Thursday, December 10, 2009

"A" Student

I got 100% on my anatomy test. I'll admit that I get 100 on all my tests (except once I got a 98); but for this one I actually had to study. Had to memorize all the bones and muscles in the head, neck, arm, hand and feet. Things like the sternocleidomastoideus is the muscle of the neck that lowers and rotates the head. It's the one that, along with the trapezius, frequently goes into spasm from leaning over a computer for twenty years. At least that's what happened to me.

Friday I can start "checking out" on the practicals. I did some very nice barrel curls yesterday.

It's fun learning all this stuff. At my age one hardly every develops a new skill, interest or hobby. I remember when my first boss at Grey (who was in his late 50s at the time) started taking Spanish lessons for the first time. He was so excited. That's how I feel, excited and happy. It's all just so damn FUN.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Little Miss

I've mentioned in an earlier post that, like in pre-school, all the teachers at beauty school are addressed as "Miss." Miss Kathy, Miss Lisa, Miss Ebony. Since I began the program, most of the other students also address me as "Miss" -- "Miss Cynthia." Initially this made me extremely uncomfortable. Because...

When I was a very small child my grandparents had full-time "help." Beatrice and Herbert. They were Negroes (this was 1964-ish). Beatrice was mostly in the kitchen helping Grandma and Herbert did stuff in the yard, the garage. These two people had been with my grandparents since my mother was a child. And, this being dysfunctional WASPy-wasp-land, my mother always felt that Beatrice was more her mother than that tall, skinny white woman. (And in fact, when Mummy was dying she asked for Beatrice; which is how I know that Beatrice really was her emotional mother.) But I digress (as usual). Beatrice and Herbert both called me "Miss Cynthia." As a four/five/six year old I was very confused as to why these grown-ups, who were so like my grandparents, would address me as if I were a grown-up too. I don't remember ever asking anyone why; but like a lot of things in WASPy-wasp-land, I was probably cued not to "say anything." By the time I was seven or so, Beatrice and Herbert were gone. I don't know where they went, if they passed away or what their last names were. I'm not even sure my mother know Beatrice's last name (although Mummy did keep a framed picture of Beatrice on her dresser.) Still whenever I've thought about Beatrice and Herbert, the thing I remember most is how they called me "Miss Cynthia;" and how strange it felt, how racist, how classist.

So forty years later I get to beauty school and all these young Black girls are calling me "Miss Cynthia," and IT'S BEEN CREEPING ME OUT. BIG TIME. But the joke's on me 'cause yesterday I flat out asked what the deal is and was told "Miss Cynthia it's cause you're old." Ha! Any student over the age of 40 is "Miss." In the place I am now, it's not about race, or class, it's about age. There's me, Miss Marcy, Miss Chantel. Friends will also call each other "Miss," regardless of age. So it can also be a term of endearment.

So here I've been getting all tangled up in my emotional underwear and spending weeks on all kinds of emotional and intellectual gymnastics for nothing. The lesson is, don't over think stuff.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


With being in school, teaching religious ed to 2nd graders and Christmas (parties, concerts, shopping, decorating, baking) I haven't had much time to write the past week or so. So sorry to disappoint. But get this -- I have to be fingerprinted Thursday evening. So stay tuned.....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


While I was enjoying Thanksgiving in Colonial Williamsburg, surrounded by families i
n my own demographic and quickly becoming accustom to the lifestyle to which I use to be accustom, there was a fight at school. And I missed it! I still don't have the whole story, but it had something to do with a roller set. And the thing of it is, the fight was between two of the women I really like and have thought of as
sort of in the same clique. Turns out the white girl is C-R-A-Z-Y. I had no idea. I should have known something was up with her when I learned she went to one of the prestigious Catholic girls' schools here in town, graduated in May and is now going to this beauty school (instead of OSU or Xavier or for heaven's sake the Aveda school in Hyde Park!). The other one was my most respected, Miss Monique -- whom I think of as freakin' mother of the year, most amazing, strong, brilliant, funny and totally-has-her-shit-together 36-year-old mother of two college students and two (extremely successful) teenagers. Girl, that female has her head on straighter than anyone I know; straighter than I do. (Ha!) I can not believe she got into it with that crazy 18 year old. What. Ev. Er.

