Madeline sat in the bar sipping her cosmopolitan. She had read in an issue of Mademoiselle that it was the new big drink. The issue had been in her doctor’s office with a date of one month and one year ago. Madeline was quite sure that it was still the new big drink.
Madeline adjusted the hem of her black skirt, pretending to pull it down, but really pulled it up in the process to show off a little more leg. She had read in Jane that this was a good trick. She bought a stool for her apartment and practiced this move in every one of her skirts before feeling confident enough to try it. She was quite proud of how well she could pull it off and always smiled to herself afterwards.
The stool was in Madeline’s closet now. It didn’t match the neo-post modernistic classical style of her midtown studio. She tried arranging a leopard print throw over it ever so carefully so that it achieved that “tossed on” look, but it never looked quite right to her. She put the throw back over the arm of the zebra print couch that she had ordered from Ikea and had had specially upholstered in a trendy new shop in the village. She paid almost twice what the couch was worth to have the authentic looking faux fur cheaply stapled over it. She decided that the bad workmanship gave it a “found at the Salvation Army” look to it, which was preferable only when the item in question was not, in fact, found anywhere near the Salvation Army.
Madeline remarked to the bartender that it was a slow night. He smiled politely to her and took one of the four orders coming to him. Madeline watched the bartender sweet talk the customers into purchasing the more expensive liquors, and then pour them into pretty shaped glasses, mixing them with pretty colored beverages. The bartender always got big tips. Madeline read in Cosmopolitan how much to tip her bartender, but she always went over that limit. Madeline read in Cosmopolitan that it’s good to go over the normal tipping amount.
Madeline stared at the drinks in the strangers’ hands, watched them laughing and getting slowly more red in the face. She pulled her compact out of her purse and checked to make sure that she still appeared cool. Madeline took another sip of her cosmo, the fourth one of the night, and put the compact back into her purse, grabbing a cigarette while she was at it. She leaned forward on the bar, placing the cigarette between her lips, and started to seductively ask the bartender for a light, as she had read to do in In Style. Before the words came out, though, she realized that another woman had sat down next to her and was already engaging the bartender in conversation.
Madeline took another sip and sighed, lighting her own cigarette. She listened to the woman order a cosmopolitan. Madeline looked down at her drink, and then glared at the woman. The woman grasped the martini glass in one hand and regarded her drink, mentioning to the bartender that she had recently taken a quiz in Harper’s Bazaar about her knowledge of alcoholic beverages and how low of a score she had gotten. Madeline scoffed at her as she took the final drag of her cigarette and stamped it out in the ashtray. She listened to the woman tell the bartender just how many calories one cosmopolitan has, and just how poisonous all of the liquors used are. Madeline sat thoughtfully for a moment, looking at the rows of bottles behind the bartender.
Suddenly, Madeline slammed her drink down, as a revelation came to her. She quickly picked the drink back up, drank the rest, and slammed the empty glass down again. Madeline knew to never waste a drink that a lady has paid for herself.
Madeline got down from the bar stool, grabbed her bag, and walked out of the bar. She had discovered from that woman, who had read in Harper’s Bazaar, that alcohol was quite poisonous, and it was poisoning everyone in that bar. Madeline thought about how she no longer wanted something in her body that made her red in the face. Although she had bought a new blue-greenish powder to eliminate any extra redness in her skin tone, she didn’t want to solely rely on makeup to make her beautiful. Madeline wanted to be beautiful on her own, and promised herself that from now on there would be no more junk food, no more alcohol, no more cigarettes.
Madeline got to her apartment and slipped out of her black skirt and lacy gray camisole. She took off her eye makeup with eye makeup remover and her foundation and lipstick with makeup removing cloths. She then washed her face with three different types of oil-removing and blemish fighting products, although she had never really had any acne problems. She brushed and flossed her teeth for five minutes, put on her sleep tank and pajama pants and slipped under her Egyptian cotton sheets in Martha Stewart green. Madeline pulled her hair out from under her head and arranged it carefully on the pillow around her. She thought of her new lifestyle she would start tomorrow and smiled to herself as she listened to her “Sounds of Nature” compact disc. It didn’t really help her sleep, but Madeline had read in Elle that it calmed you. She was still waiting to feel calm while listening to it.
