So I left off last time with Elaine waking me up in the morning and telling me I had to learn about makeup, and as you might expect, that doesn't go very well. I'd seen the array of little containers on top of her dresser, but sort of looked right past them. I didn't think they applied to me, all evidence to the contrary. Elaine pointed out that they very much do, and that while it was okay for a man to go out looking for work with just the face God have him, give our take some shaving, that wouldn't do for ladies. So as soon as I get out of the shower, she pulls a chair up in front of the dresser and says to show her what I know.
Basically, we're talking lipstick here, by which I mean I know how that works, not that I can apply it quickly or evenly. I get my lips dark black (she favors that over red), and then I just stare at all the bottles and powders, paralyzed. She sighs, says this is going to take some work.
So she spends basically all day trying to teach me cosmetics. It's frustrating for us both - I am not interested in learning this at all, and she's having trouble getting things across to me, because even though she's helped other girls with their makeup before, her brain starts to short-circuit with her own face in front of her. Even though she knows what has happened to us, she would suddenly think she was looking in a mirror and start reaching for her own face. Eventually, she gets a stool and starts standing behind me.
Despite my resistance, she's actually not a bad teacher. She says half of her job is being patient with nerds who just don't want to deal with her at all, but I'm a special case. But, she says, it only takes doing something ten thousand times to become an expert. I'm not sure if she's joking. She stays pretty focused for a nine-year-old, but she also gets hungry and fidgety a lot, so there are at least some breaks. She tries to keep it up into the night, but drops at eight. I put her in the bed and resign myself to the couch again.
The next morning I wake up to find an outfit, if you can call it that, laid out on the coffee table in front of me. I lift it up - it takes two fingers - abs dangle it in front of Elaine, who is using what seems like a hilariously oversized laptop in a chair. "What's this about?"
She doesn't even look up. "Morning run, to the lake and back, every day. It's about two miles, and you should be glad I don't bump it up for what a diet that's like fifty percent hot dogs has done to my ass over the last few weeks." My hands almost involuntarily go to my bottom - it doesn't feel much different than that first day, but women get weird about that.
She shuts the laptop and jumps from the chair, already in shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers. "C'mon, daylight's burning!"
I retreat to the bathroom and look apprehensive at the two pieces of lycra she's given me, stripping down to panties and trying not to pay much attention to the mounds on my chest even though the top is making that hard with its attempts to hold them immobile rather than just relieve the stress on my back. I've never worn something as skin-tight as it and the shorts, though I've appreciated it on those who have, and I have to admit that, in something like this, my bottom does stick out a bit, although I haven't done much damage to her legs yet.
We get to the street and she says to follow her, jumping out ahead. She doesn't stay ahead for long, even running with the steady pace of a grown woman who knows what she's trying to accomplish rather than the full-speed-ahead enthusiasm of a little kid; her legs are just too short. I don't really mind jogging to keep pace with her, but by the time we're at the park on the lake, she's panting, really needing to rest up a bit before we had back. I'm of two minds - maybe I have let her body go a bit if I'm wheezing a bit and already feeling kind of sore, even though I know I'd hurt more if I was still myself (though probably not so much in the chest), and I don't want to feel worse, but I'm acutely aware that some heads have turned as I ran by in my skin-tight outfit, and now that we're stopped, they're staring.
When one guy about Elaine's age walks up and somehow corners me against a park bench, asking if I have any nights off or if the white girl's patents keep the nanny on duty 24/7, I am ready to get back to the apartment, although I am not sure how to extricate myself with a big black guy standing close and over me. Fortunately, "nanny" gets Elaine angry, and she pushes in between us, giving the guy's leg a two-handed shove, although I think he mainly moves back a bit to humor her. She starts yelling at him in a way that would sound a lot better with the voice I've got now, saying he should know better than to assume that a black woman couldn't do any better than looking after a white woman's kids, grabbing my hand and starting to drag me off. The guy says sorry, but you don't see sisters adopting white kids very often, and she doesn't even turn around while yelling that it is none of his God-damn business what our deal is. I almost feel bad for him, but don't say anything to Elaine until we've made it a block or so away.
"So, are you going to teach me how to do that?"
She actually laughs. "Buddy, a couple weeks of dealing with the world as a black woman, you'll be doing it yourself! Not very 'Mackenzie Mahoney' of me, though, is it?"
I say I guess not.
