Authors: Birdie Jaworski
Tags: #Adventure, #Humor, #Memoir, #Mr. Right
This book is a work of non-fiction. Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the writer’s past customers.
Copyright © 2007 by Birdie Jaworski
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Cover Design copyright © 2007 by Daniel Grant
ISBN (eBook Edition): 978-1-4404-6486-7
eBook designed by
I’m Just the Avon Lady!
a memoir by
This book is dedicated to every Avon Lady who still seeks new friends, new money for her pocket, new memories by knocking on strange doors. I no longer sell Avon, but my heart knows your joys, your struggle.
Much love from Birdie
Baby’s Got a Bad, Bad Zit
Does that butt cream really work?
Can you recommend a good lotion for my zits?
My husband’s got horrible B.O. Please help me!
My neighbors beg skin advice instead of cups of sugar, flag me down for drops of bath oil, a splash of blemish intuition, call me Avon Lady, Makeup Girl, anything but my real name. They know my life schedule, my order deadline, what doorbells I’ll ring as the afternoon sky considers rain. They know my painted surface, all the scratches on my front door, my scrawled signature on their brochures.
I live in the golden curve of Southern California that swells with tourists every day of the year, swells with yuppies who point cameras at the seals and snap. Snap! They take the life-force of my coast far, far from here, dump it into the prismatic ocean, think it’s captured on glossy paper, don’t see it lives somewhere else, somewhere lost. I stay away when I’m not hawking cosmetics, ignore the call of six thousand chi-chi clothing boutiques and enough New Age churches to save the world if only their attendees tossed enough money into the coffers and rattled endless affirmations.
One harried afternoon I ran into the Whole Foods Market with hair sticking out to there, a big fat ketchup stain across the bellybutton of my “Free Katie” t-shirt and an Avon brochure stuffed in my purse. I strode to the vitamins, had to find just the right vitamins, the kind they advertised on that infomercial with the fake Native American who talks about lowering your blood acid level. The old lady demanding these vitamins told me to return with nothing less otherwise she’d find another Avon Lady. I searched all my local vita-joints, tumbled down the coast, closer and closer to the land of sunset money, until I landed in La Jolla, in a high-end grocery store by the highway, by the sea. I tried to forget the phone call that rattled my nerves, made me so unstable that I promised a cranky customer I would find her vitamin holy grail.
I stared at the calcium, tried to recall the famous alkaline type, asked it to jump from the overstocked shelves. A short woman in silver satin cargo pants and a black halter-top tied behind her neck scooted next to me. She picked up one zit remedy, then another, then another, piling them into her green wire hand basket. Her hair rested on her shoulders, all copper and sun glitter, the colors of La Jolla, one side held back with a diamond-studded barrette. She turned her head and opened her mouth as she gestured with a bottle of vitamin E cream promising a universe of clear skin.
“Excuse me, miss? I can’t help noticing. You have gorgeous skin. What are you using? My friend has a whopper zit and he’s giving a concert tonight. I have to find something to clear it up.”
She smiled and waited for me to answer. I stood, my own wire basket in hand, open-mouthed, unsure. Gorgeous skin? Me? I’ve always had a bit of an acne issue myself, but twelve daily products later, I sported the clearest of complexions.
“Well, I have to tell you a little secret,” I giggled, “I’m an Avon Lady. I use twelve products every night. I’m not kidding. I used to be zit central, and I’m in my late thirties! I thought I’d outgrown them after twenty-one but they kept on coming until I started using the Avon Anew Clinical 2-Step Peel three times a week and also the PoreFection products plus the Anew Line and Wrinkle Corrector. Honestly, the combination is probably burning the entire top layer off my skin, but yeah, it’s looking decent these days.” I smiled and winked and waved at the line of clear skin remedies. “My products are much better than all this stuff.”
As I spoke, her friend rounded the corner and stood behind her, a tall man with wavy dark hair. I glanced up to give him a friendly inclusive smile, and froze, just froze. It wasn’t the zit smack in the center of his chin - but boy was it a pus-filled wonder - it wasn’t the sheer sexy loveliness of his carefully groomed pompadour - it was The Voice. He whispered “Hey Baby” and ran his hand along the back of the woman so much like a La Jolla munchkin next to him, a drop-dead gorgeous singer-actor, a man whose songs rang out of my van tape player on all those Saturday drives with my Turkish friend, the music we loved so much, music with sparse guitar and lullaby border hymns, music where you sing and think and dream, just wonder.
“Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it’s YOU! She said she had a friend with a zit problem” and here I lifted my hands to my mouth in horror with what I uttered, the rush of crappy groupie words with a touch of pus, “Oh sorry! Sorry! It’s just I never met anyone like you before!” He winced and rubbed his chin with a wry smile.
“Yes, it’s a bad, bad zit, isn’t it?” His voice sounded clearer, sexier in person, and I forgot about the ketchup on my shirt and my hair out to there and I pulled out the Avon brochure from the bottom of my messy bag.
“Well I was just telling your friend that I recommend Avon products for acne, they sure cleared up a boatload of zits on my face.” I handed over the book. My hands shook so badly that he laughed when he grabbed it.
He lifted the brochure, touched it with music-god long fingers, lifted it, opened it in a gesture of kindness… and a super-sized tampon came rolling out and fell to the floor.
That night I met The Voice near midnight dream waters. I didn’t dwell on the tampon, didn’t carry a purse as I hovered in the ether. The Voice stood and began unbuttoning his shirt. As sun hit bare skin, he dove into the water, popped to the surface and treaded water. I didn’t stop to think, left my clothes in a heap and dove in, too. We swam for twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, climbed out and lay on the lava rocks in the sun, let the heat beat down and dry our bodies, dry my mind.
