Monday, March 1, 2010

The Perfect Hairstyle

Over the course of her lifetime, the average American woman will spend seven months of her life grooming her hair. That’s right. Seven months. Unless, she is Medusa. Then she will spend seven months of her life feeding rodents to her hair. But then again, Medusa was Greek. The point is, women spend a fucking boatload of time on their hair. Of course, the time a woman spends on her hair is secondary to the amount she will spend to color, cut, crimp, curl, condition, shampoo, blow dry, highlight, perm, straighten, extend, flat iron, and style it before she pulls it back into a ponytail. And why do we women spend so much time and treasure on our hair? Because God decreed it so. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that a woman’s hair is her ‘crowning glory.’ And though Paul didn’t say state so explicitly, the implication was that women should keep their crowns looking spiffy. After all, nobody likes a tarnished crown.

Yes, whether she be a 4 or 74, a woman’s hair is her crown of glory. Above all other attributes, a woman’s hair is what defines her as an individual; as a woman. Indeed, Glory, Self Worth, Femininity, Social Acceptance and Beauty are all tangled up in every woman’s follicles. So important is a woman’s hair to her, that she actually quantifies the worth of her day based upon the outcome of her hairdo that morning. (Well, you see, I would have valued the past 24 hours I spent here on Earth, but I was having a bad hair day.)

Unfortunately, most women are not born with perfectly, polished crowns. Often, a woman finds that her crown lacks for color, shape or shine; or worse, all three. Consequently, she will spend her entire life spit and polishing her crown, for as long and as often as it takes, until she achieves that which is every woman’s deepest desire: The Perfect Hairstyle. After all, as any woman worth her salt knows, if she can achieve The Perfect Hairstyle, then she can RULE THE UNIVERSE!

Naturally, the promise of such unlimited power is not without its drawbacks. After all, the closer a woman comes to achieving her egocentric desire, the less able she is to see other’s perspectives. Indeed, even the most sensitive, the most decent women among us will ultimately disregard her fellow man and sink to the depths of moral depravity when the promise of The Perfect Hairstyle is held out to her.

Don’t believe me?

Well then grab yourself a beer, wine if you must, pull up a chair and sit on back. Let me tell you a story about my mother and me; two otherwise, decent, moral individuals who went to Nordstroms one day only to discover, they would go to any length to achieve:

The Perfect Hairstyle.

These are troubled times, my friends. Troubled times. We’ve got good men who can’t find work, a broken down health care system, soaring deficits, a pest problem in the Middle East and not enough cans of RAID. We’ve got polar bears living on ice blocks in Texas, female Canadian hockey players drinking imported beer, killer whales lawyering up with real sharks, and consistently bad television programming. Well, except for Archer on FX. All in all, it’s almost enough to detract an American woman away from her priorities.

But not these American women!

“Do you like the hairdresser you go to down here in Texas?” my visiting-from-Cape Cod mother asks as I pull my OUTRAGEOUSLY HOT, red Fork pick up truck into Nordstrom's parking lot. “Because I’m not happy with my hair. I think I’d like to try someone new.” I shrug non committally. My new Texas hairdresser seems nice enough, though she’s yet to cut my hair. I’ve only recently made an appointment.

“I thought you liked the woman who does your hair on Cape Cod,” I reply as I seamlessly back up into a spot with the assistance of my truck’s sophisticated rear view guidance system.

“I do. She’s very nice,” my mother replies diplomatically in her Scottish accent. “But she keeps giving me little old lady haircuts.”

I look over at my dear, sweet, 74 year old mother. I don’t have the heart to tell her that she is, in fact, a little old lady. Instead, I convey the message with my eyes.

“Yes, I know I’m a little old lady,” my mother retorts, “But I would like a hairstyle that doesn’t accentuate the point.” After I ram the bumper of the car behind me, I place the truck into park and turn to face my mother.

“Well, exactly what kind of hairstyle are you looking for?” I ask.

