I can picture her in the kitchen in the suburban Philadelphia home where I grew up. She's stirring gravy on the stove—they eat early, and Friday's menu is always pot roast and mashed potatoes—then unscrewing the top on a bottle of Zinfandel in preparation for the single glass she indulges in on weekend nights.
There are yellow curtains dressing the small window above the sink, and a dish towel looped through the stove handle with the words Just roll with it superimposed over an image of a rolling pin. The flowered wallpaper is peeling at the seams and a dent marks the bottom of the fridge from where my father kicked it after the Eagles lost in the playoffs.
Dinner will be ready when my dad walks through the door from his job as an insurance salesman. My mother will greet him with a quick kiss. They will call my sister, Becky, to the table, and help her cut her meat.
"Becky zipped up her jacket this morning," my mother says. "Without any help."
Becky is twenty-two, six years younger than me. "That's fantastic," I say.
Sometimes I wish I lived closer so I could help my parents. Other times, I'm ashamed at how grateful I am that I don't.
"Hey, can I call you back?" I continue. "I'm just running in to work."
"Oh, did you get hired for another show?"
I hesitate. Mom's voice is more animated now.
I can't tell her the truth, so I blurt out the words: "Yeah, it's just a little production. There probably won't even be much press about it. But the makeup is super elaborate, really unconventional."
"I'm really proud of you," my mom says. "I can't wait to hear all about it next week."
I feel like she wants to add something more, but even though I haven't quite reached my destination—a student housing complex at NYU—I end the call.
"Give Becky a kiss. I love you."
My rules for any job kick in even before I arrive.
I evaluate my clients the moment I see them—I notice eyebrows that would look better darkened, or a nose that needs shading to appear slimmer—but I know my customers are sizing me up, too.
The first rule: my unofficial uniform. I wear all black, which eliminates the need to coordinate a new outfit every morning. It also sends a message of subtle authority. I choose comfortable, machine-washable layers that will look as fresh at seven P.M. as they do at seven A.M.
Since personal space vanishes when you're doing someone's makeup, my nails are short and buffed, my breath is minty, and my curls are swept up in a low twist. I never deviate from this standard.
I rub Germ-X on my hands and pop an Altoid in my mouth before I ring the buzzer for Apartment 6D. I'm five minutes early. Another rule.
I take the elevator to the sixth floor, then follow the sound of loud music—Katy Perry's "Roar"—down the hallway and meet my clients. One is in a bathrobe, and the other wears a T-shirt and boxers. I can smell the evidence of their last beauty treatment—the chemicals used to highlight blond streaks into the hair of the girl named Mandy, and the nail varnish drying on the hands Taylor is waving through the air.
"Where are you going tonight?" I ask. A party will likely have stronger lighting than a club; a dinner date will require a subtle touch.
"Lit," Taylor says.
At my blank look, she adds: "It's in the Meatpacking District. Drake was just there last night."
"Cool," I say.