Almost every day I wish the beginning of class were like a focus group where we'd have the participants introduce themselves "tell who you live with, if you have kids, what you do for a job, etc." But we don't, so I have to glean all this information over time. But I digress... I'm suppose to be talking about fights.

I only remember two fights in advertising. Once, at a shoot in Vancouver between a Director and an Art Director.... Screaming at each other over a child's wardrobe. The client and I ran from video village to see what was the matter. When we saw what was going on, we looked at each other and he said "let's get out of here." "Good idea" I replied. The Gulf War broke out a few hours later and then we were all focused on how we'd get home. (Fly to Toronto and drive down to NY.) The second fight was between myself and an ACD. I don't remember what it was about; but there was a lot of yelling -- in a hallway. And it must have been bad because everyone shut their doors and then later people sneaked into my office, closed my door and wanted to "talk." I remember this ACD and I didn't talk for a long, long time (although we have been very close). Weeks went by (but maybe it was really more like four days, or maybe two); then the big black out of 2003 happened. 777 Third Avenue was being evacuated. We literally ran into each other in the fire escape stairwell on the 22nd floor -- hugged, cried and then walked to Chelsea to find an open bar.

Time, time, time ... while I look around....

Time sheets. You gotta fill 'em out in advertising, and in beauty school. In advertising you track time in order to bill clients and/or to gauge profitability. At beauty school you keep track of time in order to fulfill The Ohio State Board of Cosmetology required 1800 hours of study.

When I was at Grey, every month I'd get the "time sheet run" listing the hours "charged" on each of my businesses. It was a big stack of computer print-out and included the time of anyone who "touched" the business -- my group, creative, media, traffic, accounting, etc. (It also gave a list of the dreaded "unbillable" hard costs -- but I'll save that for another time.) The purpose of my review was to make sure everyone's hours were in line with the client contract. Said another way, I was to make sure no one was working too much. The trick was to work less than was stipulated by the contract and therefore be more profitable. This was especially difficult when 1) my core team was 100% devoted to the business and 2) I could never shake the ethical commitment to doing the best work. What I could never figure out, was how profitability can change if overhead is essentially fixed, and the client pays a retainer. I had many a conversation with EVPs and CFO's and only one would admit that the obsession with hours was pretty much bogus. And an obsession it was. The myth, I suppose, was that we would somehow bill the client for these hours -- but of course unlike the clients of attorneys, our advertising clients would never pay a fee based on hours. All I can figure is that the paradigm is a hold over from the Mad Men days when advertisers did pay by the hour -- or a huge percentage of the media buy. I was constantly searching for a more useful profitability model; never found one and so spent a lot of time crunching time sheets.

Now I punch a time clock. I didn't figure it out until day three -- you have to look through the little window and line the little box on your card up with arrow. In addition to stamped time cards I'm also required to fill out a daily time sheet keeping track of time spent on each activity. This sheet is then initialed by the instructor at the end of each day. At the end of each month the time sheets must then be reconciled. BY HAND -- there is no Excel in beauty school. Twelve columns are added, "managers" hours are isolated (and those can only show on Monday's), hours are forwarded from the previous month, "Saturdays" are recorded in a separate box. It is quite the chore. And although it takes me about twenty minutes to get my time sheet straightened out, it takes most of the class the entire morning. It's mind numbing; but at least it makes sense.

I can't help thinking -- maybe the thing we needed in an ad agency was to have people punch a time clock, and then have their time sheets initialed at the end of every day. I'm pretty sure there must be a program attorney's use for that purpose.