Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monday Memoir: All Girls Must Be Everything ...

I wanted the loose waves of the girls on the cover of Teen magazine. Shiny curls thick as a coffee can. That just-brushed lightness. Whenever I expressed this to my mother, she gave the same answer:

Why not get a home perm?

A home perm. That remarkable bit of hair technology, a transformation that could occur at ones own dining room table. My mom wrapping quarter-inch sections of hair around a piece of hard plastic, then squirting egg-fart flavored solution over my head, the metal of the sink against my chin, then wrapping this toxic event in a plastic bag and waiting while it fried itself pretty.

In the end I would always look more like Rhea Perlman than Heather Graham. The worst part is that I fell for this every year.

"It'll relax," my mom would say over the sound of poodles barking in my own head.

It never relaxed. Sections would straighten. My own unruly natural curl would overrule the Tony Home Perm uniformity in other places. Throw in acne, braces, and armpits hospitable for growing Brie, and I was pretty lucky to go to a small friendly school where we mostly all liked each other even if one of us looked like she was in a sci/fi tale of pubescent disfigurement.

I can't think of when I become comfortable with what I look like, but it happened. Ish. Happened-ish. I'll say it was when I was 30, because in the revisionist history of my life I use 30 as this magical line when my self esteem issues completely dissolved overnight along with a few annoying lifestyle ticks. But I'll say -ish because I got my hair cut last week and my bangs make me look a little like a 1990s beat cop. Instead of lying in bed with the lights out screaming about how my life is over (Age 29), I now look in the mirror, frown and think about how this is two more weeks of looking like Jackie from "Roseanne" (Age 35).

Being comfortable with what I look like is not the same as being a knock out. I'm not going to slay anyone or make eyeballs pop cartoonishly from a head. I know what I look like. In fact, the harder I try the more I appear to be dressed in drag. And sometimes I come across like Anime. As a rule, one photograph of me every 14 years is flattering. But this all makes it easier for people to take me seriously as a karaoke artist and no one ever bugs me when I'm reading a book in public.

Here is a personal inventory of my body parts:
  • Very thin hay-hair that, an entire summer after setting this goal, has not grown long enough for me to go shirtless like "Splash." Also: At some angles I have a visible bald spot and I'll probably greet my 50s rocking a skullet
  • Almond-shaped eyeballs that eat contact lenses. 
  • An ess-curved spine and rounded shoulders, which I like to think make me look so Olive Oyl-y that I can't carry myself upright, but is genuinely just proof that no matter how much time my mom spent yanking on my shoulders and threatening to tape a hanger between them, I would never learn to stand up straight. I think it is my personal preference for the fetal position.
  • A face that looks cheery in its resting position, and if it falls to neutral makes me look mad just because it isn't wide-eyed gawking chipper mouthed. 
  • Small chubby-boy boobs. 
  • A habit of chewing on my thin lips that makes me look like my mom if I catch a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror.
  •  White and puffy water wing upper arms that I show in public only 1 percent more often than I show my Hot Dog bun upper thighs, fetus faced knees, and curiously monkey-paw like toes. 
The Monday Memoir series is a writing project that uses Tina Fey's memoir "Bossypants" as a template for my own life story. I'm using her subjects as a prompt. Tina Fey's memoir is very funny, by the way. It just seemed so easy to do. In Chapter Three she talks about standards of beauty and does a personal inventory of her healthy body parts.

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