing, Betty could swing it out with the best of them. When I first started working with Betty at the financial office, I was almost an altar boy. After a few weeks working with her, I was swigging tumblers of Johnny Black on the rocks, wearing a sharkskin suit and ready to punch out any nearby journalists: well, almost.
Betty was really on top of things. “Stick with me kid, I’ll show you how to make some real dough,” Betty would always say. And she did show me how to be a successful stockbroker. But not as successful as she.
Betty would always tell Carly that she would look fantastic if she would dress and groom herself a little better.
“And that Fuck-ing Pa-choul-i shit!” Betty would howl. “It smells like a cow’s ass.”
“Oh Grandma, you’re just out of touch. My friends don’t care about appearance,” countered Carly.
“Bullshit. They take pains to dress all alike. It’s just the anti-Vogue look. But it takes effort. Your hair didn’t look so terrible by itself.” Carly just laughed.
This playful give and take went on for several years. I saw a bit of it in the office. It was a small, informal office, and Carly would visit her grandmother from time to time. You don’t think a big, firm would allow a smart old lady to work for them, do you. They want big dumb Frat boys who look the part, whatever their shitty performance may be.
Sadly, Betty’s health took a turn for the worse last autumn. She was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and was told that she might have four months to live. Betty took it like Sinatra would: “It was a helluva ride, kid. I don’t mind stepping aside for others.”
I was crushed. I’m not a big fan of life as it is. As Wilde put it, “Life is a bad fifteen minutes with a few exquisite moments.” However art and fashion and style make life a lot better.
And Betty believed it too. That’s why I confronted Carly downtown one day about her grandmother.
“You know, what would make your grandmother feel better in her last days is if you clean yourself up. Show a little style. Start smelling good.”
“Oh, that’s not important,” countered Carly.
“Your grandmother said to me a hundred times: ‘I would really enjoy to see her looking like a young lady.'”
Carly stared at me in a far-off way and considered.
“It’s not that I would mind doing that for Betty, but it’s expensive to dress-up and I’m really poor.”
“It does cost some money to look good. But I need a personal assistant to help with my workload – you don’t realize how much your grandmother always helped me with prioritizing and getting my shit together, despite having her own clients to deal with. And now some of her clients want to go with me. So I really need help.”
“I could only work part-time, but I could use a job. But I couldn’t afford to buy the clothes to do the job for just some part-time money.”
“You could work 3 hours a day, any five days a week: 15 hours and I’ll pay you 300 a week under the table.”
“Still, the business suits,” mused Carly.
“No problem. I’ll give you a clothing allowance.”
“O.K., but only while Betty is still around.”
“Agreed. Come to the house tonight and we can talk some more about details.”
Carly looked at me skeptically.
“Don’t worry. This is all business. And I have a live-in housekeeper that will be there. So you won’t be alone.”
“Ok,” said Carly and we agreed to meet at seven that night.
Carly appeared in my kitchen at seven on the dot. Clad in five layers of flannel shirts, cotton tees, blue jeans, a granny skirt and Christ doesn’t know what else, along with those goddamn work boots and that reek of patchouli oil.
May, the housekeeper, kept wrinkling up her nose and, giving me dirty looks, made out that she was cleaning the kitchen.
“I didn’t know this kind of hanky-panky was your style, Dennis. I confess I’m a little disappointed. No, make that a lot disappointed,” said May in supposed undertones.
Carly heard and suppressed a slight laugh.
“Now, May. It’s not like that. You know this is Carly from the neighborhood. She’s going to work as my personal assistant for a while, and there will be no hanky-panky, I promise you.”
“If there is I’m leaving. And how you gonna have that raggedy thing in the office, anyway?”
“Carly has agreed to spruce up. If not for the job, at least for her Grandmother. You know Betty?”
“Oh yeah, that’s Betty’s grandkid. Betty is a scream. I would hang with her at the Christmas Bazaar at the church every year.”
“And I was hoping that you could help me clean up Carly a little bit.”
May looked a bit skeptical. “Well, I can try,” she said as she raised yet another eyebrow in Carly’s direction.
“First thing we’re gonna have to do is get rid of all that hair,” I said as I gave what I had hoped was a last look at that rat’s nest.
“Amen,” seconded May.
“Oh come on, this is going too far!” cried Carly.
“Relax child,” soothed May as she handed Carly a tumbler of brandy.
Carly sipped the brandy, and in a few minutes became calm.
“I don’t see why I have to have my hair cut off,” moaned Carly.
“It will make your grandmother happy,” I noted.
After a few minutes, the brandy seemed to have calmed the girl down.
“Let’s begin, shall we?” I announced and casually pulled a new pair of electric clippers out of one of the kitchen drawers. I almost began to hand them to May. She caught the gesture and announced:
“I ain’t going near that rat’s nest. I will draw a nice bath, though”
“Put some Chanel Number 5 in too, will you, May.”
“I’m partial to Number 19 myself,” declared May as she gave Carly one last look and marched into the bathroom.
“This is sooo crazy…” announced Carly with resignation.
As I brought the buzz and ching and whirr of the clippers to life I mentioned that it would make Betty happy, and that was very important right now.
“I’ll go slow,” I promised. I brought the buzzsaw-like implement to the middle of Carly’s forehead and slowly introduced its teeth to her dirty, woolly thatch. And that thatch put up a struggle. It was like trying to cut through a bale of hay.
But slowly the pieces of woolly tuft began to fall on the floor and on Carly’s lap. And then a few long, tubular cat-o-nine-tail pieces plopped to the floor.