Hmm. Well, I don’t know, exactly,” my mother admits before she takes twenty minutes to passionately describe EXACTLY what she is looking for in a hairstyle. After all, all woman have a vision of their Perfect Hairstyle. “Something that is easy to care for. A bob, perhaps. But one that falls just right; not too choppy or too long on the sides. And a wonderful color! Not white. Or little old lady grey. But a rich, ashen shade of grey! But I don’t want too dramatic a change. And I don’t want anything that makes me look too old or too young. Something age appropriate, yet modern. Something….” My mother pauses, finally catching herself. Ever concise and private in both thought and speech, my mother’s outburst was unusual; an obvious testament to her passion on the subject. She pays me a sheepish glance, clearly embarrassed. She takes a moment to collect her thoughts, and I know the next sentence she delivers will be clarifying and poignant.


“I guess,” she sighs wearily, before she says it all, “What I really want is a hairstyle somewhere between the hair of my youth and little old lady hair.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I dismiss my mother. “Can you just make sure I parked in between the lines?” I’ve only owned the Ford truck for a year so I haven’t had enough time to perfect my parking skills. My mother dutifully hops out into the freak, wind whipping snowstorm that never occurs in Texas.

Okay, so maybe I’m not in the most charitable of moods. Can you blame me? To begin with, I don’t like to shop so I’m not happy to be at a mall, especially when I must go to a high end, mall anchor, department store that I can’t afford to shop in. Like Nordstroms. Unfortunately, right before Christmas two months ago, after I conducted an exhaustive search, I ended up spending a small fortune at Nordstroms on my youngest son’s #1, MUST HAVE, present from Santa. Pajamas. What can I tell you, my younger son is weird. Of course, because my son has the waistline of an anorexic runway model, the pajamas didn’t fit. So I waited as long as possible, 60 days to be exact, before I came to do that which I hate doing most of all. Making a RETURN. I hate returning things! The lines, the time consumption, the endless questions, having to produce things like receipts and credit cards: it’s enough to drive an incredibly impatient woman mad! Needless to say, my recent ‘perfect hair’ conversation with my mother did nothing but add fuel to an already smoldering fire.

You see, I am damn near perfect. Incredibly good looking, sexy, demure, altruistic, sweet, sincere: I epitomize every fucking feminine attribute that exists in the English language. Indeed, God smiled on the day he created me. And as His perfect creation, just moments before He delivered me upon this Earth, He placed upon my head the most blessed, glorious, perfect crown of glory He could conjure! Unfortunately, once I arrived on the planet, He soon became worried. He realized that if left unfettered by a single imperfection, I could quite possibly, nay, undoubtedly, take over the world! Naturally, in lieu of his past experience with Beelzebub, God wasn’t about to let that happen. And so, in his infinite wisdom, God delivered me upon this Earth with a single cross to bear: To forever suffer an unending series of HORRIFIC HAIRCUTS. Indeed, my crown of a glory is a painfully, prickly one; its thorns sharpened every 6-8 weeks by an incompetent hairstylist wielding a pair of scissors and a tube of color. Just God’s little way of keeping me humble.

To be sure, I’m not talking about your average woman’s typical hairstyle dissatisfaction. My complaints are nothing so mundane as, ‘My ends are layered just a little too much’ or ‘My hair color is just a shade off.’ No, when it comes to my hair, I’m talking about flat out butcheries and full blown color disasters. Indeed, not since Jeffrey Dahmer took out an apartment lease in Milwaukee have more abominations been committed upon the human head than the one’s committed upon mine over the years, especially ever since I traded in my long, sexy tresses for a short and flirty hairstyle a few years back. Since then, my experiences at hair salons has been nothing short of traumatic. For certainly, in all of Hairstyle History, there has never been a woman who has endured more unfortunate hair encounters than me. In the interest of time, I won’t go into details. I think my experiences can adequately be summed up in an all-too-true Top Ten List.

“Things I Wish a Hairstylist Didn’t Say To Me After My Hair Session Ended.”

10. “Teehee. Teehee. Uh, oh! I think we may have cut it just a little too short! Teehee. Teehee.”

9. “Damn. I just knew that color wasn’t going to come out right!”

8. “But you said you wanted to grow your hair long! That’s why I cut it short!”

7. “No, it’s not purple! It’s eggplant!”

6. “Are you sure you told me you wanted to grow your hair long, because I could have sworn you said to cut it short. Sorry. My bad. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention.”

