Shades of the 1950’s I thought when I walked into the bathroom at the L.A. County Arboretum. I could imagine women sitting on the metal stools brushing their stylized hair then taking out ozone depleting tin bottles of hairspray and spraying with abandon, mist falling in tiny sticky globulettes. To complete the touch up, golden tubes of lipstick, opened to unveil shades of red, (not pink nor orange nor white, those were in later times), were twisted to full height and applied sensuously to pursed lips that always kissed tissue or toilet paper to blot and hold the color. The changing table was a nod to later times, beyond the 1950’s, into the 2000’s, when benches and chairs would no longer do for changing baby’s bottom. Before the changing table, the mist of hairspray would have been mixed with the haze of cigarette smoke.
Standing in the bathroom imagining the scene, I felt deprived. Glamorous times when bathrooms were more than places of necessity. But how glamorous are metal stools, cool to the seat, whether on summer or winter day? Elegance attempted though. This had been a classy place.
Even though I’m a native Californian and the Arboretum has been in existence since I was in single digits age wise, I’d never been there before my visit last month with a good friend of mine, a friend from my childhood. We choose a very hot day to wander the grounds, and we did not spend too much time wandering. We vowed to go back.
Before I went to the Arboretum, I’d been thinking about deprivation, in a kind of what we once had sense, not in the we never had it sense. Deprivation in the never had it sense would be another entry, another time, much heavier and would entail thinking about justice and fairness and equity, issues which sit on my sleeve and weigh my shoulders down, but which I don’t want to tackle today. Today the deprivation comes from the sense of what we had and now do not. So many things, so many places, so many notions and ideas. Not nostalgia, deprivation.
In this kind of deprivation, what was gives way to what is now. It is the gap between the was and the now that the feeling of deprivation fills. For example, I am no longer young (whew, thankfully), but neither am I old (well, to some, but not in reality). To shake off young or even middle age requires me to move into or towards old. And here I sit. I’ve been here for some time in my adult life but only now am connected to this feeling of deprivation. I once could run around the bases after hitting a well pitched ball. I once had long auburn brown hair. I once had young children, adolescent children, young adult children. I once taught school. I once was married. No longer. I feel deprived. I feel like the metal stools waiting for the return of the glamorous 50’s, lined up in a row before the mirror occupied now only by schoolchildren who realize they can sit and stare in the mirror rather than stand and stare in the mirror.My feeling of deprivation doesn’t define me. Instead it serves to remind me of a fulfilling past. A past that has grounded my future into which I will age with wisdom, hopefully, so that I can continue to see the use of this type of feeling of deprivation as a filler and connector, and then write about the injustice in the world when deprivation does not lead to hope. In that sense of being deprived, what was, is. But it need not be. That is my hope.