Mapping the Road Not Taken: The Nearest Department Store Cosmetics Counter

Note to self: As the role of women in society changes, many things will be examined. Among them: Cosmetics. 

Do you want to smear your lips with a product that was developed by gouging out a rabbit’s eye? People might tell you it makes you beautiful. Who first decided to skin a cat and see if the fur grew back? (Putting lipstick on Donald Trump in the oldest gamble on Earth: Can you gussy up a pig with a nice shade of red?)

Women have long been told the answers to their legitimate and existential questions belong in the hands of the closest attendants behind a department store’s cosmetics counters. In The Road Not Taken, my protagonist meets someone who looks like her identical twin and turns out to be her mentor at the Gift with Purchase counter for the company hawking it that month.

That meeting place remains a thread—throughout her travels back 5,000 years in time, through her intense friendship with Vincent Van Gogh, through her visit to planets that have been archived because they had unsolvable problems. I wanted to include it because I knew the fun of that hunt, and I wanted my character, even if she later becomes a warrior across the space/time continuum, to be rooted in the reality of her social circumstances when she was still stuck here with us on Earth.

Beyond the cosmetics counter, my protagonist learns her power. She also gains more perspective. But she doesn’t necessarily get all the answers just by leaving the local Bloomingdale’s—and her contradictions, as a woman and as a warrior, never fade, either.

What if a planet had no contradictions? Can there be good without evil? I don’t subscribe to the Abrahamic throw up about Eve coming from Adam’s rib or the attainment of virgins after a particularly enthusiastic bombing of live people. Another time for that discussion of whether there could be a world of joy, without anguish and sorrow. This would mean immortality, and apparently Eve ruined that for us, too, or so they say.

I have my doubts that even without curious women the human race would’ve been mortal. Look at yourself every ten years and see if you don’t notice that your body, like the plants in your yard, looks like it’s dying back.

I believe the spirit goes on in some form. I know that everybody’s molecules go on in new configurations. But that’s small comfort if I want to see my father again. It’s more comforting that I don’t expect my mother to show up in her original form. Sorry. The truth is astral, and often unpleasant.

If you have read this far, here’s an offer: Buy a copy of The Road Not Taken, and then tell me about it on social media @SusanRubin1 on Twitter or @SusanRubinWriter on Instagram. In return, I have a mysterious gift to offer with that purchase. (The gift is not lipstick, but it is fun!) Send a screenshot of the receipt, a photo of the book on your table—anything!

Malls and maybe department stores are going the way of the dinosaur. This might be your last chance for something free while you’re having a good time reading The Road Not Taken.

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