Madeline got up the next morning and threw away all of her non-essential makeup. She put on the thinnest layers of foundation, eye liner, mascara, lip liner, lipstick, and blush, so that it would appear that she just had a natural beauty. Madeline decided that she wouldn’t develop a natural beauty for at least a couple of weeks after her new lifestyle began, and still wanted to look her best. So, makeup, at this point, was essential, though it was to still appear that she had nothing on at all. Next, she threw away all the food in her house. She went to the health food store and bought all organic fruits and vegetables, herbal medications and vitamins, a healthy living cookbook, and tofu. She didn’t quite know how much tofu would be enough, so she bought a two-and-a-half pound brick, thinking that it would last her at least a couple of meals.
Madeline went uptown to a couple of boutiques she had seen on Entertainment Tonight that catered to those looking to work out and still look good. She bought three silk track suits and one velveteen one with a matching purse. She purchased running-style shoes and a sports bra-style top, both with less support and extra pretty accents. Madeline went to the hairdresser and had her hair done up in a lovely ponytail to work out in.
Madeline went home and read her new cookbook and decided on making a tofu-based dish, with the organic strawberries and corn she had bought as the main ingredients for the dish’s relish. It all seemed like something bought at a fancy restaurant, and the portion was small enough for her to believe that that was exactly where she was. As the relish mixed and the tofu fried in an organic apple sauce oil substitute, she tried on all four of her new track suits, deciding on the pastel purple silk one. She slipped on her running shoes and put on the sports bra top with the jacket zipped up halfway over it.
Madeline placed her meal on her fiesta wear-style plate with the built in chips in the paint (a garage sale-type item, purchased through a catalogue she especially liked, specializing in over-priced shabby-chic and old-looking merchandise) and sat down at her Mahogany table for six. Madeline lived alone, but wanted to know that she’d always have room for company, though she had had none since the day she moved in four months ago.
Madeline placed some of the tofu-strawberry-corn mixture into her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. She read in Glamour that it was always best to look thoughtful when eating something for the first time, never overly satisfied nor displeased. Even though she was eating alone in her apartment, she stuck to this rule. After the first bite was thoroughly chewed and swallowed, Madeline threw the dish away. Although she made it a point to never throw away a meal for which she had paid, she found herself rather disinterested in tofu as a whole, and rather disgusted by the combination of strawberries and corn. She craved a cigarette and a cosmo, but promised herself to go to the new gym down Park Avenue that night to sign up for a membership.
Madeline entered the doors to the brightly lit machine-filled room and admired all of the glistening young male and female executives, in their mutely colored, expensive workout gear. She talked to a representative of the gym, who gave her a three-and-a-half month trial membership for $550 a month, provided she would only utilize the space two days a week. Madeline was happy to sign and walked right upstairs to the track to start her new exercise regimen.
Madeline watched several women speed walk past her, and then a man jog past them, on a cell phone. As she looked on, she decided that she would be best to try the speed walking, because it seemed more easy to get into, and less likely to make her break out in too much of a sweat. She had not brought her track suits to the dry cleaners to have them treated for water damage yet, and did not want any of the silk to be ruined before the end of her first day as a healthy young professional.
Madeline stood on the side of the track, stretching as attractively as possible (nothing that appeared too strenuous), preparing herself to step into her new healthy way of living. As she placed her foot on the bright pink rubbery floor, she thought of how well that color suited her favorite drink and how well the off white color of the running shorts the man passing her was wearing suited her favorite type of cigarette. Madeline thought about how much she had hated the tofu, and how the had a feeling that the track suits were going to go out of style soon. She thought about how she really hated the ponytail on her.
Madeline pushed through the doors of the new gym and stepped into a cab to bring her back to her apartment, deciding against walking home since she had already worked out enough for one day. She took a quick shower and styled her hair, and then grabbed the box in the bottom of her refrigerator holding her reserve supply of Mac makeup, which she had neglected to throw out earlier that day. She got herself ready and left the apartment, hailing another cab to bring her back to where she belonged.
Madeline walked confidently through the doors of her favorite bar, signaling the bartender for a cosmopolitan and a light. She shimmied onto the bar stool, playing with the hem of her denim-style skirt. She looked around the room for interesting men and saw all of them with other women. All the faces around her were getting increasingly red from the poison they were consuming and she checked her face in the compact to make sure she still looked cool. Madeline sipped her cosmopolitan and told the bartender that she once decided to give up drinking. It was a weird time in my life. I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere, she said. The bartender smiled politely and handed her another glass. Would you have missed me if I had never come back? she smiled, flicking the cigarette seductively, as she had read to do in Vogue. Wouldn’t want to lose one of my best customers, the bartender said with a smile as he looked away to take the next order.