It’s been years since I got my hair did.
I was born with a full head of hair. Jet black hair at birth, then it lightened some to a brown that in the summer almost appeared dirty-blonde. My hair has been colored multiple times throughout the course of my adult life.
I frosted it once, by adding streaks of blonde to my naturally brunette tresses. Wore my hair down a lot at that time, so it looked pretty good. It was also the trend; all the 90’s high school/college gals were doing it, so I followed suit. I know, I know. Thank goodness no one jumped off any bridges - I was naive enough as a teenager to believe that in order to fit in, you had to follow the leader and do exactly what they were doing. You had to wear whatever they were wearing, smoke whatever they were smoking, drive whatever they drove, and so on…tough trend to break, but I managed.
Then, I went all-red. That was a big hit. When done right, I can get away with red hair. Matches skin tone and eye color nicely, if I may say so.
I went purple, accidentally. Purple is my favorite color, let me tell you…I have tons of purple clothes, purple sneakers I hardly wear, purple walls in my bedroom, if I could paint my car purple, I would. But hair? I don’t think so…see, it was SUPPOSED to be the color of Lauren Holly’s hair in ‘Picket Fences.’ Unfortunately, the stylist who colored it was either color blind or simply too clueless to effectively lighten my hair before re-coloring it….either way, I rocked the purple for a few weeks before letting it fade back into my natural color.
Then, I stopped trying to find the best hairstyle and color for myself and started wearing my hair the same way, every day, for over fifteen years. Those who know me, also know this look. I pull it all back and fasten it with a messy bun in the back. At one point, I had bangs, to better frame my face, but lately, my bangs have been pulled back, too. It got comfortable. J wears her hair the same way. We’re often mistaken for siblings.
I’ll add that I’m still mad at some dude at the bowling alley who asked J if I was her mother. What the holy hell, dude? I’m only a year older than her. NOT cool. Next time we bowl against your team, I’m schooling your ass, JUST for that! Hmmph.
A haircut consisted basically of me pulling it all back into a low ponytail and handing J the scissors. One snip and voila, it’s a few inches shorter. But it was always long enough to continue to wear the same hairstyle. And for years, that was good for me, because my hair is the only part of me that is THIN. It was thick when I was younger. I lost a great deal of it when I was pregnant with my son. Now that I’ve had my daughter and it’s even thinner, I’m fearful of inheriting my mother’s Oompa-Loompa haircut…HER hair is so thin that it’s the only style that covers the bald spot in the back. I lie through my teeth whenever she came from the salon…
“Do I look any different?” (She’ll smile at me while she’s patting her hair…and those eyes tell me that I better have noticed that it was not only cut but it was also dyed…I better have the right answer or else she’ll cut me out of her will.)
“Oh, absolutely, Mom. It looks fantastic. You look like you’re twenty years younger. I hope I can rock that look one day, too.”
LIES. Lies, I tell you.
So I went online the other day and asked for some feedback on Facebook. Everyone I’ve spoken to on this topic has told me that they think I should just go for it. Get a new ‘do. My hair is ALWAYS pulled back, and even so, it’s very obviously thin and it shows.
One darling friend posted a photo of the beautiful Halle Berry. Her hair is longer on top and one side, the back and other side are long-buzzed. Kinda shaved but not to the point where the hair is so short, you can see the scalp. It’s longer on top and kind of spills over to the side that is longer. I suppose the best way to describe it is punky, but adorable at the same time. I like the idea of hacking off all my garbage hair and starting over with new, thicker hair. Unfortunately, my hair is too thin, too fine to even donate to Locks of Love, so the trash is where it’ll all end up once cut and swept off the floor…I further like the idea of maybe adding some streaks of red to the longer, top part. I feel that constantly pulling back my hair, day after day, is probably a sign that having short hair is not going to make too much of a difference. If anything, it’d be less maintenance.
If I take the leap and ultimately hate it, I have plenty of hats that I can wear throughout the winter. Hopefully in the spring, it’ll be thicker and my hacking it off in the fall won’t have been a total waste. Then I’ll be googling different hairstyles and blogging about it.
Anyway, after careful deliberation, I did whatever I normally do before making any hasty decisions and texted the Oompa Loompa earlier today when we were on the way home from our weekly shopping excursion, and shared the picture with her.
“I don’t know, it looks a little butch.” She replies in the text back. For added effect, feel free to add Doris Roberts’ classic Marie Barone voice. Then she says, “Why don’t I get you a makeover for Christmas? We can do some research and find another one that doesn’t look so…manly?”
