What To Do When You Find Yourself Accidentally Almost Bald

So, the faux hawk wasn’t growing out well. Because of my cowlicks, it wouldn’t stand straight up without looking like Kid ‘n Play. And if i tried to lay it down, it looked oddly lumpy. Still not time for my next hair appointment. So i grab the clippers that i got to clean up my back hairline. I strap on the #8 guard (Which is an inch and a half). Mind you, the hair on the sides and back is short enough that the blades don’t even touch it. But as i get further up to the top, it starts coming off with a pleasing buzzy sound.

When i get to the front, i don’t push the clippers all the way to my head and instead leave a bit of a forelock.

I look down in the sink, and realize exactly how thick my hair is. Even just this trim has a HUGE ball of hair sitting there, staring at me like something from a Sesame Street sketch. I half expect it to jump out and shout “Mah-na! Mah-na!” I leave the almost-muppets be for the moment and hop in the shower to wash off all the scratchy little hair bits.  Then i break out my makeup mirror so i can see the back of my head better. Oops! there’s a bushy spot. Gotta fix that.

Plug the clippers back in and take them to my head. One stripe. Two.

Ut oh. That wad of hair looks way too big to be what i was aiming for. I mean, it was only a little uneven, and this looks like a granddaddy dust-bunny.

Oh, no. I couldn’t have. I mean, did i? Please, God, no. Hesitantly, i look at the clippers.

I had taken the guard off.

Oh, shit.

Oh, SHIT!

I run back and grab the mirror again. Too hard to see for sure…. Or maybe i just didn’t want to believe it.

Grab my phone and try to take a selfie of the back of my head. After 20 or 30 tries, i finally get something usable.

OH, SHIT!!!!

The back of my head looks like there are two well-used slopes open at Telluride.

To keep myself from hyperventilating, i close my eyes and take a couple deep breaths. I imagine my happy place: A cafe in Palermo, Sicily. Cannoli, Arancia candita, Sigaretti, Cassatelle, Marzipan…. Aaaahhhh. I open my eyes and look in the mirror again.

Any takers on the next word to come out of my mouth?

I allow myself a few seconds to mourn. Then i pull myself together because, really, the only thing i can do now is even it up and paint it purple so it looks somewhat intentional.

I snap the number one guard on and buzz the back of my head and around my ears. Then i jump up to the three guard and do the sides and top, pulling it longer in the front. Back into the shower to rinse off.

My scalp can feel the breeze of the ceiling fan.

A moment of truth as i take a peek at the back of my head again.

The scalp streaks are still there, but not quite as noticeable. There are still a  couple spots that i would like to touch up, but i’m afraid i will make it worse if i keep messing with it. I mean, i’ve only got 1/4″ of hair left on most of my head… I can’t risk cutting off more!

Please, God, let tomorrow be national cowboy day, so i have an excuse to wear a hat.

Pleading for a good response, i take a picture of myself and send it to a couple of select people. They tell me i look like a pixie. Because i only showed them the front. From the back? It’s more like a pixie that went to boot camp, and unfortunately got the new barber…  The day after he graduated from Trump Barber School.  I got some “Whoa”s, and some “Oh, wow”s. My stylist was less than pleased, and i don’t blame her, but even she  came up with some positive remarks. And everyone reminded me that my hair grows really fast.

Then terror sets in, because tomorrow is Friday and i have to work.

I send a note to my closest coworkers and forewarn / threaten them not to laugh.

**********

The next morning, after deciding that it wasn’t work-appropriate for me to show the amount of cleavage it would take to make the hair unnoticeable, i put a little extra effort into my makeup and pick an outfit on the more feminine side (Well, for me, anyway). I practice my casual everything-is-coming-up-roses walk to fake some confidence. I am trying to own it, but i am failing miserably.

I should have gone with the cleavage.

At first, nobody says anything. Then a couple of the women tell me they kind of like it. Not so much praise as to make me think they are lying thru their teeth, but enough to let me know it isn’t stylishly apocalyptic.

Man, i love my coworkers!

