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don’t miss julia; no one’ll ever believe you stepped down, they’ll say you fell-Miss Julie, Jean, August Strindberg

I don’t know the woman in this photo. I watched her for five days as she ran her small business. Pulling canoes in from the water. Answering phones. Throwing her orange rinds into the minnow trap so that later, when she wasn’t looking, her husband would come and scoop them out. She wore long sleeves because she didn’t want to get skin cancer and the fabric blocked harmful rays, but she was hot working in the sun. I don’t know this woman but she reminds me of someone.

Another woman.

A woman I worked for who also ran a small business. Another beautiful woman, petite with blue/green eyes and blonde hair and tanned skin. This other woman was so busy she had eyeliner and lipliner tattooed onto her face. That way all she had to do was jump out of bed, wash up and brush her hair. She was camera ready. She was off to be superwoman and take on too many tasks reasonable for any human being in one day. And she did it with a smile. Percussive claps on the whole notes, “chip chip carry on away you go!” “Don’t run, it makes you look weak.” “Learn everyone’s name, there’s nothing a person likes more than hearing their name.” she said it all with a British accent.

Barbie never turns 50.

That four word sentence has been circling in my brain since Jane’s funeral. I turned the corner when they were wheeling her casket into the room, opened. She shook tinily side to side with cake makeup now on top of her tattooed makeup. Like finally there was time for foundation.

Too late.

There was a private viewing for her family from England on one side of the building and now she was being brought to the other where lines of people waited to put eyes on her through a tiny labyrinth of parlor rooms oddly decorated with loveseats and Victorian detritus. The flowers were held in old memories that no one knew anymore. The only thing that remained was the forced floral smell insisting on a beauty that had been erased and the outline of what was supposed to be proper. A life unlived smells like too many carnations in a too small room.

That woman.

It’s complicated.

Divorce.

7 year old son.

Small business.

Debt.

Sleeping pills.

Champagne.

That woman.

She drove me nuts. I confronted her. More than once. I quit working for her. She pissed me off. Underpaid me. Made me work harder. I showed her the numbers. I wrote out the math. I told her it didn’t add up. I had earned more than she had paid.

All she could say to me?

“Well, you’re very smart.”

Yeah. Why has that always been such a setback for me?

I walked away from the dysfunction. From the first world exploitation of my labor. The end of shift clean up on my knees with a dustbuster in each hand. The four class four birthday party day that challenged me to keep singing keep playing. That Gymboree nothing-job that allowed me to heal my own child within and to cultivate so much of my Alexander Technique without anyone being the wiser.  I was paid to play. In socks. On 9.12.01 the infants were inconsolable and everyone became family. I loved it. And I couldn’t take it.

On my knees.

Sucking up the crumbs.

An honest living.

That divorce.

He stole. He lied about their business debt. He was so dishonest.

He eulogized her.

By promoting.

His.

Next.

Failed.

Business.

While their son watched.

Then he mentioned her.

After.

His sales pitch.

In front of

Her dead body.

At her funeral stateside.

Before her family would “take her home”.

I couldn’t believe it.

I’ll never believe it.

He stole.

Stole from the people working for him. Stole their insurance premiums. Kept them. Probably tried to pay off some of his millions in debt with their sweat.

Jane.

She was depressed.

I never knew it.

Her smile was tattooed on her face.

But she was depressed.

Medicated.

Suddenly without insurance.

When you are talking to an apparent privileged woman who has Stockholm’s Syndrome you can’t believe the words that come out of her mouth. You can’t believe how she betrays herself. You think she’s betraying you. But, it’s not that. It’s that she betrays herself and kills off her own opinions, needs, desires. WHY? Because it looks like the only good option. It looks like the only path to happiness. It is the road to hell. And I saw it. And I told her. And she smiled and giggled.

She wrote a note to her seven year old son. Said she was going out for a drive. Got herself a bottle of the best champagne she could and a full bottle of sleeping pills. Pulled off and parked in a strip mall near Tysons Corner, VA and toasted herself to death.

In the cold.

Weeks after.

Her 50th.

Birthday.

Because…

Barbie never turns 50.

It’d been years since I stepped away from that dysfunction. I was in the top two performers at their company. My old coworkers called me back. To tell me. to pull me back in.

I walked away.

Fuck!

I walked away.

She killed herself.

When we talk about white women and how entitled they are and wonder why they aren’t saving the world like they should be or why they are adding to the trouble as the greatest deceivers of all, I think of Miss Julie. I think of Strindberg.

The class divide. The expectation of the white woman to be beautiful and to shut the hell up and take the next atrocity with a Barbie smile. I KNOW that the abuse, the generational abuse is deeply spiritual and psychological. And I wonder.

I wonder why.

Why we are still so hated that when we die the only thing that matters is how beautiful we look laying in that box.

With that pungent smell all around to drown out every thought.

Why?

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