Mind you, my mother has seen me shop for my tee-shirts in the mens’ department for as long as I could remember. She knows that getting me to wear a dress is like trying to peel the white off of rice. She knows that I find shopping for shoes, purses, bras, anything ‘feminine’ to be about as much fun as a root canal. She knows that I loathe parties or being invited to parties because it usually means I have to plan for those aforementioned ‘root canals.’ My dress-donning days are over, though. Both of my sisters got married a few years ago and I was bridesmaid to both. One dress has been donated to Goodwill and the other one narrowly escaped the burn pile, only because I’d buried it so far back in my closet and couldn’t find it when it came time to make these abominations a distant memory. I still have the shoes, though, shoes that I never will wear again and only save so my godchild can use them when she plays dress-up.
I’m just amazed at how much my mother, even though she’s accepted my lifestyle and has accepted J as my same-sex partner, is still a little too concerned about my image or what I wear, or that I don’t wear make-up. Too often I’ve heard that I had to look “pretty” or dress up because someone was having a 90th birthday party next month and it wouldn’t be appropriate to wear ‘those ugly shoes’ or ‘those pants that make you look like a man’ or the same shirt you wore to Aunt Bertha’s funeral.
bit*h, please. If they’re lucky enough to make it to 90, they aren’t going to give too many shits about what I’m wearing! But you kind of see where I’m going with this…it’s always the same with her. If I look or act like an idiot, it reflects badly on her and we can’t have that, now, can we?
Back to the picture I showed her of Halle Berry…it is by no means masculine…at least, not to me. It’s sleek, neat, elegant almost. It’s gorgeous. A given - I do not look like her in any way. In fact, I am the complete opposite of Halle Berry. She’s tall, I’m short. She’s thin, I’m not. I can add to this list, but the gist of what I’m getting from my mother’s comment - the hair may look good on Halle Berry but on me, it looks ‘butchy.’
I almost instantly got annoyed as soon as that text came in and had to refrain from throwing my phone through the windshield. J was driving and listening to music and at the same time, me swearing. If only my mother knew how many times she has been the cause of my random swearing outbursts and my poor wife has had to listen to me come up with creative new ways to cuss out my mother. Ay yi yi yi yi…
Eventually J asked why I cared so much about what my mother thought and why her opinion mattered so much.
I don’t even know the answer to that.
See, if you ask me, she cares too much about what HER friends think. I’m pretty sure she will tell everyone the success stories of her other two ‘normal’ daughters, before she talks about the one who was married at 21, divorced at 29, with a new partner at 30, oh, and let’s not forget that her new partner is the same sex, too. Don’t get me wrong, she’s been wonderful around J and fully supports my decision to hop on over to the ‘dark side’ but I can’t help but suspect she doesn’t worry about the images of her other two daughters as much as she does mine.
I mean, one sister married an alcoholic three-year-old (says on his birth certificate that he’s thirty-something, but he often throws tantrums and acts as if he’s three) that looks like the title character of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with this ridiculous ponytail we all envision cutting off one day, just because. They already have one kid (who really is three) that was diagnosed with autism. You’d think my sister would have enough sense to give up her theater days but she feels more comfortable dumping my autistic nephew into my mother’s care while she continues to pursue her dreams of someday becoming a Broadway star. She got started with her crooning and performing when she was about four or five years old and no one has had the heart to tell her that she has about as much natural talent as a drunk banshee. And even better - she’s currently pregnant with her second kid, another child that my mother will likely have to raise because she’s too busy running lines instead of a household. She doesn’t cook. She doesn’t clean. She just sings badly. My brother-in-law will pick up most of the slack at home, but even he’s annoyed and I’ve had to come to the conclusion that she is the main cause of his childish tantrums. That just isn’t a stable situation at ALL.
Now, let’s talk about Sister number two. This is the sister that I feel closer to, even though she’s further away in age from me than sister number one. One, unfortunately has no filter on her mouth and often comes across as an overly critical piece of work. This results in a lot of family tension and dirty looks from my children. Two is more soft-spoken and knows when to hold her tongue.
So, naturally, Sister number two is an overall better person and a more enjoyable person to be around. She did marry a much nicer, better-looking, sweeter man. They welcomed a daughter last month. Both are medical professionals. They have a nice house that they paid way too much for. About a week after the birth of their daughter, he had to return to work, so Sister number two calls up Mama, who, in turn, drops everything and rushes over there to help her care for the baby. And this, I understand….we ALL need a little extra help when a new baby arrives. But, man, oh, man she milks it. Just like for years before she got married, she milked it. She lived at home until the day she was married, even though she and her husband had an apartment already. She spent most of her time at Mom’s house, eating Mom’s food and letting Mom take care of her laundry, pack her lunches for work, etc. Her reasoning was, ‘Mom’s house was closer to her job,’ but I know that it’s simply because my mother enables her ‘let Mommy take care of it’ behavior.