She lets me have the shower first, and I have to admit, I linger. I haven't been doing that much, but the run makes me aware of all of my body at once, and I'm ashamed to say I become a bit fascinated by the way the water is running down my breasts and skipping off my nipples. I don't do anything perverted while I'm in there, but it's kind of the moment when I realize that this is still my body made to look like Elaine's, and I'm not just a passenger, so I'm re-appraising it a bit.
I'm also kind of afraid of what sort of clothing she's going to have laid out for the day's lessons, but she goes pretty easy on me - t-shirt, jeans, socks, sneakers; if not for the sizes and underwear, not that far off from my usual. Then I look at the wall and realize that I'm not totally off the hook.
Elaine's job is something called an "agile scrum master", and though I think I've got a bit of an understanding of it after a month of lessons, I don't really know if I can explain it; she basically monitors a team of people writing a computer program and makes sure everyone's busy or has what they need to work, and does this with a big chart on the wall with little sticky notes in various columns. The idea is to start each "sprint" with a bunch of notes on the left-hand side and move them to the right as people finish their work, and that's what she's got for me. I guess you go with what you know.
Anyway, while there's a some stuff like "apply eyeshadow" and "cross apartment in heels" on the left, it's mostly work stuff - "planning poker", "TFS", etc. As much as it apparently pains her to see walking around without makeup on her face, she figures that, if worst comes to worst, she can paint my face before I leave, but I need to know the work stuff pretty cold.
That's a pretty hard thing to teach and learn in this environment, to be honest - how am I supposed to learn to manage a team of people when I've just got the person trying to teach me how to do it to practice on? Is almost cute to watch her try and play multiple parts in our pretend morning meetings, or insist that I send a third hypothetical person an email which she ignores for a couple of hours to get me in the habit of remembering what's outstanding and to follow up on it.
That probably doesn't sound very boot-camp-like, but it's a lot to take in for someone who is not really good at computers, and it's not a nine-to-five job. Elaine may have figured that she can't really make the run every morning, but she's eager to connect the bracelet she has me wear to the computer and see that I actually did what she said. She brings that sort of angle to a lot of things - when she decided it was time for me to get familiar with the train system, she would send me on an errand and then track my/her phone, calling me if I'm staying in one place too long or going off the expected track. Sometimes she even has me try to have a tablet's camera sticking out of a purse or at least stream audio, and while I don't think she can remotely activate that, it's got me really paranoid at times. Maybe people her age (either one) don't have the same sort of interest in privacy that my generation does, but it is genuinely unnerving to be monitored and judged on real time for how well I'm pretending to be her, especially since she's not exactly returning the favor to MacKenzie.
And when we are in the same room... oh boy. After about a week, the clothes she started laying out got more and more feminine, and if I get caught with my legs open in a dress or skirt, they get slapped with a ruler. The heels have gotten higher and thinner, and I've got to tread what seems like a very thin line with how I walk in them, lest she start yelling.
And as dressing and grooming "stories" have grown more frequent on the boats, my privacy has basically disappeared. The first time she had me shave my legs wasn't so bad, but she demanded I go higher the next time, and you don't really know fear until you've worried that someone else might walk into the bathroom while someone her apparent age critiques just how well you've "tidied things up" down there. Compared to that, her shouting in exasperation not to be so skittish about touching my own breasts, especially when a dress or bra needs a little adjustment, is nothing.
At least the sleeping arrangements have gotten better. After a few days, she said me sleeping on the couch was stupid after I complained about a sore neck, and that it was no big deal if we slept in the same bed. A couple days later, we decided that wasn't actually the case - not only did I feel weird getting into bed next to an apparently-underage girl, she said feeling a presence that much larger than her looming was a lot different than when she shared a bed with a tall guy, let alone the worries that we may somehow change in our sleep again and then feel compelled to do something, or just not recognize the person next to us.
So we order a twin bed, and, honestly, getting to spend a couple hours one afternoon assembling it was the best, just building something.
Still, you'd be hard-pressed to see a handyman in me tonight, wearing Elaine's little black dress, panty hose, four-inch heels, lipstick, straightened hair and painted nails, and getting all dolled up without any help. Elaine didn't have to say a word as we took the train to a place she likes in another part of town, at least not to me as opposed to barking at guys still drunk from the Cubs' parade who always seemed to get a hand (or something else) touching me when they really didn't have to. She got dressed up, too - she's not really growing fast enough for all the new clothes she orders online, but that's her excuse - and this is kind of a final exam and graduation party all in one: We can start looking for work next week.