With my eyes closed and Minh's make-up brush grazing the surface of my skin, I can't stop laughing to myself about how funny this situation is:
I am getting dressed up like a bride - make-up, hair, the works - so that An and her husband can put pictures of me and my friend Zen (playing 'the groom') around their bridal shop. Ha.
As Minh continued to drown my skin in foundation and an assortment of other creams, I began to realize why I never wear this stuff: my skin felt like it was suffocating. It will be a miracle if I don't wake up tomorrow with ten bulging pimples on my face.
After I was "beautified", I descended from the top level of An's three-story house down to the middle floor, by way of the winding staircase - trying, as always, to keep my balance. When I made my way into the dressing room, I had to laugh when I saw the size of the dress I was expected to fit into: in American terms, roughly a four.
That wasn't happening.
"It's your shoulders," Zen said, laughing at me as my two sweet-as-can-be Vietnamese assistants attempted to sew the back of the third runner-up shut. "You've got that swimmer's build."
The girls did somehow manage to squeeze me into this third and final dress. It was an ivory-white halter gown, with a red bow and sash at the waist, and my hair was bobbing with beautiful curls, thanks to the handiwork of the "hair guy" upstairs - sorry for that impersonal label, but I don't remember/couldn't pronounce his name. Sweet boy, though!
Lights, camera, action...
I ended up having a really great time. An, Minh and several other hair/make-up artists surrounded us, adjusting and readjusting the light and our poses, sometimes physically turning our heads in the direction they wanted us to face. We took somewhere around eighty pictures, in a variety of different poses.
But after reviewing the photos on An's digital camera, I found that I did not look like myself...
Sometimes, in Vietnam, I feel the way I look in those pictures - completely different, independent of the person I was back at home. Disconnected, if you will. Someone who, even though she may not look it on a day-to-day basis, is undergoing massive internal changes and is having difficulty recognizing herself in the mirror.
So maybe the girl in that white dress is me, after all.