I wanted to go and see the little one last week and Mom texted me the day before to ask what I was bringing. “Say what?” I ask. Mom proceeds in telling me that Sister number two doesn’t cook, either. Apparently, for the last month, my mother, as well as any visitors who have gone to see her has brought some kind of prepared-to-heat meal for her. And it would be most helpful if I could throw together a lasagna or something that she could pop in the oven for dinner one night.
“Mom,” I said, “She’s thirty years old. She’s not the first woman on the planet to reproduce.”
My mother made as many excuses as possible. She’s tired, she just had a baby, her husband is working all the time, she’s overwhelmed, she’s a first-time mother, baby won’t let her do anything.… Meanwhile I’m not buying that because well, isn’t my mother also there, every single damn day? Can’t she hold the baby while my sister cooks her own dinner??? Then she starts with, “Your other sister brought her a pot pie the other day from Costco…because you know she doesn’t cook.”
“Neither does this one, obviously!”
“Out of the three, you’re the cook. So maybe you can bring her something yummy.”
I probably would have, because I’m nice. But, I ended up not going to see my niece because both J and I came down with a stomach bug. I’ve got plans to see her on Thanksgiving weekend, though.
But I got to thinking about how much she enables those two for things that are far more serious than a dress or a haircut.
Look…when I had my son at 21, I took care of him. My then-husband went to work every day and I was alone with a colicky child all day. I shopped, did laundry for and prepared dinner for a family of five. (Husband and his two older children in addition to me and an infant = 5) I took the baby as well as his older two children to doctor appointments, took them to school, picked them up. It wasn’t a paying job but it was a job. I didn’t have a singing hobby on the side. I think I called my mother to babysit only a handful of times when hubby and I would have our bowling night but as far as hobbies go, that’s about all I did with that three hours of freedom per week. She used to complain that she didn’t see my children enough. Now her biggest complaint is my having moved 2 hours away from her, from both sisters, and she feels even less needed by me. They, and their children consume so much of her time and she often expresses anger at my moving so far away because I’m not there to help her help them. Of course, she masks it all by saying she misses me. I’m sure she does, but I think she’s just bitten off more than she could chew and spread herself too thin, simply because she is trying to uphold her idea of what the image of a perfect mother and grandmother is like. She delights in hearing what other people have to say about her, it’s her way of making sure she’s successful.
“What did your friend think of me?” She’ll ask me after she’s met one of my friends. I usually have to lie because any one of my friends already knows my mother before they meet her in person.
“They want a mother just like you.”
“I’m the best.” She’ll say.
The best enabler, maybe. The best whiner. The best pain in my ass.
Meanwhile, what kind of an image have I provided for these two sisters of mine? There’s me who is so used to dealing with things my own damn self…and then there’s these two who, because they allowed her to take over and be such a dominant figure in their married lives, have proven themselves useless and far too reliant on my mother. And in turn, my mother meddles just enough within their lives to make herself look good in the process.
I’m pretty sure that in her world, there’s a lot of “Oh, would you look at that? Look at Vee’s daughter, such a talented singer…and she’s got children at home, too!” Or, “Look at this one, just had a baby, can you imagine how rough she has it, she juggles a newborn, long hours and prescriptions!” Then of course when it comes to me, she’s afraid of hearing, “Oh…that one…she doesn’t have a job. She’s home all day, she’s a bit of a hermit…and she’s just got a butch haircut. Sssh. I think she’s a lesbian.”
I don’t care. I don’t give a shit.
I don’t care what image my having short hair puts forth. If it makes me look like the son she never had, then so be it.
I don’t care if I end up hating it because the sight of a pissed off Oompa Loompa will look funnier than me, any day. Plus, hair grows back, so it’s not a life sentence.
At the end of the day, I care only what J thinks. And she already has the image of me that she wants. Hair isn’t something that matters to her. Looks don’t matter to her. (If they did, she would have chosen Halle Berry, hands-down.)
I already have the image of myself that I need. I’m Vee’s daughter, but I’m also me. I’ve worked hard to be the highly perceptive person I am today. My sisters may be the ones with careers, but life-wise, I can safely say I’m smarter. Aside from being the oldest, I’m sure a lot of life experiences have contributed to my being the way I am, and I’ve accepted that a long time ago. From the time I got married too young, I’ve marched to the beat of my own drum. I think the outcome you see in me today is truly a result of having broken away from Mama’s clutches before she could do any further damage.
It didn’t take too much longer than the drive home from Walmart, but I’ve decided that by the end of this week, I’ll have a new ‘do. I’ll be sure to post whether Mama survives the heart attack she’s likely to have when I Face-Time her to show her my new haircut.
Maybe she’ll surprise me and say she loves it. (I do have to keep in mind, I’ve lied to her about liking her haircuts for years.) Maybe she can do the same for me. I wouldn’t even care if she lied.
I just need her to stop trying to mold me into a person that I’m not.
Just like you simply can’t shape clay that’s already hardened into its permanent form.
Until next time,