Girls of Slender Means

The Uniform

The Uniform

I pick up a lot of Uber riders who look like this, or are trying their damnedest to.  Not so much in the Valley, that goes without saying. Maybe Studio City on a weekend, coming out of Black Market or Page 71. But more likely emerging from an expensive apartment building in Brentwood,  going home, alone, to a modest building in Koreatown.

Frequently the name on the Uber account is male.

She has Expensive Hair, and a $300 pair of 5-inch heels, but she’s not going out to the club with her friends. She announces she needs to finish her cigarette, and you wait for her because women like this know just how deep a line of credit they have with the male species ay any given moment. On the ride, she lowers her window, leans back and watches the city go by, brushing strands of hair from her face like she’s modeling Wistful, by Calvin Klein. You realize she’s using the open window to sneak a second cigarette but you say nothing.   She catches you looking and asks where you’re from and you tell her, and she announces she’s from Kentucky. Apropos of nothing, she goes on to tell you, her Uber-confessor,  she’s been here eight months and she doesn’t have a job.

Okay, then.

In a city few people can afford to live in, on paper, people live here all the same.  They arrive in greater numbers each month.  How does anyone pay $2400 for rent?  If their parents aren’t supporting them, then who?

There is no starker demarcation of class in this city than the Beauty Line.

The Beautiful are waited upon. The Unattractive, The Squat, The Dark, serve them.

Before you start hating, be honest. How many beautiful waitresses do you actually see anymore?  Besides in the movies.

The Beautiful Waitress was once a Los Angeles institution. When one could prize a one-bedroom apartment in Los Feliz with an avocado tree outside the window for $650, one could get by waiting tables. Back when one could buy acting classes a la carte, instead of being compelled to enroll in a accredited acting program (for profit, natch) with Ivy League-level tuition, the Beautiful Waitress could be the agent of her own destiny.

Today’s waitress is fat, heavily tattooed, and living rent-free at home with her parents.  In the Valley.

Stop hating.  Look around you. Who’s bent in half, doing nails?  Who’s getting her nails done?  Who’s fetching items from the stockroom? Who’s cleaning?  Who’s making the caramel macchiato? Who is tapping her fingers impatiently on the counter? Who is working the register at Whole Foods while a parade of underfed fawns in Lululemon clutch the arms of their 45-year-old ‘boyfriends’ and display conspicuous public affection for the benefit of onlookers?

These are observations, not judgements.

I’m not sure what the half-life of a Sugar Baby in Los Angeles is.  I know they don’t last long in your mouth.  You can suck on them for a while, but then the temptation to bite down into the chewy part overtakes you.  It’s an autonomic, id-driven thing. Then you reach into the bag for another.

The Sugar Daddy calls an Uber.

Beauty is a form of Capital, until it isn’t. Then it’s just another form of Labor. The cry ride across town with the window down is the time to assess.  Before you end up bent over a rail at 3 am at Charlie Sheen’s house while he prattles in your ear about undetectable viral loads and lambskin condoms.

Maybe at the end of the day, the clock-punching women chained to their meager paychecks end up happier.   I don’t know.  I’m just the guy who gives the rides, and I know the math in this city doesn’t add up.

5 thoughts on “Girls of Slender Means

  1. Oh man. This one is sooooo good. Really. “I know they don’t last long in your mouth.” “Beauty is a form of Capital, until it isn’t.” Brilliant writing.

    I read this through my own lens. Circa 1983 I was a sixteen year old poor white trash runaway. I didn’t look like a movie star, but I was young and lean and pretty in a way that men of a certain persuasion appreciated. I never stood on a street corner (exactly) or took cash (directly) for services rendered. It was slightly less tawdry than that. But only slightly. Let’s just say I placed myself in situations where it was highly likely that I would be stumbled upon by helpful strangers and invited home. I still remember LA through the fog of those years. I know something of what you write…

    By the way, you can observe and judge at the same time. I know I do.

  2. One of the most beautifully and sarcastically true things you’ve written.

    The window down description belongs in a movie.

    And I think Camille Paglia wrote something about young female beauty as a proxy for cash in her slender volume of “The Birds.”

    We can survive on next to nothing and live on hope and dreams until we cross that line of chronological fact.

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