Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Pick

I read this post.


There was so much to love about it. So I thought I'd share it today.

Nancy sets the scene so perfectly. We've all sat in that hair stylist's chair, tearing ourselves apart in the mirror, and simply wanting...something.

My notes are in bold.

"Okay, so what are we doing today?"

I release my hair from its lank ponytail and gaze into the mirror. Dark caverns attack my face. Dry, chapped lips. One rogue hair sprouting from my chin. It feels wrong for me to be here, in this place of jojoba infused conditioning treatments. I find myself apologizing.

"Sorry I didn't wash my hair. Paul didn't get home until late, and the boys were...." I trail off, as I catch Natalie glance at a picture of her boy, Landon. Her boyfriend is presently deployed, and she cuts hair while her mother babysits. He smiles at her from his place on the mirror, clutching his beloved Tow Mater.

I feel, once again, like such an asshole. My life isn't hard. I don't work. I mean, yes, I am home with the boys, and that is work. I plan adventures and pack sliced strawberries in the lunch sack. Boxer shorts are folded and placed in drawers. Little fingers curl around mine as we cross busy streets.

And yet, on days like today, I feel invisible.

I want to cry. Who, as a mother, hasn't felt that way?

Natalie lifts my hair in small pieces, examining her craft. "Are we doing the short bob again? That is the best cut on you. And what about color?" Her eyebrows lift, waiting.

The words release, "I want you to dye my hair FLAMING red."

I laugh, twisting my fingers under the cape. "I mean, it's just hair, right?"

The twisting fingers, the laugh, are nice ways to show us her nervousness at saying what she wants. Because we're not supposed to be outrageous, are we?

Natalie frowns. She flips a few strands, examining my roots with scientific precision. "Red is one of the hardest colors to stick. Do you plan on swimming a lot this summer?"

I nod, "Just bought a summer pass." If my boys don't burn off energy in the water, I cannot be responsible for the subsequent damage to the upholstery.

"Hmmmm. If we did red, you would need to get touch-ups probably every two months."

She knows me. The last time I cut my hair was around Christmas. It is now late May. I came to the appointment late, sitting in the car with the boys, waiting for Paul to relieve me. I almost had to cancel.

"I mean," she adds, "I think it could But I'm not sure if you would be happy with it." She speaks with the confidence brought by full schedules and glowing referrals.

This woman is a good hair stylist. She does actually care. I don't know why I'm commenting on that.

The image of my vibrant, red-headed self sputters, an engine stalled. "Okay," I say, "I need something. What do you think I should do?"

You can really see this happening, the resignation.

She purses her lips, and says, "We could do some auburn lowlights? Maybe add a bit of spice to it?"

I nod. "And the same bob, please."

She grins. I know she loves doing a razor cut.

She returns with the mixed color, and we talk about children, if we're going to Rehoboth, and how hot it is. This is our summer conversation. At my other appointment, we talk about children, our Christmas shopping, and how cold it is.

I want to tell her that I dream about returning to work, of being something more than a professional snack dispenser/sparring partner. I want a classroom. Dress clothes. Adrenaline.

But I also want to drink my coffee at the kitchen table while the boys draw. To swim in the Chesapeake until we are properly brined and pruny. To fill the hours with puzzles and Curious George.

I want everything for me and everything for them. Or at least really amazing hair.

I love where her thoughts go as she sits there, how we always long for a different life, even if only to dream about. And barring that, we just want to feel good about ourselves.

Soon we're drying and styling. The cut is sleek, and my cheekbones come out of hiding. The color? It's brown. I pay over a hundred dollars to have really nice, low-lighted, subtle brown hair.

Natalie says, "It's better for people to see a beautiful face than a loud hair color, don't you think?"

I nod, "I think so."

But inside, there are flames of red still burning, still waiting to meet the air.

This ending is perfect. She has done what we do as moms: the practical thing. But underneath we ALL have a fire burning for something, don't we? I love the metaphor of red hair.

Also? Nancy DID buy a box and dyed her hair red!

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