Poor Aunt Bonnie was dying and the doctors had given her very little time, ten days at the most. Her health had been poor for years, so it wasn’t a shock or a surprise, but all her family was upset, no one moreso than my wife.
Distraught for days, I had shrugged it off to her aunt’s illness. I was sitting in my recliner, laptop in lap, when she announced her intentions. “I can’t go to her funeral,” she said.
I shut the laptop. “What? Why not?” Was she afraid of an outpouring of excess emtion? Was she more upset than I realized?Funeral Makeover: a relative's on death's door and you're bound to see childhood friends. What can you do? Click To Tweet
Her body waved like a flag. “There’ll be people there who haven’t seen me since high school.” She pleaded with her hands and looked down at her hips. I can’t go looking like this.”
I’m sure the befuddled expression on my face gave away my complete lack of comprehension. I stared at her, struggling to find something that would prevent her appearance at her aunt’s funeral.
“I can’t go unless I have a funeral makeover.”
I had no idea how stressful funerals were for women, but I was about to find out. The thought of seeing people my wife once knew back in grammar school had thrown her into a tizzy. I came home from work the next day to find her working out to a ten-year-old step DVD. After a half hour of maneuvers atop the lime-green platform, she stood in the living room, breathing hard.
“You’re off to a good start,” I said.
“Can you watch Colleen tomorrow? I have appointments to get my hair done, eyebrows waxed, and nails.”
“I’m thinking about botox.”
“That’s cutting it close.”
“I can’t stand these wrinkles.” She pushed up on her cheeks.
“I’ll ask Aunt Bonnie to hold out.”
A Turn for the Worse
A day later, we received more bad news: Aunt Bonnie’s condition had gotten worse. It didn’t look like she was going to last the full ten days. The doctors gave her three days at the most. This was a real blow, to no one moreso than my wife, who was frantic with plans.
I walked into the kitchen to find her hunched over a notebook she’d begun recording her exercises and diet in. “I’m going to have to ramp up my training regimen,” she said.
“What’s next?” I opened the fridge and found myself buried by an avalanche of smoothies and other fruit drinks.
“Do you think I have time for a boob job?”
“There’s always time for that,” I said, digging out.
“I just want a little lift, nothing crazy.”
“Go crazy,” I said, reaching for a bag of chips on the counter. “Where are you off to?” I asked, seeing her start for the door.
“Out for a power walk,” she said. “I won’t be eating dinner tonight.”
“Got it,” I said, shoving a handful of potato chips in my mouth.
Failed Funeral Makeover
In the end, Aunt Bonnie didn’t even last the three days. My wife received the call in the midst of a set of leg lifts. After a brief conversation, she hung up as anxious as I’d ever seen her.
“Aunt Bonnie just died,” she said. “What am I going to do?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. I had opened a package of Nutter Butter cookies, the kind shaped like peanuts, and dealt myself a five cookie hand. “What do you mean?”
“The wake’s tomorrow, and I’m still twenty pounds from my goal. I can’t go.”
“Oh.” I flipped the top cookie on the deck into my mouth. “Okay.”
“No, it’s not. I’ll have to fast for the next twenty-four hours. How could Aunt Bonnie do this to me? This is a disaster!”
This funeral makeover was on the brink of collapse.
Day of, Lana employed her glam squad to whip her into shape: Jay on makeup and wardrobe, Tony on hair, and Ting for nails. She was going to cut it close, but the all-night schvitz had managed to cut a few pounds. Once she laced up her Victorian corset, she’d be ready.
After several hours of mingling at the wake, she looked exhausted. “Met anyone yet?” I asked.
“Not yet, thank goodness. I’ve almost made it.” The happy expression peeled off her face. “Oh no.”
“What?” I turned towards the entrance. A contingent of men and women, all around my wife’s age, huddled around the guest book. “Friends?”
She nodded. “From high school.”
“Now’s your makeover moment. Your chance to shine,” I said.
“I’m going to hide in the ladies room.” She ducked her head and began a brisk walk towards the exit. Too late.
“Lana!” A woman waved at her. She looked up, grim, then attached a smile and walked towards the group, arms outstretched.
Reconnecting. Reunions, moves home, and now funerals. What do they do to us? What lengths will we go to to present ourselves in the best possible light?
Like my wife, her old friend Michelle had nearly driven herself to a nervous breakdown preparing for the funeral. Between the two of them, they had lost forty pounds; spent a thousand dollars on hair, nails, makeup, and clothes; agonized over surgical procedures, and instigated a shortage of Xanax in the state of Kentucky. Where would it end?
What was the total cost of these impromptu makeovers? Tens of thousands of dollars? Millions? I mulled this as I grabbed a second brownie off the dessert table at the post-funeral lunch. My belt python-ed my stomach in a stranglehold, but I had run out of notches. I reached out for a cupcake for the road.
A Funeral for Makeovers
A week later, life was back to normal. Thoughts of funerals and makeovers and awkward meetings with old friends had vanished. Lana was back to her old self, watching true crime on TV and noshing on late-night cereal. She was halfway through a bowl of popcorn when she got the call: Uncle Jason was on life support.
What should she do? What would you?