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I was at the mall yesterday looking for a new shirt, and happened to walk by a hair salon. I’ve been meaning to buy a diffuser for my hair dryer for about twenty years, and yesterday was the day. Not that I often blow dry my hair—that would be too close to styling for a simple girl like me. I’ve let my hair air-dry since 1990 with no apologies or intentions of change. However, since I don’t carry much extra weight anymore and have had to purchase a whole new wardrobe this past year, I’ve been thinking that maybe something should be done about my hair too. I know that if certain people who consider themselves my closest friends knew that I was having these thoughts, they would build bonfires and look for lambs and work other types of magic to make sure that I put these thoughts into action. So I didn’t tell anyone about the diffuser. I just bought it, took it home, and attached it to my blow dryer, leaving the whole contraption on my bathroom floor like a bullhorn before the riot.
Then this morning came, and the fruit, the oatmeal, the newspaper, the shower, the lotion on its skin, and soon enough, it was time to diffuse my hair. I did think this was going to be a good idea; it’s not like I spent ten dollars to make myself look worse. I followed the directions, scrunching patiently, and soon enough had basically what I wanted: a head full of wavy hair, something I think would have looked good on a model with the wind blowing it back off her face, except that I’m not a model and there was no wind. So ultimately I just pinned the top back like I usually do, and off to coffee I went, Annette Funicello with a few extra kinks.
On my drive, wearing my new shirt of course, I started reminiscing (with myself) about the bad old days when people—friends and strangers alike—would offer startlingly brazen commentary on my personal presentation. It all started in 1991 when I was having a conversation with one of my best friends, who was overweight at the time, about a hypothetical body-trading situation. I asked her, “Would you trade bodies with me?” and she replied, “Would I have to take your personality too?” I bet she’d be eating her words today if she could see me in my new shirt. And in 1996, on the floor of a discount warehouse club, a woman stopped me in the middle of my early Elizabethan era and said, “How do you get your hair to poof up like that in front?” I proudly told her that it was natural, which is true, if you can call a deformity natural. The hair on the front of my head grows out and up, what can I say? I have to batten down the hatch every day before I leave the house. In 2005, I was stopped in the grocery store by an elderly woman who I knew from the women’s workout center I belonged to at the time; she looked at me, perplexed, before asking, “Did you have a mini-stroke?” And then just last year, a friend/person blurted out, “You look great…from the neck down.” Too bad they all couldn’t see me today, in my new shirt with my hair diffused and a whole new attitude.
It was only when I got to the coffee shop and was sitting in my car, primping in the mirror, when I realized that all the baby hair that grows from my hairline down to my jaw had exploded and was now bursting forth in frizzy clumps, which would have looked natural on a baby orangutan. I hadn’t noticed this result at home, where evidently the light is more kindly to folk like me. I licked my fingers and slicked it all back, morphing from Buckwheat to Alfalfa on crack. This was a far cry from the modeling career I’d started just an hour before.
In days gone by, in worse days, I might have skipped my coffee date because of that. I might have called and said I was sick, then driven home and mixed up a cocktail at one o’clock in the afternoon because I was frustrated and embarrassed.
But these days are different. It takes more than the sideburns on my forehead to make me blink. I am a confident girl now, and this is the age of reason.