5. “I just knew when you left here yesterday, you’d be back today. The difference in color between you roots and the rest of your hair is really noticeable.”

4. “Well, the reason I keep taking so much off at the back is because I want to give your hair the appearance of length. But for some reason, it’s not working.”

3. “Shit! I knew I shouldn’t have let Sandy do your highlights! She’s a trainee and between you and me, she’s not very good.”

2. “I’m sorry. Truth is, I’m much better at cutting long hair than short hair. Have you ever thought of growing it out?”

But before I get to Number One, I must give honorable mention to the following: “Oh dear. I guess your hair looks more like Scott Hamilton than Dorothy Hamill,” and “It’s not my fault your hair keeps sticking out! You’ll just have to learn to train your hair to stay down,” and, just last week, “So we’re agreed to Dark Brown, level 4? Yes, level 4! Are you sure you want me to color it at a level 4? Absolutely! Okay, then I will do that; level 4 it is! Uhhh…are you sure this is a level 4? No, it’s a level 9. While I was in the back room mixing the color, I decided you didn’t really want a level 4.”

But, the number one, hands down, winning statement of all time?

1. “Are you sure you don’t like the haircut? Because maybe the problem is not your hair. Maybe the problem is your face.”

So why do I continue to subject myself to such follicle humiliation? Because as a woman, it‘s coded within my DNA to keep trying. Kind of like when a domestic dog instinctively protects itself from predators that are no longer a viable threat by rolling in shit to mask its smell.

Now, as to be expected, I’m much too jaded and resentful to listen to someone who still has a dream of finding her perfect hairstyle. Even if that someone is me own tried and true, sweet mother who I love more than anyone in the world.

“Am I in between the lines?” I roll down my window just enough to call out to my mother. Brrrr. It’s cold!

“Not even close!” My mother’s voice swirls on the whistling wind back to me.

“Good enough,“ I roll up the window, grab the bag that contains my return and hop out.

Together, but with me taking the lead because I’m younger and quicker, my mother and I hunch over and brave the stormy, sub arctic Texan elements until we reach the entrance to Nordstroms. As is typical of most Department store entries, there is a revolving door in the center, flanked by two push/pull doors on either side. I briskly walk up to one of the push/pull doors, place my hand on the handle and Push.
SPLAT! I slam up against the glass door since it didn’t budge an inch because it weighs like a fucking thousand pounds! Jesus Christ! What is with Department store doors?! You would think with the economy being what it is, someone would design a more consumer friendly entrance. After I peel myself off the door and take a step back, I place both my hands on the handle and push with all the strength that my powerful, not to mention abnormally broad, shoulders will allow. 1-2-3 PUSHHHH! That’s it! Breathe! Just a little bit more! Finally! The door opens far enough to allow me to pass.

For those of you who are just joining in on my life, my mother, because she is 74 and ancient, has developed osteoporosis and her bones are now filled with air. Consequently, ever since she was stupid enough to come down with such a predictable condition, I live in constant fear that my eternally sunny, optimistic, nothing at all like me, Pollyanna of a mother, will fall down, break her bones and die. Which would suck since I don’t have a thing in my closet to wear for the funeral.

Unfortunately, after I passed through the door, it seems that my mother assumed I would hold the door open for her. This was a critical lapse of judgment on her part, for I did no such thing. Therefore, when I let go of the incredibly heavy door, it swung back and catapulted my bird boned mother clear off her feet, sending her soaring through the air. Fortunately, a very kind man allowed my mother to use his body as a net. At least, I think that’s what happened. I didn’t actually see the sequence of events since I was admiring a pair of shoes in Nordtrom’s shoe department at that point, but how else you can explain why my mother is lying on her back on top of a supine 6 foot 5’ black guy?

“God dammit Mom!” I holler after I use all my strength to inch the door just far enough to allow me to eke back through to outside. “You’ve got to be more careful!” I yank her off the man who was knocked unconscious when his head hit the cement. “You’re going to fall and break your bones!”

“I’m sorry, Dear,” my mother tries to make amends for causing me such distress.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” I grudgingly accept her apology. “Let’s just use the revolving door.” We step over the man and walk to the revolving door. “This time, you go first,” I direct, since it is obvious she cannot be trusted to follow behind.