**********

Two days later, and the bald spots are starting to fill in. I’ll bet i can #1 guard the back tomorrow and it will at least all be even. This isn’t a style i’m likely to come back to. I mean, i scared the crap out of myself walking past the mirror this morning, because i thought i was a maniac burglar.

But hey, i set out a couple weeks ago to spice things up a bit. A mostly shaved head is the style equivalent of scotch bonnet peppers, so at least i exceeded my goal.

And really, if i can learn to rock the accidental shaved head, i’d be one hell of a badass, now wouldn’t i? Maybe this is God/Goddess/Universe’s way of telling me that i have more strength than i thought. Maybe this is to help me learn to command myself. Maybe she is telling me to worry less about my looks.

Or maybe She’s just trying to tell me to stay away from sharp objects.

I’d Luv To Kiss Ya, But I Just Cut My Hair…

I am walking that fine line between “eccentric older broad” and “crazy old bat”. Thank God/Goddess/Universe it isn’t a tightrope. It’s more like one of those moving walkways at the airport. And you just hope you don’t trip and fall on your ass getting on and off.

When i went to my hairstylist yesterday and told her i was thinking about going for a faux hawk this time, it took her a good 5 seconds to reply. Now, this amazing woman has been with me for nearly 15 years. She has seen me thru drugstore dyes, quality henna, the decision to let my grey grow out (Twice with me backing out, before my commitment was finally cemented), the decision to let my grey hair grow very long and wavy in hopes i’d look like EmmyLou Harris (I didn’t), and then the decision to buzz it mostly off in hopes i’d look like G.I. Jane (You guessed it… I didn’t).  In any case, she has known me long enough to know i was serious about getting my punk on. I couldn’t immediately tell if she was inwardly rolling her eyes, or just trying to imagine how it would look. When i pointed out that, if we didn’t like it, we could just buzz it again, she nodded her head, and i could tell she had a plan of attack. Scissors, razors, clippers…. It all came out as she got creative with my old head.

Then i told her i was going to tint it purple when i got home.

To her credit, she didn’t laugh. I mean, i’ve done stranger things, so i doubt she was surprised.

She gave me some good advice, and i stopped and bought the color on the way home. Since i don’t want it permanent and i’m still trying to reduce my use of harmful chemicals, i went with a colorizing conditioner. Definitely not something that would score clean on the hazard app, but no ammonia or bleach or skull-and-crossbones on the package. The young girl at the checkout stared at me with frank confusion before shrugging and ringing me up.

The little snipe.

I went online and found a post from a woman like myself who tinted her whites with the product. I decided to follow her instructions rather than the box because, well, lets face it… The instructions weren’t made for old grey- or white-haired broads. Very little that is fun is made for old broads.

As i sit here waiting for my hair to dry post-color, i am listening to my son and his friends play video games and rag on each other about their cyber-fighting ability and manhood. It is pretty entertaining. They aren’t experienced enough yet to really let out a righteous string of cusswords, so it mostly comes out as swear words in comically random order. They don’t realize i can hear them, until a particularly silly string of epithets makes me laugh hard enough to catch their attention. Now they don’t know what to say.

I often have that effect on people.

In any case, yes, i do realize that being an older broad with tattoos and a barely purple faux-hawk makes me eligible to become one of those just-for-fun birthday cards that you send to someone who is depressed about their age. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. And it really doesn’t matter. I’m not setting out to be anything but me, and i’m just having a little fun along the way. The funny part is that, when i was in my late teens, i did things simply because they were different. Now i do things simply because they are fun… And that appears to be different in and of itself. And noteworthy, in a sort of backhanded way.

Because most of us don’t go out of our way to pick the fun option. We pick the cheapest option. Or the fastest. Or the most career enhancing. And truth be told, i do each of those things as well, and far too often. Life is supposed to be more than money, or speed, or work. It’s supposed to be fun as well. And i think, as adults, we sometimes forget that. Even my quirky, weird, old white-haired broad self. It is easy to forget because of the rat race around us. But screw that. The rats no longer interest me.

So i do something fun. Like get a faux hawk. And tint it purple.

Maybe next week i’ll tint it pink.

Go ahead and laugh. Shake your head. Wonder what in the hell i was thinking.

