One summer day on Cape Cod I had a flash of brilliant inspiration to change my appearance and change my humdrum high school life. The thought process was as follows. If I cut off my long, naturally wavy tresses and embraced hair gels and mousses and permanent pouting, I could move to New York and be a famous model. Since my hair was the color of a drowned Hudson River rat, my height barely brushed 5’5” and every photo taken of me seemed to resemble a cross between an over-medicated mental patient and Jimmy Durante after a bad fall, a modeling career was not the most practical or realistic goal. But I didn’t care.
I would never again have to use the Pythagorean theorem or a telephone or my left hand during a front seat, high school hand job. I really thought that. Really. Without taking a bong hit or lapping up a few drops of blotter acid or suffering a terrible head injury in a sloppy sailing accident. Me, a model, in New York, modeling and mugging and making out with Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy, giving both of them much more of me than my rosy-palmed love in a Pinto.
My closet would be overflowing with stonewashed, Marilyn zip-up GUESS jeans and scrunchy ankle socks that my ripped, Republican, money-managing boyfriend would use as cum towels. My downtown loft would pulsate with parties in honor of artists who only painted 16 inch obelisks in neon colors and androgynous Nagel look-a-likes drinking Chivas and Chrystal Light and the two pretty members of The Bangles and decorative bowls of Quaaludes and mescaline that were often mistaken for Mike and Ike’s and Jujubes. The world would be my fabulous, fuzzy clam.
I found a random salon in a small beach town near Hyannis and put all my trust and money into the hands of a frustrated, fidgety stylist who cut hair to pay off his addiction to TAB, Dextatrim and life-sized posters of The Smith’s. Sitting in his chair, overlooking a cloudy, overcast beach, Boy George of his own jungle hacked off the last of my virginal, untreated strands and welcomed me into the world of dyeing too much and trying too hard.
After showing him a photo (see exhibit A) of what I wanted to look like he lopped off the left side of my hair leaving a scant two inches and permed the other a pubic bush kinky, hoping to match the 1983 GUESS model I so admired and mooned over. I never stopped to think about what my blank canvas really looked like without a carpet of curls and if this flaccid version of Vidal Sassoon could actually improve upon my natural gifts of average.
After Alberto Alfonso Gilberto was done trimming, treating and teasing I stood up and looked in the floor to ceiling mirror that had been quietly lying to me through its glaring, reflective teeth all afternoon. Standing there was not the Cosmo Cover Girl I had expected or an ESPRIT catalogue high-kicker or any of the united colors of Benetton. No, what I saw before me was a poop-colored, lopsided kitchen mop being held up by a pair of hunched over shoulders, one of which carried a Ton Sur Ton tote filled with regret.
The knowledge that I would never be a fashion icon was as immediate as getting food poisoning at a 24-hour Chinese restaurant that serves day-old fish tacos and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. I paid my bill in cash, tried my Molly Ringwrong to look happy about my new crooked crew cut and slinked out into the gray day fairly certain of a need to scream, “Four!” on the golf course of life.
The following year, after the mangled mess grew into a shoulder length shame, I started highlighting my hat head, once again trying my best to fit a drab brown peg into a hairy round hole. The more I colored it caramel, the more it demanded dolce de leche and now, after years of switch-ups and new swatches I am a prisoner of my own ponytails.
My mop top never quite recovered from the onslaught of chemical dependency and poor decision-making and I am still fighting an uphill battle of bad hair days, sub par blow-drying, delicious-smelling, bank-breaking deep conditioners and feisty follicle ineptitude. Add to that a few new rebellious and insidious grays sprouting up like weeds at a waterfront wedding and I truly feel like I should never have started a war I could never win.
Whether I like it or not the colorist and the chemicals are here to stay. Sure, I could embrace the white whiskers that now number in the tens around my temples but I am not the girl who looks good in Santa’s second favorite color. I will never be a confident, cotton-top, Eileen Fisher model wrapped in a coffee-colored, oversized, jersey dress, looking like a sultry Q-Tip while coyly gazing into a camera lens as if it were my magnified make-up mirror in my Hamptons master suite.
Was my natural hair color really that bad or could a dull, dirt brown of youth have been enough to satisfy my fashion phobia? When I opened up that Glamour magazine and tore out the photo of the white blond model who had it all together in her pegged jeans and ankle boots all those years ago I instantly fell for the oldest advertising trick in the book.
“Buy our product and be enough!”
While supposedly selling jeans to a massive population of designer-desperate teenagers, the world of fashion forward shoved me into a bottomless pit of massive makeovers and radical redo’s. I dyed and I tried but am still just me, a sometimes disheveled, sometimes delighted mother of one who no longer wants her face or her frame in a magazine but only her words and her warts.
And Mr. Marciano, I am finally enough.