My mother enters the first compartment and pushes the bar to set the revolving door in motion. I enter the compartment directly behind her. Needless to say, I soon became frustrated by my mother’s failure to progress through the revolving door at lightening speed. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, HURRY UP! As a result, I lend weight to the situation by extending my arms, grabbing onto the bar in front of me, digging in my heels and blasting off.

THWOMP!!!

Sweet Jesus! Apparently, at the same moment I picked up my revolving door pace, my mother was in the midst of exiting the revolving door into the shoe section of Nordstroms! And because she is so damn old and wasn’t quick enough to exit in a timely fashion, the velocity of the spinning door swept her off her feet and slammed her in between the glass door and the door frame!

SLAM! I immediately follow suit and splat like a bug on a windshield against the glass partition since my mother’s crushed body brought the revolving door to a sudden, rude halt. Still, I can clearly see the look of reproach in my mother’s bugged out eyes. This wasn’t difficult to see, after all, considering our faces were only inches apart from one another, the partition of glass being the only divider between us.

I take a few steps back to release her from the crushing pressure.

“What the hell is wrong with you!?” I explode as I steady my mother and guide her into Nordstrom's shoe department. “You could have broken a bone! How many times do I have to remind you to be more careful!”

“I’m sorry to be such a burden, Dear,” my mother tries to apologize. “But don’t you fret. Even with you to look out for me, chances are I won’t be around much longer.” Hmm.

We make our way to the center of the store to where a pianist is putting endless years of classical training to good use by playing a spectacular musak version of “Feels Like Teen Spirit” on a Grand Piano. My mother and I make a right toward the children’s department. We walk up to the sales counter and take our place behind a woman who pleasantly chitchats with the cashier as her items are totaled up and bagged. Damn. I hate long lines! Well, at least I have my mother to talk with to pass the time.

“I think I’ll just take a look around,” my thrifty Scottish mother suddenly abandons me at the register for a nearby sales rack. Clearly, my fare weather mother doesn't like to stand on Department Store check out lines either. I impatiently turn my attention back to the counter.

“Don’t you just love this?!” the young salesgirl gushes the moronic question as she folds up a little green sweater with a fire truck embroidered on its front. What the hell does the salesgirl think? The patron is purchasing something she despises?!

“I do! I just LOVE it!” the woman moronically exclaims back just before she goes into a whole, long dissertation about exactly why she loves the sweater. Good grief. If there is one thing I hate about Southerners is their time consuming civility. Sure, we Northerners may be rude as hell, but what we lack for in service, we make up for with expedience. For God’s sake! Who the fuck cares about the stupid sweater!? Just bag the shit, pay for the shit, don’t talk about the shit and fucking MOVE ON! I impatiently check my watch. Jesus! I’ve been standing on this line for a full ten fucking seconds! Still, I don’t wish to be rude, so rather than voice my opinion, I make my just-move-it-along feelings known by shifting back and forth on my feet while issuing over exaggerated, exasperated sighs, and repeatedly rolling my eyes as I pause to check my watch every nanosecond.

Five seconds later, I step up to the counter. Finally! I place the Nordstrom’s bag on the floor and lean over to pull out the pajamas.

“Excuse me,” a pleasant, gentile voice says somewhere off to my right.

“Yes?” I hear the salesgirl inquire. Immediately, I snap my head up to see who the hell is interrupting my return process. To my right, bellied up to the side of the counter, stands a petite, impeccably dressed woman in her late fifties, maybe early sixties. Despite her advancing years, she is remarkably pretty; exquisitely applied make up lights up her bright blue eyes and accentuates her chiseled features. But what is most striking about the woman is her hair. It is nothing short of perfect! Perfect, I tell you! The precisely cut wedge at the back seamlessly blends with longer sides that fall forward to frame the woman’s youthful face in a perfect bob. Rich and full, not even a single strand falls out of place when she moves. And the color! I have never seen such a beautiful shade of ashen grey! Perfectly distributed from roots to tips, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the color she was born with. Between the cut and color, her hair succeeded in being both chic and youthful, but entirely age appropriate. Indeed, this woman’s hair managed to accomplish what many women of advancing years dream of: It bridged the gap between the hair of youth and little old lady hair! Damn! It’s the perfect hairstyle for my mother!