It’s all good.

I do it to amuse myself, but if i amuse you in the process, more’s the better. I get it. You can’t bring yourself to have fun yet. You are too busy adulting. I get it. Well, at least you can laugh at me having fun. It’s better than nothing.

Just promise me, if you ever see me on a greeting card, tell me. I would expect royalties.

The Woolworth’s Papers

April is National Poetry Month. You know what that means…. Well, i suppose it should mean that i am writing a poem, but i’m not in the mood for that. Instead, i looked up my old poetry notebooks. I have them for as far back as my sophmore year in high school and on for about 10 years. By the time my oldest weedling started school, i had pretty much stopped. No writing to be found of the score of years between then and now. Just the files of my personal prologue.

Anyway, there are a lot of them. These time capsules of my brain and heart. Most of them have loose papers, napkins, junk envelopes with bits and phrases written on them stuffed between the pages. Some have cards and letters from my oldest weedling and a few special friends.  Today i reread them. Each dog-eared,  yellowed-with-age, annotated and dated one.

Holy shit, was it embarrassing. (I started to say “garbage”, but i can’t really say that. I mean, those feelings, however immature and ignorant, were heartfelt at the time. And writing was the only way i knew to vent them.)

In my school system, your sophomore year in high school was about poetry, public speaking, and other language endeavors that would have been torture in lesser hands. I’ve always enjoyed poetry, but that year, i had an English teacher who was truly outstanding. She enthusiastically encouraged us to write. And to write in our own style. She helped me fall in love with writing by giving us variety of assignments and opportunities. And if she sensed effort, even if it wasn’t gifted work, she coaxed us to do more. I started buying notebooks at Woolworth’s and filling them up with my juvenile angst.

“Nobody likes me! I’ll never fit in!!”

“He doesn’t know i exist! I’m gonna die an old maid!!”

And too many handwritten lyrics to Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” for me to count.

All that usual time-consuming schoolgirl crap of which pink-framed young adult series books and teen magazines are filled. Ironic, since i thought i was alone in all this misery. Turned out, there were billion-dollar industries founded on it. Gaggles of teenage girls lamenting their lack of standing in the social hierarchy, wailing in high-pitched nasal unison. Perhaps because it was harder to express, my legitimate depression  remained well hidden beneath these shallow concerns of youth. The little i wrote about the real demons in my head is clunky and unfinished. Darkness overshadowed by soul-words with no English translation. So much for my Sylvia Plath phase.

But i will say this, i wrote a lot.

Like anything else in life, practice helps. So tho my anguish and inexperience are palpable in those journals, you can follow the growth of my writing if you read them in order. I wish i had continued to write thru  my thirties so that i could follow my personal growth as well. To maybe find that moment when hope gained enough ground that the game went into overtime.  Wouldn’t that be a cool thing to read? To find that threshold, my own Moonstruck “SNAP OUT OF IT!!” epiphany when i started taking all the dismal moments of my childhood and turning them into rebar for the person i wanted to be? We could call it my Louisa May Alcott phase, since it was about finally becoming an adult, albeit well into my fourth decade on this Earth.

But those writings don’t exist. I feel like i’m missing The Two Towers. 

Anyway, I’ve a long way to go before i hit my Maya Angelou phase.  Decades, i’m sure. After all, you have to live the experiences before you can glean wisdom from them. I am pleased to say that i’m starting to have Leo Buscaglia moments, tho, so that gives me hope. (Of course, i still have plenty of Edward Lear moments, too, so it’s not like it’s a constant gaining of ground. But, hey, at least it’s progress.) Maybe, if i live long enough, i’ll get there. A book full of wisdom and humor that will change the world for someone. Wait for me, Thoreau! I may be crawling, but i’m making my way! Don’t give up on me!

In the mean time, i’ll keep writing. I’m sure someday i’ll look back at what i have written lately and shrink at it. The horror of what i currently find amusing or important. And subjecting others to it! Mean and presumptuous! Ok, well, maybe not those things, but i do hope i see things clearer  in the years ahead than i do now. And i hope i write about it more effectively than i do now. Which means more of this rambling. The only way to become a better writer is to write. Right? Right.

