Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Target at Target

I’ve never been one who has enjoyed dressing up. Skirts, frilly things, and doing my hair – not high on my list. Give me a pair of running shoes, tank top, and visor, and I’m good to go. I’ve even been known to wear compression socks in public. (And not just in Hawaii).

It struck me yesterday night that I should probably have some clue about what I’m going to do for Thursday’s Marine Corps Ball. And while I can be ready for a run in less than 60 seconds (I know because I’ve tried) – getting ready for a ball is an entirely different proposition. Especially the Marine Corps Ball, with its storied history, tradition, Dress Blues, guests of honor, and other fancy-looking-people.

I think it’s safe to say, that when it comes to balls and elegant parties, I’m a bit out of my element.

So I figured the BEST approach would be to make a list.

After 4+ years of triathlon, traveling frequently to races, and two Ironmans this past season, I’m highly adept at list making. Race success was contingent on my ability to organize, pack, arrange, classify, and sort. As long as I stuck to my tried and true methods, the ball thing would be easy, right?

Insert: evil laugh.

In the dress department, I know I’m covered (figuratively, not literally. Well, literally too! But both are important). I’ve actually got three gowns on hand. One that I wore to high school prom, another that my friend gave to after wearing to her own high school prom, and my gold gown. So really, all things being equal, I’ve got two gowns that are high school appropriate and one GREAT gold gown.

Now that I’m nearly thirty (okay – 28, let’s not push it), I’ve come to accept that age appropriate clothes are essential to my comfort level in social situations.

Suffice to say, I’m going with the Gold.

Additionally, I’m good on the jewelry department. Just a pair of earrings – the loopy kinds that pull on your earlobes; (you know the kinds - if you wear them for too long, your ears will become permanently elongated.) And perhaps an extra ring or bracelet….but I’m not really a jewelry gal (stemming from a snow-tubing accident when my bellybutton ring was ripped from my navel – yes it was traumatic. But even more so, was losing my pants in the process. In front of my entire high school senior class. Don’t ask….that’s a story I don’t discuss for obvious reasons. But it’s been 10 years and I’m happily married – so perhaps the story will come out at some point. Stay tuned.)

Where were we? Ah, yes. Jewelry. Perhaps just the earrings.

For my shoes – I’m going with comfort. Competing in endurance events has taught me that flashy, trendy items that offer little support are most definitely NOT for me. Some women sport 4-inch pumps, walking gracefully from room to room and gliding effortlessly down marble staircases. I am not one of them. I would break my nose with one step. Instead, I’ll sport a pair of low heels that (even more importantly) don’t make my feet swell. If I can avoid cankles, I will do so at all cost.

But as the sandals are open-toed, having cute, presentable toe nails is crucial. (And we all know how I feel about feet.)

I hate them.

Especially when people touch my feet (involuntary shiver).

A pedicure is OUT of the question.

Instead, toe nail polish will be the name of the game. Unfortunately, the bottle of “Smokin’ Havana” polish (the only bottle of nail polish I owned...note the past tense) was somehow left in the car when we drove from Pensacola to California. (last year. Ahem. Small cough).

Honestly, I don’t know what’s sadder: the fact that I haven’t painted my toes in more than a year, OR the fact that I left the only bottle of polish I owned in the car for a year and didn’t think about it. Clearly, painted nails are not a priority. And after my year of Ironman, at least I’ve got nine (toenails). (Ten toes – don’t worry).

And then I realized I would have to make a list.


I didn’t have anything specific in mind. I would know it when I saw it. Nothing too flash or fancy; and it would hopefully match my blush and lipstick.


Is it wrong to admit I’ve had the same blush compact for two years? And the lipstick is even older… Normally I’m fine with chap stick…and my cheeks are naturally rosy (thanks rosacia). But if I’m springing for nail polish, I might as well get other items. It will only help, right?

And then there’s the debacle with my hair. Don’t even get me started.

Let’s just say that I’m in one of those awkward, in-between stages of hair growth. I had a cute cut two months ago; and though it was awesome, it just didn’t scream “ME!” So I’m growing it out. The problem now…is that I’m limited in my styling options. Somehow, I don’t think pulling it back into a ponytail is exactly the look I’m going for. And I know for a fact they wouldn’t let me through the door sporting a visor.

Going to the salon is out (and additionally – I’m cheap when it comes to this stuff. I would rather eat sushi with Nate, get a really nice bottle of wine). Plus, I had a bad experience once where my stylist, perturbed at my slippery, thin hair that would NOT cooperate while being put into a French twist, sprayed so many products onto my head, that my hair resembled a heavily lacquered beehive. I was actually fearful of open flames. It was something from out of this world, perhaps the 5th element. I swear that you could have bounced tennis balls off my outer shell. It was awful; thankfully no photographic evidence exists of this traumatic event.

