I went to see a friend’s open studios this weekend. I was a little nervous about it, for two reasons: number one, I get lost easily, and her studio is in a neighborhood I never go to; number two, her mother would be there, and her mother always hurts my feelings.
Let me be clear: my feelings are easily hurt. Now that I am an adult-type person, or at least wearing my adult-type clothes, I can pass this off as sensitivity and justify it by pointing to its usefulness in helping me craft scintillating observations about mankind. But until I started writing — and telling people about it — I was just kinda nutty and difficult to get along with.
Anyway. My friend’s mother is very good at saying the kinds of things that make sensitive nuts like myself cringe, and then cower, and then drive home shouting clever comebacks into the rearview mirror, and then climb into the bathtub with a bottle of bourbon and weep.
To make matters worse, the day of the open studios, I woke up ugly. The last vestiges of my summer color (not really anything so grand as a tan, but a bit of natural blush and an amplification of my freckles) had totally faded, leaving me pale and washed out and, it seemed to me, possessed of new wrinkles I’d never noticed before. I also had an enormous zit, right in the middle of my check where you can’t pop it for fear of getting a pock mark. And my hair was frizzy and dry, and I was at my Mom’s house and didn’t have my regular hair gunk.
I’ve always hated my hair. It’s curly, for one thing, and very full, but fine, so it won’t hold a hair style or do anything I tell it to do. My sister claims that in this, it expresses my personality perfectly. I have obstinate hair.
But this is what hair pins were made for, so that’s what I did. I stole some of Mom’s conditioner and made my hair flat, and twisted it back off my face where it couldn’t bother me. A few little broken off strands stood up immediately and started waving around like I was holding one of those static electricity balls at the Museum of Science, but I tamped most of them down with conditioner and figured it was the best I could do.
My friend’s mother, on the other hand, had perfect hair. She’d just had it cut into a cute little bob with bangs, the hair style I’ve always coveted and can never ever have. The first thing she said to me was, “Look at your hair!” I winced.
“It’s so long!” She said.
I opened one eye cautiously. Long isn’t bad. Not necessarily.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s not as long as it looks, though. I’ve just got it back.”
“Oh, that’s right,” she said. “You have that BUSHY HAIR.”
Later, when I was driving home, screaming into my rearview mirror, I thought of a million things to say:
“I don’t have BUSHY HAIR. I’m just not GOING BALD LIKE YOU.”
“It just looks bushy because I’m young. Once I’m OLD LIKE YOU, it will lie flat.”
“You’re mean! You’re a mean, mean lady! Poopy!”
That last one is probably what I would have said, if I’d said anything. Which was why I kept my mouth closed.
And then ran right home to write about it.