And if i’m lucky, someone will read it and like it.

 

 

Puppet, Pauper, Pirate, Poet

This week, someone whom i respect told me that i was a “complete, mature woman.” I wouldn’t have been more stunned if someone had told me i had a superpower.  I’m loud, inappropriate, unapologetic, and prone to fits of anger and selfishness.  There are days when i’m both isolationist and terribly needy. And i can be emotionally overwhelmed by a video of baby goats. “I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” In short, i’m a mess.

Don’t get me wrong, i know i am more grown up than some, and certainly more grown up than i have ever been before… On a scale from Lindsay Lohan to Helen Mirren, i’d be optimistic to say i’m a Drew Barrymore or Ellen DeGeneres.  And like them, i  try to be funny and kind. I don’t always succeed. But i suppose even Helen Mirren has days when she wakes with a zit on her chin and a bee in her bonnet and tells someone to fuck off for no reason at all.

I mean, she’s only human, right?

Anyway, i don’t know what it means to be “complete” and “mature”.

Wait, i take that back.

I don’t know what it means to be “mature”, but i do know what it means to be “complete”. Or, rather, i know who i want to be before my journey of life is over. That, to me, is “complete”. And i know i am not there yet.

I admit to a bit of pride in the fact that i at least know where i am headed. I have met far too many who don’t. They know what they want to be, but not who they want to be. Having been many “what”s in my life, it seems to me that the “who” is much more important. After all, it’s the one thing you’re stuck with in between “what”s. And it’s what leaves the lasting impression.

It’s true that i could be remembered for being a mother, a wife (Ok, a few wives…), a coworker, a teacher, a goofball, an annoyance…. Whole bunches of nouns that are objective labels i carry. But it’s the other stuff, the subjective stuff, that i want to be remembered for. I want my legacy to be humor, fairness, altruism, empathy, wisdom, grace…. Maybe grace is a stretch. Ok, grace is definitely a stretch. But i really believe that, if i live long enough, i can accumulate some of the others.

Because here’s the thing… God/Goddess/Universe is concerned with the “who”, not the “what”. Praying for a new car never works. We know this. But pray to be a better person, and she will put experiences in your path that will bring it about. She knows who i want to be, who i’m trying to be. And she must find it a worthy goal, because She is helping me get there bit by bit. I may not like Her teaching methods sometimes, but i do like where i’m headed.

I hope, before my journey is over, i get there.

So, no. I don’t consider myself a “mature, complete woman”. Yet. But i don’t discount the possibility that i will get there someday. That i will achieve that goal. Well, at least the “complete” part. I’m not sure about the “maturity part”… And i’m not sure i want to.

I don’t really know what “maturity” is, but it sounds boring as hell.

 

 

Miss Jane’s Nobility

“You think i’m crazy, don’t ya, talking to this tree? Old sister oak. This oak tree been here as long as this place been here, and I ain’t ashamed to tell you I talk to it.And I ain’t crazy, either. It ain’t necessarily craziness to talk to the rivers and the trees…. But an old oak like this one here, that’s been here all these years, it knows more than you’ll ever know. It ain’t craziness, son. It’s just the nobility you respect.”  ~ From The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J Gaines.

I have a “thing” for trees. I have pictures and paintings of them around my home. Leaf themed accessories. Fabrics with branches on my windows. An LED lit branch tree that stays up pretty much year round. And nearly all of my body ink is tree centered. I am drawn to trees, deciduous ones especially. The way they grow and age, marking the seasons, and surviving all manner of onslaught. They inspire me.

I know the Buddhists say to be like water, flowing gently, but intently, around obstacles. But if i were to claim a likeness to a force of nature, it would, without a doubt, be a tree.

I’ve seen many seasons. I’ve been stripped of my leaves by wind, and had branches torn from me by gusts, but it never stopped me from keeping on climbing to the sky.  I’ve had limbs arch and twist rather than give way to obstacles. I’ve been burnt and survived, tho the rings on my insides show the trauma. I’ve been chopped down, but sprouted again from my roots.  I’ve had seasons where my leaves were full of color and splendor, and seasons where my branches were bare, brittle, and coated in ice. But i am still here. And like Miss Jane’s oak, i hold some wisdom, or at least stories, from all i’ve been thru to get where i am.