The memory though – seared into my brain – is enough.

That night, the one with the flammable shell, I redid did my own hair and it turned out great. So…I figured…I might as well try again. Only this time, I’ll have my race strategy, err, action plan.


But first I needed to figure out what I want to do with my hair. Tricky…very tricky…

Eventually I decided that I would probably end up pulling everything back into a low, “messy” bun (but elegant!). The kind that says, “I don’t care how it looks, but even in its messy state, it took me hours to get every strand strategically placed!” If I could add mega amounts of volume and perhaps even a few curls – then we might have something.

Unfortunately, I own nothing that would help with this scheme, save the hair binders.

Let it be known: I’m a-okay when it comes to hair binders.

I spent my time, walking up and down and down and up and back around the isles. There were so many products and I had no idea where to start.

I contemplated the curling iron; but the last time I used it, I was in 5th grade. It was Halloween, and I was trying to go for some 'Marilyn Monroe meets Asia' look. I think it involved a kimono. Kindly keep all thoughts to yourself!

Ever the grown up, I decided to curl my hair, but ended up with a tangled mess of knots, that my Mom had to patiently and painstakingly work out. All I remembered was my Dad muttering in the background, “There’s no way we’re going to get that out. We’re going to have to cut everything off.”

Considering that the iron was lodged firmly on the front of my head, I was sure I would lose half my hair. Suffice to say, I was traumatized.

Okay – so curling iron is out.

Then I spotted the rollers. And let it be known, when I think of rollers, I think of the kind you precariously balance on while biking and praying to a higher power to remain upright.

Hair rollers were very different. There were many varieties, but I eventually settled with the Conair ones with the grippy, Velcro-like surface that promised to hold my hair directly to the roller as I rolled it up. But just in case it didn’t stick, I also opted for the hair clips (that the package suggested) to keep everything in place.

And just to be on the safe side, I bought 2 packs of 12. You never know, right? Better to be safe than sorry. Seriously – when racing, I would rather have more gels than I need, more salt tabs than less. Lord knows, I’ve inadvertently dropped stuff while hammering 20 mph down a course. Shit happens. The last thing I want is to get half my hair up in rollers and then realize I can’t do the other side because I’m darned out of clips.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail…

But then I realized there was the whole conundrum of once I’ve successfully gotten my hair up into said rollers, how to make it stay curly and voluminous. And cute.

So I walked back towards the shampoo and hair care isle. Correction: Salon Style Isle.

I knew extra-firm hair spray would be critical to mission success. I wouldn’t go running without the right footwear; so too would I be armed with the proper tools for ultimate hair triumph. The right product that would mold my hair into the perfect mass of curls and ‘messy bun’ that I envisioned was indispensable.

But which one to choose?

Do I go with the super cheap but unknown brand? Or do I select the uber-expensive one that I knew would work? Choices choices….

While I was mulling it over, I walked to the other end of the isle, and came face to face with products that were touted as “curl activators.” Huh? Apparently by washing my hair with special shampoo, the natural curl that I have will be activated. Okay.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that not only was the curl-activating shampoo necessary, but so too was the curl-activating conditioner, the dream curl serum, the curl hold mousse, and curl highlight gel.

Oh. Bloody. Hell.

Okay… think running…bring it back to the basics. I don’t need anything fancy to go out and run. Heck, the ancient Greeks used to run au natural. Thought it would be highly uncomfortable, it is possible. So things like clothes and shoes are necessary (for this athlete). Extras like heart rate monitor, gps tracker, visor, glasses, ipod – those are all fillers.

Hair products are the same.

In the end I selected the curl activating shampoo and the dream curl perfecting spray. It sounded good and looked better. Plus, it was cheap and I was willing to spring for it. But I still had the looming decision of which hair spray product to choose…

I had flashbacks to my salon disaster and decided to go for the super expensive holding spray. I’ve had friends who have used it, but more importantly – have liked it. And I know for a fact that it doesn’t give its user the hair-plastered-to-head-about-to-go-up-in-flames look. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

The final arsenal in my attack, were hair accessories. Yes, I have plenty of barrettes and hair binders on hand – but somehow they don’t seem appropriate. Especially with the highly polished Marines in their uniforms. Somehow I don’t think my hair scrunchie would do the trick.

At this point I was tired from looking at products, and everything was becoming alarmingly similar. I could feel a bonk coming on. And since when did bobby pins come in so many different colors? Black? Brown? Black-Brown? Blond…? Red…?

Nope. Most definitely NOT red. And most definitely a bonk.