“Would you happen to have these in a smaller size?” the thin, perfectly coiffed woman pleasantly inquires as she holds up a pile of black material, probably a pair of pants, in one hand. Immediately, I don’t like her. What with all her perfection, it is clear that she is one of those high falootin,’ high end, high society Texan dilatants who has no compunction about holding up return lines just to brag about being a skinny bitch. Talk about an insecure woman!

“Yes! The smaller sizes are on that rack over there,” the salesgirl points towards an area housing no fewer than three dozen clothing racks. The woman looks over towards the sea of clothes racks.

“I’m terribly sorry, but could you be more specific?”

Oh, for Pete’s sake! The salesgirl could not have been clearer with her directions! Couldn’t the dilatant just suck it up and go on a wild goose chase like a normal person?

“Yes, the third rack to the right,” the salesgirl directs.

“Thank you so much,” the woman says before she slowly turns around and begins to walk toward the rack. Well, not walk exactly. More like, painfully hobble along on a cane. Well, hell the how was I supposed to know she had a cane?! With each step, the woman’s left hip awkwardly thrusts out, and she is forced to take a moment to steady herself on the cane. For a split second, I wonder if I should feel badly about my harsh judgment, but I ultimately decide against it. I mean, really, how bad off can she be? Not bad enough to prevent her from impeccably grooming herself! Hell, for all I know, she just had plastic surgery and was suffering from some fleeting, minor complication. Still, her hair is lovely. In fact, I should point the woman out to my mother!

“Did you see that woman who just walked by?” my mother suddenly preempts my thought. Clearly, my mother has seen the woman’s hair for herself.

“Yes!” I enthuse, turning to face her. I know exactly where she is going with this. “That haircut would look prefect on you!”

“That’s what I was thinking!” my mother beams excitedly. “Isn’t it lovely? That’s exactly the style I‘ve been looking for! And did you see the color?” my mom sighs dreamily. “It’s to die for! Don’t you think it’s to die for?” I nod my head in agreement.

“Yes!” I agree. “It’s to die for!”

My mother and I continue to extol the wonderful virtues of the haircut to one another like excited schoolgirls who share a mutual crush. We watch as the woman disappears into the dressing room.

“Too bad I didn’t bring a camera,” I bemoan our inability to clandestinely snap a picture of the woman’s hairstyle to show my hairdresser. “Hey! How about your cell phone!?” My mother raises a questioning eyebrow. “It has a camera on it!”

“It does?! Are you sure?” my mother asks doubtfully.

“Of course I’m sure!” I reply impatiently. “All cell phones have built in cameras nowadays! Geez, Mom, you have got to get caught up with technological times.”

“Huh.,” my mother pulls out her cell phone and stares at it in awe. “That’s amazing, isn‘t it? Imagine! A phone that takes pictures! Technology really is wonderful!” My mother holds out the phone to me.

I look down at the phone and then back up at her.

“What are you handing me that for?” I ask.

“So you can take the woman’s picture!”

“How the hell am I supposed to do that!? I don’t know anything about fucking cell phones!” Geesh! I don’t even own a cell phone! Who the hell can figure the damn things out?

The woman with perfect hair limps out from the dressing room and begins to rifle through a clothes rack. Skinny bitch is probably looking for an even smaller size.

“She looks like she just stepped out of a salon,” my mother says admiringly. “She must spend a fortune on her hair.” My poor Mother. Her perfect hairstyle is so close, yet so far away.

“Hey! Why don’t you ask her where she gets her hair done?” I suggest, brilliantly.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask her that,” my impossibly polite mother replies.

“Why not?! It’s not like you’re asking for her Grandmother’s prized Apple Pie recipe. I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you where she gets her hair done.”

“I don’t want to bother her,” my mother hedges as she casts a sympathetic glance towards the limping woman. “She looks like she’s got enough on her plate.” My ever sensitive mother is reluctant to risk adding any additional burden upon the obviously, already burdened woman. Ever sensitive myself, I completely understand.

