I'm looking at myself in the mirror at my hairdresser's. I see rampant imperfection -- pudgy face, deep-set eyes, zits, incipient crow's feet -- topped by a wet towel hanging on my no-longer-blond hair.
In and out of my vision pirouettes Nancy, coiffeuse extraordinaire. She's manager of the salon, which is called Talent. Nancy has talent. What can she do for me?
During our years as beautifier and client, Nancy has tolerated my fantasies about the perfect hairdo for the real me. She's shaped my tresses when I wanted them to grow, trimmed them when I yearned for a breezy Dorothy Hamill wedge cut, discouraged me from a permanent, and sighed with relief when we settled on my very-short-but-very-easy cut.
Today the hairs on my head are an inch and a half long, and I want a trim. Nancy sips her soda and says, "Hi. What should we do today?"
Without hesitation, I respond, "Make me look like Candice Bergen."
Nancy, look at me, flawed as I am. Inside me dwells Candice Bergen.
While Nancy who is snickering, attends to my short, layered locks, I tell her . . .
I am fixated on Candice Bergen. We had a journalism class together during our halcyon days at the University of Pennsylvania, when she was Cappy and I was Susie. To me, she'll always be Cappy. To her I remain anonymous.
If you know my 15th college reunion will be this spring, it's not difficult to guess my age. From what I read, through some quirk of fate or a time warp, Cappy gets younger with each passing press agent.
Our journalism class was early: 10 a.m. Cappy came to class disheveled, thoughtlessly dressed, sans makeup, apparently without having combed her hair -- and she was exquisite. Also smart.
The articles she wrote were among the best in the class. A talented photographer, she was planning a career at National Geographic.
Cappy was Edgar Bergen's daughter and Charlie McCarthy's buddy. Her only credits were Grecian beauty, acerbic wit, creative talent, elevated birth, a haughty demeanor, a finishing-school voice, youth, a friendship with Jane (Fonda) and Roger (Vadim), a nomination for Miss University, and a few modeling jobs in New York.
The green seeds of my jealousy were sown.
After two years, Cappy quit Penn. She soon appeared in everyone's neighborhood theater in the movie version of "The Group." Her voice and glacial beauty were unchanged on the silver screen, as were her inability to act and my inability to react to her realistically.
I watched many of her films and thrived vicariously on her relationships with Steve McQueen in "Sand Pebbles," Elliot Gould in "Getting Straight," Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson in "Carnal Knowledge." Not a single memorable role of flick, just a series of visions of straight white teeth, immaculate long blond hair, idyllic locations, and entirely acceptable leading men.
I've followed her career covetously through articles in major publications about her life style, her homes, her beaux, her father. My jealously has grown for a decade and a half.
Last October, I saw Cappy on the "Today" show. She said she never wanted to be typecast as a patrician (her word) -- she was just always portrayed that way.
Wasn't she lucky to have been offered the role of Burt Reynolds' blundering ex-wife in "Starting Over." So lucky, to be able to sing poorly and amuse the masses, said this patrician goddess to me at 7:40 a.m.
And then she sang. On national TV, this kookaburra croaked a tuneless, toneless torch song and said she was pleased, if a bit fearful, at shedding her Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes image.
I saw the movie immediately. She was damn good, I thought, not partician, but funny, poignant, real, mixed-up. Human.
Now she's been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. An Oscar . . .
Nancy, I'm serious. The me you see is not the real me. I can be beautiful, talented, admired, amusing, daring.
Nancy, can't you DO something?