Layered in grit and sawdust, hauling lumber up a rickety ladder and spewing salty talk like a sailor on leave, Megan Aarstad hardly cuts the typical figure of a grizzled construction worker.
Beneath her "wife-beater" tank top standard issue for construction grunts peeks a pretty pink camisole. Off come heavy leather gloves to reveal long, pink-painted nails. Her construction shoe of choice? White and pink trainers.
Aarstad, at age 21, has already tried her hand at a softer profession journalism and dismissed it out of hand. Chesterfield County-born and -bred, she lives a double life. She seems to prefer being the yin to her own yang.
"I went from working at my school newspaper [to] 'Look-Look,' this publishing company in California. They have reporters in different states and cities. I was doing it in Richmond. It was a [magazine] that looked at the latest trends, basically what the kids are into now. ... I did it on and off for a few years I was pretty big into it."
At least for a while.
"It wasn't so much as being tired of it, but I just lost a lot of self-confidence my dad didn't think I was going to make much money in journalism."
"Growing up, I was basically like a tomboy. My friend was working construction work, and he got me into doing it. That was construction work paid under the table it's 'cause I was so young, 14.
"But I liked it, I liked being one of the boys it's good exercise, it's interesting, it makes me feel like I accomplished something. I like the hard-labor part. I guess I'm not a typical girl."
Maybe she's not a typical girl, but she is the girl next door. She has the title to prove it.
"Every week at the Paper Moon they do this 'Girl Next Door' competition. You don't have to take your clothes off at all. Basically some of the girls do strip down, but they have to wear pasties and a T-back thong.
"I went down to a pair of shorts and a bra. But I have a lot of interesting tattoos I'd say I got a lot of attention." The petite brunette also models on the side, she says, "because I get to keep the pretty lingerie."
"I've always had two jobs. People get hobbies, I just get second jobs. The Paper Moon offered me a job. I told them I didn't want to be a dancer. ... So at night I'm a waitress there. Good hours really good hours."
"In the daytime I get to be a guy, and at nighttime I get to be a girly girl. ... I have to say I prefer doing construction.
"It makes good money and I've done it for different companies, so I've learned different trades: roofing, sprinkler systems, I did a little landscaping. I've done a little bit of masonry work, too, which is the most annoying work in the world. I have real respect for those guys."
Now she's with Heller Restoration Co., specializing in renovating historic homes.
"I love doing all of it. Roofing is my passion, though. It's so peaceful up on the rooftop. It's just surreal up there.
"A lot of people don't understand, but I like it," she says, brushing aside suggestions that roofing is the biggest grunt job in construction. "I think not a lot of people get enough natural sunlight. If you get enough natural sunlight, it definitely makes you feel happier and healthier."
"And as far as what I want to be when I grow up? I was thinking about interior design. As they're getting ready to sell the house, you know, going in and doing window treatments and fruit bowls and things like that just going in and taking a house that needs help and making it look better."
Plus, she says, it would keep her hand in the world of construction while giving her a better excuse to sport painted fingernails. That perfect balance of yin and yang. S