Okay, it was early summer in 2009 and I was with my BFF Louise at the theatre I worked at, preparing for a photo shoot for one of my upcoming Fringe productions.

I had just finished putting A LOT of makeup on Louise, who was playing an alien in a bizarre, 1950s B-movie sci-fi play I had written. Basically, she had green glitter from her eyelashes to her eyebrows, green glitter on her cheeks, and green lipstick. Her hair – which was half black and half blonde at the time – was curled. Oh yeah, and she was wearing a corset wrapped in tin foil, which was her makeshift costume until we got her head-to-toe silver spandex, courtesy of American Apparel. (Who buys that shit for real life use? Seriously.) I almost forgot: she also had antennae on.

She looked very similar to this production shot:

"Astronomic-os - they're out of this world!" Copyright Meryl Smith Lawton for Cowardly Kiss Theatre
“Astronomic-os – they’re out of this world!” Copyright Meryl Smith Lawton for Cowardly Kiss Theatre

At the time, Louise was a smoker, and the makeup job had taken a long time, so she wanted to have a quick cigarette before we started taking photos. She put on a hoodie and we went to stand out front.

The reactions were instant. Every car that drove by honked. Some people rolled down their windows when they stopped at red lights to shout random shit at us. We even saw a very near accident, all due to a little green makeup.

Then we noticed a lady coming down the street toward us. She was a black woman (which I promise is relevant, and not just some random statement) in her late 20s/early 30s, and she was pushing a baby in a stroller. Her second child, who looked like she was about three, was walking next to her, holding onto the stroller.

We braced ourselves for a big reaction, since this woman was going to be our first face-to-face encounter, not just someone passing by in a car. She walked up to us looking very serious and paused.

(Our mutual inner thought: “Here it comes…”)

“Is this the way to the black lady hair salon?”

In my mind, there was a painfully awkward five minute pause while I tried to absorb what was happening, but in real life, I’m sure it was two seconds. Had she just said what I heard? Had she not reacted to Louise’s green face?

“Oh, um, well, there’s a specialty African salon across the street and about half a block down that way. Or just on the corner there is Images and Shades – they have lots of stuff there, too.”

“Okay, I need the one that puts the weave in, not just sells the weave.”

“You definitely want the place down the road, then! They’re a full salon.” I smiled.

“Perfect! Thanks, ladies!”

“No problem.”

She started to walk away, then paused and turned back to us briskly. She stared at Louise. Her face went serious again.

(Our mutual inner thought: “Okay, here it comes for real…”)

“Girl, are those your real lashes?!”

“Noooo – god no, I wish – they’re falsies.”

“Hm. They’re gorgeous. Have a great day!”

“You too!” We chimed back at her, watching her walk away.

“So that just happened.” Louise couldn’t help but laugh.

“Totally.”*

Lesson learned: You can tell when someone is Good People based on how they react to your ridiculous costume.

That lady rocked.

xA

*I feel like the words, ” that happened,” and “totally,” are integral to every conversation Louise and I have ever had.

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