So i guess it isn’t crazy that people talk to me. Like really talk. Not of the fluff of cocktail parties, but important things: Life, death, experience, beliefs. Maybe they can tell by the lichen and scars on my bark that i will understand. That i’ve been there before and survived. Or maybe because they know an old tree holds so many secrets that it’s a harbor for anything that needs safety. I don’t know. I only know that i am blessed to be a sounding board.

Granted, i’ve many more years to go before i can even approach the wisdom of an old oak. By tree standards, i’m merely a sapling. And tho i have grown some good, strong roots of my own, i, in turn, seek out the ones older and wiser. Again, i am blessed, because i have so many in my life. So many noble, beautiful topiaries. Sleek and graceful weeping willows. Elegant cypress draped in Spanish moss. Colorful and fragrant maples. My life is a grove where the canopy envelops me in its loving arms, sheltering me from the worst of life’s storms. And under my own limbs, seedlings grow into their own solidity and grandeur.  And in time, God/Goddess/Universe willing, i will be part of the canopy.

I don’t believe in coincidence. The influence of the Power That Is was definitely in residence when my parents named me Holly. Bright berries and glossy leaves in the throes of winter that belie the sharp and painful edges. It offers birds and other small animals shelter and protection from storms. It can also poison them.

I guess that means that, tho i may contain some wisdom, i also contain some things that, ummm,  aren’t  helpful. True for us all, i suppose.  Even the mightiest oak has a branch or two that probably need to be pruned. Or that’s what i tell myself, anyway. Better that than to think i’m the only tree in the arbor with dead wood. Or thorned leaves. Or poison berries. That would hardly make me a future member of the canopy.

… And that would be sad because, after all the seasons and storms and fires and woodpeckers i’ve survived, it would suck royally to not benefit somehow from the scars.

So here i grow, getting stronger with season, roots getting deeper with each storm. Waiting for the ones who come to talk. They aren’t crazy. It’s the nobility they respect.

Worth and Nakedness

I am a big fan of photography books. Especially those over-sized, glossy paged, portrait type coffee table books that weigh a ton and where the photographer somehow projects both the outside and the inside of the subject. And i have many of them. Too many, probably. But one of my favorites is a gathering of photos by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. A book of diptychs. On the left side of the page, a well known porn star in their usual street clothes. On the right, in the same pose, the same porn star undressed and made up for filming. TG-S is an amazing photographer. He captures the thoughts and emotions going on behind the eyes. And in the case of this particular book, in nearly every single spread, he captures something that makes disturbing sense. With maybe two exceptions, every subject is visibly more comfortable in the naked photos.

When i first bought the book, the startling reversal of the usual level of comfort, clothed and not, took me a second to wrap my head around. Even knowing that these people make their living naked, it seemed invasive to stare at their bare selves. But it seemed even more intrusive to stare at their obvious discomfort when captured in clothing. The looks on their faces resembling  cats forced to wear Halloween costumes. The awkwardness and antsiness is palpable. And to those of us who make a living with clothes on, it seems strange, and even a little sad.

Why do i bring this up today?

I was side-swiped by a reminder last night that i’m a bit of a Classist. I am distrusting and uncomfortable around people with money and social standing. And while most people associate Classism with the oppression of poor people, it also comes into play in reverse. Some of us who grew up “without” never quite adapt to life “with”.  Even if we have worked hard and earned the right to cross that social barrier, we will forever feel foreign when we get there. Some of it comes from formative years questioning our worth in a society that values wealth. The rest of it lays with the simple human need for familiarity. And just like no knowledge of kale being a superfood makes it any more palatable, no understanding that “worth” and “value” have little to do with money or titles makes it any easier to talk to the master when you feel like the house elf.

Don’t get me wrong, you can dress me up in gilt and pancake, and i will perform like i was born to be at the ball. I will talk and dance and socialize like i am Rita Hayworth’s red-headed step-child.  But it is just a performance. I might as well be playing a giant praying mantis for all the common i have with the character. It feels absurd. Dishonest. And definitely not like my best stage work.

