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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Scalia with a Fringe on Top

So, in fifth grade, I got a perm. Probably not the best choice,  I admit, but I'd had straight hair all my 11 years, and wondered what it would be like to have curly hair. Most all the characters I loved in literature had curly hair. My hair just hung around as if it were a shawl, or a veil, or some sort of thing so unnoticeable that narrators would've called me 'the brown-haired kid' and moved on to the next paragraph.

It was--in those books--the curly-haired, the blonde, the red-heads, that got some special note. They remained in the narrator's story long after the poor, ancillary, unremarkable straight-haired/brown-haired characters were dismissed.

So. Fifth grade. Permed. I went to school and was instantly ridiculed.

To be fair to all who called me names: It was a terrible choice. My hair looked like fettuccine put in a broiler. It looked like I'd hit puberty on my scalp. It looked like I'd been pampered at a spa run by an insane Frenchman. The best thing about a perm is that it does not live up to its name.

Still. My attempt to connect with characters in books who were different--and more notable--than the boring brown-haired guy was when a classmate called me 'Girly.' And not as an adverb either--classmates meant 'girly' as a pronoun.

Example: "For my last pick in this game of dodgeball, I'll go with girly."

Another example: "For my last pick of sitting with anyone during lunch, I'll go with girly."

Another example: "For my last pick of stealing a jacket, I'll go with girly."

But I'm not bitter.

Some years later, still aware of how boring having straight, brown hair was, I attempted to dye my hair blonde. I even had the same perm-ologist bleach out my hair, because small towns are like that: once someone knows your roots, you trust them.

Hair like mine--roots like mine--do not easily bleach.

Thing about that attempt to bleach my hair: It was the eve of my first date with Greg. I'd met Greg, my husband, at a LGBTQ event a few weeks before, and decided I wanted to get to know him better. Possibly "know him" in the Biblical sense, but I certainly was drawn to him. We'd hit it off on our first meeting but I worried I didn't interest him. To show Greg I was someone he should remember in the narrative of his own life, I went blonde. And when I showed up at his door for our first date, he laughed.

So, like, going back to the time in fifth grade where I perm'd my hair and everyone made fun of me? That was a better experience than meeting the love of your life for a date, and having blonde hair, and hearing laughter. "What is this?" Greg asked, doing a vague gesture towards my head.

"I, uh, don't know how long I'll have hair," I said, "so I thought I'd try out being blonde."

"But it's orange."

"I, uh, it took three clenses to get it this color."

And only three months to grow back to the regular color.

To sum up: I'd be a boring character in a YA novel; Perms are not, thank god, permanent; Greg does not like me as a blonde, but does love me anyway; and this:

June, 2015 is perhaps the most amazing month in a generation. So many awful things have been turned into so many useful things--and it is rare that an awful thing has a good outcome. But here we are: tragedy has been turned into a movement against hate. It's true that there's a long way to go, but don't believe the people who say perms are permanent. Time may straighten the permanent, and I don't believe in the arc of the moral universe. But I do believe that we all bend towards goodness. Girly or not, we all want kindness, peace, hippie applesauce and solid roots.

Also: did you ever think you'd see this? Roots go deeper than you can imagine.



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