“Oh, for Pete's sake. Who the fuck cares?! It’s not like you are ever going to see her again!” I snap. “Just go over and get the name of the salon and her hairstylist! We’ll make an appointment as soon as we get home!” I can tell by her expression that my mother is wavering: Risk being impolite or risk losing the perfect haircut.

“No,” my mother shakes her head. “I just can’t.”

Hmm. Clearly, I’ll have to persuade my I-don’t-want-to-be-a-burden mother using a different tactic.

“You know, you’ll be doing her a favor,“ I seduce. “Think about it. Wouldn’t it make your day if a stranger asked for the name of your hairdresser?” I can see my mother is waffling. “After all, imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” My mother is definitely on the fence. “Really! It’ll make her feel good about herself!” And that does it. After all, my mother is all about making people feel good about themselves.

“Do you really think so?” she asks. I nod.

“Absolutely! You’ll make her day! Now go! GO!” I shoo my mother along like she is a nervous kid whose name has just been called to take the stage at a recital. My mother reluctantly shuffles towards the dressing room. Good grief. Why do old people revert back to behaving like children? You would think when a person is as near to death as my mother, she would stop worrying about what other people think! Thankfully, however, I am here to act the part of parent. My mother will thank me later for my encouragement.

“Sorry about that,” I return my attention to the salesgirl who has the nerve to roll her eyes impatiently at me. Along with the seventeen other people who stand behind me on the line I just backed up. “I need to return this,” I place the pajamas on the counter.

“Is there something wrong with them?” the girl asks. I bite my tongue from wagging, “No! Of course there’s nothing wrong! The pants are just perfect! Perfect length, perfect fit, perfect color. The reason I am returning them is because I enjoy answering fucking stupid questions and I just knew you’d be just the one to ask them!” But I don’t have time to waste on this line anymore than I have already, so I settle for a brief, “They don’t fit.”

As the salesgirl painstakingly folds the pajama bottoms, I glance over toward my mother, who is now speaking to the woman with the perfect coif. I watch as the woman draws her hand up to her hair. Hey now! Good for my Mom! She did it!

“Do you have the receipt?” the salesgirl asks.

“Yes,” I reply impatiently. What does she think? I’m one of those annoying, wait until the last minute to pull out a check book, types? Of course, I have my receipt at the ready! I unzip my purse’s left pocket. Nope, not here. I unzip the right pocket. Nope. Not in here either. I open up the center pocket and extract a month’s worth of old receipts. I flip through the stack, but no luck. Morally certain I had placed the receipt in the stack before I left the house, I then take my time to carefully review each and every one of the 50 or so receipts. Hmm. That’s odd. Did I put it in my wallet? I open my wallet and repeatedly push and pull all the credit cards in and out of their respective sleeves. Then I remove all the contents from the wallet and shake it upside down before I ultimately dump the entire contents of my purse onto the counter. Let’s see. Car keys, bobby pins, tampons, but no receipt. Oh wait! I remember! I dip my hand into my front left pocket and pull out the receipt.

“Here it is,” I hand the girl the receipt. She takes a few seconds to type the receipt’s number into the register. God! This whole process is taking FOREVER! “Listen, I don’t mean to be rude,” I say rudely. “But I’m in a rush. Do you think you can move this process along any quicker?” After all, I don’t have time for this! I’ve got nowhere to go after this and I’m in a rush to get there.

“Do you have your credit card?” the salesgirl asks.

“Of course,” I reply impatiently before I repeat the same exact search sequence for my credit card as I did for my receipt. “Here it is,” I hand over the card after I finally locate it in my front pocket. As the salesgirl runs the credit back onto my card, I look around the store for my mother. Surely, during the incredibly long time it has taken the salesgirl to finish my transaction, my mother had long gotten the name of the woman’s hairdresser and has resumed browsing the sales racks.

But my mother is not browsing the sales racks. Oh, Dear Lord. You have got to be kidding me. My mother is still talking to the woman! Looking very intent, I see my mother nod every now and again in response to whatever the woman is droning on about. Leave it to my infuriatingly kind mother to get caught up in idle small talk. In fact, knowing my mom, she hasn’t even gotten around to asking the woman for the name of her hairdresser yet! Clearly, I must put an end to the times-a-wastin’ dilly dally, chitchat. After my return transaction is over, I walk over to the pair of women.