“Shit! This is so crazy,” screamed Carly in conspiration as I momentarily shut off the clippers to rest the motor. I didn’t want the motor to burn out midway through the cut, and then have Carly tell me it was a sign from some hippie god – Jerry Garcia or someone – that this whole idea was a bummer.
As I began to transform Carly’s head from filthy dreadlocks to smooth crewcut I began to see a beautiful woman emerge. The buzzing and whirring insistence of the clippers were in a sense an electric chisel that was creating a masterpiece from the rough stone; and the very noise of the tool was announcing triumphantly the finality of the act.
The short, short, haircut, now complete, revealed the beautiful high cheekbones, the perfectly shaped ears, the full sensual mouth. And the haircut also helped to emphasize the liquid, knowing, light brown eyes. It was as if a goddess appeared in the house without the aid of door or window.
But the Goddess was clad in rags. As if playing out some Greek myth where Venus appears in overalls to charm and beguile a mortal, this beautiful girl sat in the kitchen in filthy rags, yet completely unaware of her beauty and charm and the future effect it will have on the men of the world.
“Now take off those filthy clothes, please,” I ordered.
“Right here?” questioned Carly shyly.
“Just down to bra and undies. You can leave those in the bathroom and May will deal with them.”
Carly then complied and slowly and skeptically peeled off the red check flannel shirt and the Grateful Dead tee shirt and the black Harley Davidson tee shirt and the dirty checked granny skirt and the grimey blue jeans and the smelly work boots and the dirty, yellowed white athletic socks.
“My lady, your bath awaits,” I said grandly as I kissed Carly on the cheek, and pointed in the direction of the bathroom.
Carly went into the bathroom and luxuriated in the warm, fragrant tub for over an hour.
When she emerged with a big smile on her face, she smelled just like the goddess that she appeared to be.
I had meanwhile placed all of her smelly clothes in a hefty trash bag, poured about a pint of bleach on top and placed the bag in the trash barrel in the garage, glad that the trash guys would be coming in the morning to eliminate this evidence of my goddess’s mortality.
Carly half hid shyly behind the threshold between the kitchen and the corridor leading to the bathroom, clad only in light green silk bra and panties.
“What am I gonna wear now?” she asked playfully. “I bet you burned my other stuff, huh?”
“Actually, I just poured bleach on it.”
Carly laughed and ran her finger along the wood moulding of the threshold.
Just then a knock appeared at the kitchen door. Just in time was Mrs. Saint Lorette, a fabulous image consultant from Neimans, who consented to consult on this project.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” cooed Mrs. Saint Lorette as her eyes feasted on Carly’s beauty. “Just a beautiful girl. Absolutely beautiful.”
Mrs. Saint Lorette looked pretty good herself in her red Chanel dress, red spike heel pumps. Blonde hair pulled into a bun.
“You look beautiful, yourself. Mrs. Saint Lorette,” I noted.
Just then two great looking black guys with British accents dashed into the room with lots of clothing under plastic wraps over their shoulder.
“Meet Cyril and Jim. Two assistant buyers who plan to have their own fashion house in a few years. They are very busy, but when I let word of this project slip out I couldn’t keep them away. Take it away,” added Mrs. St. Lorette.
“I strongly recommend this black Chanel dress, classic line, gold buttons, skirt one inch above the knee.”
“That’s lovely,” said Carly as she ran her fingers along the material
“And a lovely Hermes scarf,” added Jim as he presented it to Carly and tied it deftly around her neck. Carly beamed.
“And boots by Givenchy,” added Mrs. Saint Lorette as she held up a pair of black patent leather knee-high boots with a spike heel.
“And make-up by….” but I couldn’t get the words out before Estée Lauder, herself, appeared in the kitchen as if by divine intervention.
“Estée Lauder!” screamed Cyril, Jim and Mrs. Saint Lorette in their shock and excitement.
“I’m going to die right this moment,” announced Cyril.
Estée Lauder was very gracious and chatty as she deftly applied just a touch of base, blush and eyeliner to Carly’s beautiful face. A coat of light brown lipstick completed the task and we all sat in awe at the completion of a goddess.
“How does some quiet white American boy like you know Estée Lauder?” mused Cyril in amazement.
“I don’t know. When you’re a broker, it’s just crazy the people you end up meeting. And that’s the truth.”
When Carly walked into the bathroom with the clothes to change I thanked everyone for their help and reminded them that they made many people happy today with their artistry. Everyone barely had time to express the pleasure they had in the experience when Carly emerged from the bathroom.
Words are just clichés in instances like these. She clicked authoritatively on those sexy, shiny boots – huge smile on her face, beginning to sense the gift of beauty that she possessed. The black dress fit her perfectly, outlining her graceful, coltish figure. The gold buttons and scarf were beautiful complements to the dark background of the dress.
Her skin glowed and hair glowed and her eyes sparkled.
We were witnessing the appearance of a young Grace Kelly, a reincarnation – and we were collectively speechless.
Perhaps Wilde was right about life being but a bad fifteen minutes, but a few of those exquisite moments could be absolute bliss.
When Carly went to see Betty at Betty’s house later that night, Betty was blown away. Betty’s joy at the change in her granddaughter made her last days infinitely happier and we spent many fun days together in restaurants (when Betty was up to it) or at baseball games where Betty would cheer on the hapless Colorado Rockies: “Goddam bums!” she would cry.
The last I heard of Carly was that she was starting a fashion house for plus size women: hoping to add beauty to the lives of those women hitherto neglected by the fashion powers.