I didn’t make the first move. He didn’t either. I think the ancient volcano forced fire around us, drove us into each other. Our fingers met, then eyes, then legs, arms, mouths, a tangle of island sweat and fury on the edge of an unrelenting ocean.
The phone pulled me back to the black rust of night. I raised my head and opened one eye to look at the red numbers of my clock. 12:35. I didn’t pick up the receiver. I listened to the clang three more times, tried to call back the feel of my tropical dream but it faded to nothing as the phone silenced. Thirty seconds later it rang again, rang, rang, rang, and I hesitated, remembering another telephone call just twelve hours ago that brought such unexpected news. Nervously, I snatched the receiver.
“’Lo?” I grunted, and grimaced at the strange assortment of growling yelping noises radiating from the phone.
“This Avon?” It was more of a demand than a question, the voice neither male nor female, a loud and scratchy seal-like bark.
“This is Birdie and I sell Avon. But it’s past midnight and I’m asleep. Can you call me in the morning? Like after nine?” I used my best mother-inducing-guilt-exasperation voice and noticed that the dog had managed to sneak from her cedar floor mat to the bed next to me during my dark night of passion. She stretched along the length of the mattress, head almost on the edge of my down pillow, eyes closed in deep slumber. One yellow paw hung limp over the edge of the bed, gently twitching in rhythm to her breath.
“I need some Skin-So-Soft. This is an emergency. I need it tonight.” The growling on the other end continued, punctuated by short bursts of howls and a noise like a straw broom across a tile floor. I decided the voice was female, older, bossy and impatient - an army major dressed in linen and sour lemon.
Emergency? Who has a lotion emergency?
I didn’t know what to say. Maybe some woman was in labor, or woke up with killer eczema, or was drinking bad wine and playing mean telephone Avon Lady pranks.
“Um, sorry, I’m just not awake. Let me tell you how this works. I’m not Avon Corporate. I’m just an Avon Lady. I don’t keep any stock here at my house but if this is a bona fide emergency, I do have an opened bottle of Skin-So-Soft that I use for demonstrations. If you want to place an order with me, I’ll give you the bottle as a gift. But I can’t do this until a decent hour. I have sleeping young children. I can’t leave the house.”
The woman didn’t like my response. She gave a long sigh and grumbled that I could visit her first thing in the morning. I wrote down her address and gate code and as I hung up the phone I stared in amazement at my note pad. Her home, if this wasn’t some crank call, sat on the edge of the water, a tall, weathered and glassy beacon, along the small rich-only access road where homes cost several million dollars each.
The next morning I dressed my two boys in matching blue t-shirts and spritzed some extra Today fragrance on my neck. I wore a green utility kilt - the adventure kind with multiple pockets and a loop to hold a water bottle. I wore a sky blue tank top, and winced at the way the armholes cut into the hotly reddened flesh under my arms.
Gotta remember to order more Avon sunscreen
, I thought.
I grabbed the demo bottle of bath oil, a handful of samples and a brochure and stuck them in my best leather purse instead of the ratty black backpack I usually carry. I grabbed a plastic grocery sack filled with three ripe peaches and a package of stale ginger snaps. I set them behind my driver’s seat, in front of my youngest son, Marty, clutching his stuffed velvet penguin, and his slightly older brother, Louie, reading a book about telepathic space aliens. They didn’t pay me any attention, kept their eyes on each other, on the cookies now sitting at their feet, and they lunged for the bag at the same time. I veered toward the coast, and I thought about the previous twenty-four hours.
I just need a change of scenery
, I thought.
I need to put the past behind me. I should think about my new customer. Why the heck does she need emergency Skin-So-Soft?
I reached behind me and ate ginger snaps, one by one, while my boys crunched cookies, too. They jabbed each other, jockeying for the lion’s share of the back seat. The engine panted past a row of skinny Lombardy pines marking the boundary between the lagoon and the ocean.
, I thought,
this is good. I’ll forget that other call while I make my delivery. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do.
The lady’s address was only a mile away, but it might as well have been a million. The seaside roads spike over the interstate, through new stucco condominiums where tiny tired beach cottages used to exist, and spray into cul-de-sacs filled with brand new identical shiny ocean-view rentals. Most of my town is a memory to me, even though I’ve only lived here six short years. I remember the baby pink house with a hundred waxed surfboards tipped at attention along the ashen fence and the row of Venus Fly-Traps on the scraped wooden pink porch. I remember the Latino missing two fingers from his right hand who sat on his scrubby lawn and sold hand-made hats woven from palm fronds. He never uttered a word, would point to a hand-lettered sign with prices when anyone asked him the time of day, the cost of a hat, directions to a good breakfast place. I remember these places but my children don’t. They only know the new homes, the way yellow bulldozers graze like cattle near the beach. Most of the coastline itself is owned by the state - miles of bluffs and beaches and campgrounds of sand and scrub. But one tiny access road looms at the edge of the water, one road with two handfuls of homes guarding silent sentry against the waves.
I love and hate this place
, I thought.
Maybe the air’s too thin to breathe old memories. Maybe I should call my best friend, Shanna, and have a margarita and Mexican food binge, tell her about the call, ask for her advice.
I pictured her stringy red hair tied back in a lopsided pony tail, the way her hands were always covered in dried grout from her tile business, her muscled arms flapping in emphasis as she spoke. I slurped a ripe peach, let the juice drip down my wrist onto my kilt hip pocket. Shanna couldn’t help me solve this problem.