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Beauty Hurts
By Melanie Hutsell

Some of you may remember Buffy from the '60s TV show, Family Affair. Well, because of that show, at least in my family, pigtails were called Buffys. I think my Southern mother found the term much more appealing, considering a pig's tail resides just above the hole where it does its business. So the TV characters Cindy Brady and Buffy inspired my mom to keep my hair in perfect curly-que Buffys most of my young life. Every night just before bed, Mom would ever so methodically roll my hair into pink foam rollers, never missing a strand.

"Our father, who art in heaven, ouch!"

"Oh Melanie, for heaven's sake it doesn't hurt that bad!"

I learned at a very early age that beauty hurts and get over it.

When I was 26, I got let go from my job on Saturday Night Live and all I could think of to do was to head back home to Tennessee, rent a cabin on the river, and figure out where the heck to go from there. Just a few days after I got the news about SNL, I received a call for a job opportunity -- to be the next spokesperson for Jenny Craig! With a can of Slim Fast in hand, I couldn't believe they were asking me. How dare they? Did my healthfully zaftig size 10 body really merit this invitation? I had taken such pride in the fact that I was a girl with a normal body right there on TV. Had no one noticed? I learned at a very young age in my acting career that showbiz hurts and get over it. But at that time in my life, the place where my sadness was really stemming from was the fact that I had not found love. In Tennessee years, 26 was just about too late. So I had my dad over to ask his advice.

Now right before he showed up, I was trying to make garlic bread in a stove that probably hadn't been used since 1975. The awful '70s décor hadn't been touched either. Yeah! '70s décor in a cabin! Not to mention the baby blue, satin Farah Fawcett pillowcase in the bedroom. Which was stained. When the stove wasn't heating I thought, "Oh well, I'll just light a match." Boom! I literally was knocked in the air onto my tailbone. The hideous, olive green and orange macramé wall hanging flew right off the fake wood paneling. I chose to bypass the small fire on the mustard shag carpet, heading straight to the bathroom to see what the explosion had done to my face. First things first! My bangs were frizzy and standing straight up, and my eyebrows had been singed right off. The Whoopi Goldberg look did not serve me well.

Just then there was a bang on the door. Off I went, stomping out the remains of the small fire on the way. When I opened the door, to my surprise, it was a guy I recognized from high school. Sandy Ledbetter! He had always looked rather elfin, with a boyish angular face and pointy ears. He was a tiny little thing, no bigger than a minute. He still looked the same as ever, with the exception of a small, but prominent, potbelly. But who was I to judge? He was looking back at a woman with no fucking eyebrows. His voice was like one of the little people from Munchkinland, only with a thick southern accent, a la Ernest T. Bass from The Andy Griffith Show, or for those of you who remember the voice from Jimmy Dean's sausage commercial, the little cartoon of a hillbilly that said, "Take home! A package! Of Tennessee Pride!"

"Melanie, is that you? Somebody tohd me you had come here for the summer. I live two cabins down and thought you done blowed the place up. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's good to see you. You haven't changed a bit."

"I sure enjoyed you on Saturday Night Live!"

His voice kept getting louder and louder. Did he think I had gone deaf from the explosion or what?! "WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW, MELANIE?!"

Thank God my dad showed up. Intimidated by my dad's football player physique, Sandy left in a flash yelling out, "Holler if you need anything, Melanie! We've got a case of Natural Lite if you git thirsty!"

After expounding on how lucky I was to be alive, Dad and I sat down to a dinner of salad and lunch meat, with the smell of gas still lingering in the air. So here we were, sitting at a tiny little metal parlor table that made my dad look giant and uncomfortable, but he had never been one to complain. As I stared out of the screened-in porch at the Little Tennessee River, watching the thousands of sun rays rippling through the trees and dancing furiously on the water, I said, "So Dad, why do you think I haven't found love yet?"

I should also tell you that at that time, I had been taking lessons on feminism from my good friend, Miss Jill Soloway, and I was going through quite the bohemian phase -- sporting a one size fits all, army green and pee yellow tie-dyed dress and not a stitch of make-up, not even a coat of lip gloss. In fact, I recall a moment at Mom and Dad's house right before heading up to the cabin, when my mother chased me with a tube of coral lipstick. "Just a little color Melanie!" With every syllable her voice would go up another octave, "Oh, Honey, why? Please!" Her voice got much smaller when she realized I was not giving in. "Have a little pride."

What I am about to say may not make sense to most. But in addition to my mother's love for hair and make-up, right there in Maryville, Tennessee, this woman who was once crowned Miss Hilltop in high school and was even head cheerleader, was also a natural born feminist without even really knowing it, always pushing me towards independence and being my own woman. Neither she nor my dad ever said a negative word to me about my weight, which has been more empowering than anything. But back to that yearning question, "Why do you think I haven't found love yet?"

At first my dad completely evaded the question, sounding like a sweaty preacher in mid-sermon, "Now why would Lorne Michaels hire that Ja-neen Girraffe-alow over you? I don't get it! And doesn't she already have a movie career anyway?"

My friends back in Hollywood and New York had asked me the same question. No one, including me, would have guessed that Janeane, with her mask of dry wit and cynicism, could possibly have had a dream to be on SNL. But I felt desperate to get him back to the topic at hand. "Dad! We're talking about my love life here! I mean, I've had all of this excitement around me, and no one to share it with."

Then he got quiet and intense. "Now Mel, you're not going to like this, but you need to start wearing some make-up. What with yer lipsticks and yer eye shadows and yer blushers. And I believe if I were you…I'm just going to say it -- Buffys!"


"Buffys! Put your hair in Buffys! Now listen to me! If you do all of that, I guaren-dern-tee you, you're going to find yourself a man!"

I was pretty sure there were a handful of prostitutes in downtown Knoxville that were having plenty of luck with this look.

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