“Hi!” I interrupt as pleasantly as possible. The woman and my mother look over at me. “I’m the daughter of the woman who thinks your hair is simply to die for!” I use flattery by way of introduction, for the singular purpose of setting the conversation back on course. Naturally, I expect the woman to be charmed by my flattery. Instead, she and my mother exchange very awkward looks.

“Go ahead,” the soft spoken woman, who looks surprisingly frail now that I’m close up, encourages my mother. “You can tell her.”

“Cynthia, this woman has cancer,” my mother announces as she stares at me meaningfully. Oooooh. I get it. My mother got roped into listening to this woman’s medical conditions and now she can’t extract herself from the conversation. See? That’s what happens when you are afflicted with politeness. But that’s okay. Fortunately, I am here to help.

“Oh! That’s too bad,” I dutifully tsk tsk sympathetically towards the woman. “I’m sooo sorry to hear that.“ But I wasn’t. After all, I don’t know this woman from Adam, so how much can I possibly be expected to care? Why must old people impact others with their medical conditions anyway? Selfish, really, since such negative news can only serve to bring healthy people down. After I allow an appropriate moment of contemplative deference to pass, I get back to the business of moving the conversation along. “You really look wonderful, though! As soon as you walked passed, my mother and I immediately noticed your hair!” I smile broadly. “It really stands out in the crowd!”

The woman reaches a tentative hand to her bangs and blushes. I smile smugly at my mother. See? I told you she’d feel good. Just look at how happy I’ve made her! I turn back to the surprisingly modest woman.

“If you don’t mind me asking, wherever did you have it done?”

The woman looks about nervously. Oh, please. Don’t tell me she’s one of those dilatant, hold out types. I shrug at my mother. My mother pierces me with her eyes. Clearly, my mother is trying to convey a message to me, but what could it possibly be?

Turns out, the message my mother was trying to convey was “Cynthia, you really are just too fucking stupid to live.” Of course, I didn’t pick up the message right away. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mother was finally forced to say, “Cynthia, she is wearing a wig,” that I got it.

For several moments, I stare at my mother without expression. Internally, however, my mind is as busy as a mathematical factory, desperately trying to compute the meaning of what I had just been told. But no matter how often I rearrange and recompute the factors, I kept arriving at one, unalterable conclusion: that I, Cynthia, the world’s biggest fucking asshole, had just asked a cancer patient wearing a wig where she gets her hair done.

“This woman was just telling me that today is the first time she is wearing her wig in public!” my mother smiles encouragingly at the woman.

“Yes..” the painfully embarrassed woman stammers as she draws a terribly, self conscious hand to the nape of her neck. “I was hoping it wouldn’t stand out…I wasn’t sure if it looked real…” The woman’s vulnerability is palpable and raw. Needless to say, I felt incredibly awkward, like I had just walked in on this woman naked. I can’t help but cast a resentful glare at my mother for getting me into this whole mess in the first place.

“Well, it looks fantastic! No one would ever suspect you were wearing a wig,” I casually reassure the woman, as if asking wig wearing, chemo patients where they got their hair done happens all the time.

“Oh…well, thank you,” the woman says doubtfully, but appreciatively. She affords me a tentative smile. See that? In the end, I salvaged a potentially disastrous encounter and ultimately made the woman feel good about herself! That is, until I opened up my big fucking mouth to add, “Believe me, your hair is simply to die for!” Yeah, that statement kind of ruined the whole feel good atmosphere.

OhmyGod, I did not just say that! I stare at my mother. OhmyGod, you did not just say that! She stares back. Fortunately, my mother comes to my rescue and covers up my faux pas with yet another one.

“Indeed,” my mother places a kindly hand on the woman’s arm. “I would be thrilled to have hair as lovely as yours!” The woman takes a stab at another tentative smile. “Although I’d just as soon take a different road than you to achieve it.” The woman’s smile falters.

Yup. Time to go. Our work is done here.