I could feel it: I was crabby, antsy, uncomfortable, and my ankles were beginning to swell from being on my feet for so long. Compression hosen would have been helpful, but I just needed to gut it out.

The choices…becoming overwhelming….like do I choose Gatorade or coke or chicken broth at mile 23 of Ironman…? All will work but one might work better than the other….

So I did the same thing it Target as I did during Ironman: I closed my eyes and grabbed the nearest one available. In the end, light brown was the pick. And I breathed a sigh of relief. But just to make sure I had all my bases covered, I grabbed a pack of elegant bobby slides – similar to bobby pins, but able to hold more hair in place. Nothing like grabbing that last cup of ice on the way out of the aid station…

I looked down at my basket and realized that I needed to be done right now! Hair stuff I’ve never used, products that I hoped would work, new shades of lipstick and blush, nail polish, and a few other things I thought I might need… it all seemed overwhelming. There was so much to choose from – like sitting in T2 and volunteers asking if you want the Rasberry or Double Latte gel?

Both will work. But in the end, you just need to move your ass and go.

So I checked out. Literally. Threw all my items on the checkout line, and watched as the Target associate rang up my purchase. I gulped, but consoled myself that beauty is pain. And worth every penny. Perhaps the salon would have been cheaper – but I would be remiss if I failed to mention there is fulfillment in the journey. Not just the end result.

Please work please work please work!

Now, hopefully I can get all this stuff to work. You know what they say – NEVER try anything new on a race day.


Oh well. Either it will work great and I’ll be a hair genius, or one day – in the far far future – Nathaniel and I will look back and laugh. I’m hoping for the first but suspecting a bit of the latter may happen as well.

Stay tuned…We shall see...


Nicole said...

You are so freakin' funny!! I'm glad you went with the more age appropriate dress. You definitely don't want to look like a skanky ho in-front of all the military wives. They will judge the shiznit out of you! The vultures!

I suggest doing a test run, but considering that it is tonight, that probably wouldn't help.

You sound just like me! On the rare occasions that I look put together, it is just pure luck! Good luck with the vultures tonight! ;) I'm sure you will look beautiful! Don't forget to shave the hair on your toes! Women will judge you on that too! haha. I'm serious though...

Missy said...

Oh for pete's sake, I suck at all that stuff too. We would be the blind leading the blind. It's terrible. My goal every weekend - no makeup and no bra - maybe a camisole but that's it. Yep, good luck and I haven't painted a toe since last winter either. I remember that you CAN paint the stub where you lost the nail and you can't even tell from a distance!

Pedergraham said...

Oh, Marit, I am the same way. Love exercise clothes, but not the nice stuff. Thought motherhood would give me the excuse to be frumpy, but then the stork brought me a girlie girl. BTW, she would love to fly in to do your hair and nails for you. She would do a good job, too, but she would insist on the 4 inch heels!

Kim said...

laughing at all of this, but particularly when you got your hair stuck in a curling iron - when i was young, i got my hair stuck in a hairbrush and instead of telling my mom i just cut a huge chunk of my hair off. doh! im sure you will look BEAUTIFUL :) cant wait to see pictures.

Molly said...

oh man, this could be me writing! that;s exactly how i feel every time i've had to dress up for the past 2 years- including funerals (is a knee brace tacky at a service?)
seriously, this is the funniest "race report" i've ever read- who cares about a 5k when i could read a race report full of the dramas of getting ready for a ball? and i mean that in all honesty. i love that you managed to take a totally normal "girl" thing and bring out the athlete in it!

Alili said...

OMG I absolutely need to hear the pants story! :)

Marni said...

Where's the pics? It would have been great to see you in the process of getting ready for the ball :)
Loved the ball-getting ready-report :)

Beth said...

Oh man I feel your pain. I was laughing the whole time I was reading!! Can't wait to see pictures of you all dolled up though!! :)

Charisa said...

Have fun!!

D said...

At least you own make-up. It occurred to me that I haven't had any of my own since I was about 12 - and even then it was stage make-up.

Roo said...

I just laughed out loud more than once. I cannot wait to hear the entire snow tubing story some day.

I dare you to wear the compression socks with the gown! Oh- and by the way- impressive that you fit in the prom dress. Mine probably wouldn't get past my knees.

wonderwoman said...

I am no good at the makeup or jewelery or shoes thing either. I have to ask my gay bff for help.

Heidi Austin said...

can't wait for the pics:)

not to claim that my fashion sense is that good~ but what little fashion sense i do have i would trade any day to be a faster that bad? have fun and enjoy being all done up!!!

Mary said...

I am amazed at how many conundrums you've gotten yourself into with your hair! Hilarious! But believe me, I understand.

Yep, you brought it up, so now we need to hear the pants story!

日月神教-向左使 said...