To tell the truth,  my inability to step confidently in that world annoys me.

I try my best to treat everyone as an equal. I strive to treat all with love and respect. I evangelize the need for equality amongst humanity. But i myself feel like a fake when i call my higher-titled coworkers by their first name. And if they speak familiarly with me, i assume there is some need or reason that will turn out to be a play on me and bite me in the ass. It’s just stupid. These patterns in my head. Stupid. I know they are the same types of neural patterns that once caused me to keep getting married… The repetition becoming a bad habit. But where marriage had visible, undeniable implications, a faulty mindset often doesn’t. And it is harder to correct something that doesn’t eventually slap you in the face with a price.

Just like the porn stars and their comfortable nakedness, we grow to accept these bad habits, these self-imposed labels of beastliness, as familiar friends, even tho they are the kind of friends who ditch you at the bar for the first cute guy that walks thru the door, leaving you half drunk and without a ride.

With friends like that, we become our own enemy.

I suppose the solution is the old “Fake it til you make it” thing. Force yourself to behave like you belong on both sides of the tracks, and eventually you will believe it. Retrain those neural pathways to take healthier routes. Accept that the equality you favor for others also applies to yourself. Take stock of your own worth. Reassess your own hierarchy. Learn to be comfortable in the clothing you deserve to wear, lest you end up naked in a coffee table book.

It beats the hell out of waiting for Harry Potter to give you a sock.

My House of Anachronism

I admit it. I was wrong.

Apartment living isn’t for me.

But, thankfully, unlike many of my errors over the years, this is a mistake i can correct.

I have found a little cottage for my son and i. It has a lot of tangible benefits: It will keep my son in the same school. It will give us the privacy we miss. It will give us a yard again, and more space. And it will save us money. But less tangibly, it reminds me of where i grew up.

I grew up on Cape Cod. In Bourne, to be exact. And during my childhood, it was a pretty cool place to live. We spent our summer days on the beach, and our evenings  playing baseball, having cookouts, going out for ice cream. As we got older, we had our fun getting into the same kinds of trouble all small-town kids do. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t idyllic: There is a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in seasonal towns. Once the tourists go home, there is a collective depression that takes hold and brings many to spend what little money they have in the off season at the bars. Or, if you’re a kid, getting drunk or stoned at whatever isolated place you could find. The sad stories of the cycle of addiction are a plague on us. Still, it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the place.

The first time i saw my new house, it immediately struck me how it would be right at home back in old Cape Cod. 100 year old homes are common in New England, but here in Chattanooga, not so much. So to find one here, and one that would be pleasant to live in… That is a real gem. And to find one like this that has new pipes and wires and mechanics, etc… That’s a gem in a  gorgeous platinum setting. The thought of living in a place that i have grown to love over nearly two decades now, in a house that reminds me of the place i still call home…  It seems as if it was put here for me by divine intervention.

Like the Cape Cod of my youth, the bungalow isn’t perfect. There are things i will need to change and upgrade over time. Not every other home in the neighborhood looks like a page from Better Homes and Gardens. And i am sure, like every neighborhood, there are unsavory people. There will be critters and issues and unexpected bills. But not since i was a small child have i dreamed of moving to Eden. Reality brings its own rewards.

So begins another journey for me. Maybe the home that blends both past and present will bridge the gaps in me from between those two times. Bring the me from the past into concert with me of the present. Take at least part of my life full circle.  (Cue Elton John.) Become a haven of sorts. A place of positivity and harmony.

Of course, there is always a possibility that there is a family of rabid raccoons living in the shed. It could happen that the house was built on an ancient landfill of spiritually significant fish carcasses. It is even possible, as my son suggests, that the house could lay on an electro-magnetic field that will grow and draw in Earth’s gravity more and more until every bit of space junk is sucked in and lands on our roof, causing it to collapse, squashing us like ants, and turning us into aliens.

But, i suppose, like most leaps in life, you just have to cross your fingers, say a prayer, and jump.