Moments later, my mother and I walk side by side past the Grand Piano in silence, trying to absorb what just happened.

“Well, that was awkward,” I break the silence by stating the painfully obvious.

“Indeed,” my mother affords me a reproachful glare. Like this is all my fault!

“Of all the rotten luck, huh?” I say. My mother nods with vigorous agreement.

“It’s such a shame, isn’t it?” she gushes sincerely. “I feel awful! Just awful!”

“I know! Here you finally found the perfect haircut and it’s a wig!” I sympathize. Without the name of a hairstylist, my poor mother will forever be denied her perfect hairstyle.

My mother comes to a sudden stop and turns to face me.

“What?” I ask, confused.

“Sometimes I wonder how the daughter to whom I gave birth managed to get switched with you in the hospital.” I raise an inquiring eyebrow. “Because I don’t think you weren’t birthed. I think you were hatched.” She pivots on her heel and continues to walk.

Well, that’s a fine howdayado! Denied! By me very own mother!

Now don’t ask me why, because I don’t know, but at that moment, I glanced over my shoulder back to the dressing room. I see the perfectly put together woman hand a little boy, who looks suitably miserable to be out shopping with his grandmother, a smaller pant size. Hmm. Maybe I should have realized the woman was not out shopping for herself. After all, we were in the children’s department. The boy storms back into the dressing room and the woman slowly follows suit. But before she disappears from view, she momentarily pauses to take stock of her hair in front of a nearby mirror. For a split second, she smiles. And then she is gone.

You know, cancer is the cruelest of thieves. Bad enough that it should break and enter into a woman’s life and rob her of everything before it steals her final breath, but to strip her of her crown of glory? Well, that is nothing short of a full blown act of aggression. I can't help but smile, as I always do whenever I witness the indomitable, female spirit in action. For as frail, embattled, cancer riddled, chemo racked, and crippled as the woman may be, she instinctively refuses to allow that which defines her as a woman, as an individual, to be taken away so wantonly. Indeed, upon her head, this woman wears a defiant, middle finger; flipping off the cancer that dares to deny her a crown of glory.

I turn around, quickly rush to catch up with my mother and fall into step along side her. Armed with the knowledge that no woman worth her salt will ever be denied her crown of glory, I smile knowingly.

“Soooo,” I smugly begin.

“Doe?” my mother clarifies, confused.

“Not ‘Doe!’” I snap. Did I ever mention that my mother is deaf in one ear? “I said, ‘So.’ But I said it smugly, like, ‘Soooo,’” I draw out the word as I repeatedly raise my eyebrows up and down.

“Soooo…what?” my mother looks at me like I’m retarded before she looks straight ahead and quickens her pace.

“Soooo…what’s the name of the store?” I solicit, rather than ask, after I catch up to her. For a moment, my mother continues to walk, as if she didn’t hear me. Finally, her face breaks into a smile.

“Mimi’s Wig Boutique. Corner of Coit and Campbell,” she replies.

“I knew it,” I nod with self satisfaction.

“Well, dear,” my mother explains as we approach the revolving door to exit. “I couldn’t very well have asked to borrow the wig for a half an hour, now could I? Why, that would have been nothing short of crass.”

After a significant amount of time, my mother and I emerge from the revolving door into the harsh elements. We step over the still unconscious man who lies supine in front of the store, hurry back to the truck and hop in. As women, as sisters, as friends, we drive off into the world once again, forever in pursuit of divine crowns of glory.

Even though we both are clearly going to hell.

3 comments:

Suzanne said...

Cynthia, I was taken on this funny trip to Nordstrom's with you, and I thank you. When you got to the crux of it - the woman gingerly touching her hair. I so got it. Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago this April. Unbelieveably, she seems to be beating it. But we had our "wig" moments. I am going to have her read this, as I know it will make her laugh. That is my way of saying "well done"!

Kat said...

I loved this story, very well written! My friend just showed me your blog and I am so following! My mom had cancer and you're right-- no woman lets that mess with her hair! I loved your story, your writing style, and I'm so excited to have found a fun blog to follow! <3 Kat

shortlist said...

Reading and loving. Only half way thru but looking forward to the rest when i get home this evening.

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