think it's hard for parents to see their kids getting older, metamorphosing
into adults way before they are ready. I often wish that I could
go back to being that little girl with Buffys, red Keds, blue jean
cut-offs, and my hot dog t-shirt, hopping in the front of my dad's
red Ford pick-up truck, standing right beside him with my arm around
his neck, drinking a grape Ne-hi with not a care in the world. Safe.
Not too long after my Tennessee non-retreat, I moved to L.A. (minus
the Buffys) and found the man I would marry within a few days. It
was a pretty crazy time.
thing I knew, I was pregnant with my first baby, and the doctor
gave me lots of do's and don'ts, one being to stop highlighting
my hair. It was the first time I had seen my natural hair color
since I was twelve years old, when my mom put a plastic cap on my
head and pulled strand after strand of my dulling blonde hair through
with a crochet needle. I thought the pink foam rollers were bad!
I had known that beauty involved pain, but blood? Good Lord!
six months into the pregnancy, my husband Fred and I went to Tennessee
for Christmas. Now keep in mind, there was not as much as a half
a strand of blonde left. MY-DAD-COULD-NOT-EVEN-LOOK-AT-ME. Granted,
I did look a little like an Elvis Presley Weeble Wobble, but my
moment came right before church services on Christmas Eve. I had
picked out a special outfit. Black was good. I was excited to wear
all of the new shades of lipstick and eye shadow my mom had so painstakingly
picked out to go with my natural hair color. She was working for
Lancome at the time, and just saw it as a fun challenge! As long
as I can remember, my dad and I would always look at each other
right before going to church:"You look pretty," he'd say.
Dad. You look nice."
on this night, a cold, crisp snowy night in 1998 -- silence. Nothing.
He couldn't look at me. Later that evening at my Aunt Debbie's house,
as Dad and I hovered by the spinach dip and Pretzel Jello Salad
(every pregnant girl's dream!), he put his arm around me and said
in his low, tender voice, "Hey Mel, I know you're doing it
for the baby. It's for the baby."
my daughter Carly was born, as soon as I was able, Fred and I headed
to Tennessee for a visit. We had just gotten there when my 65-year-old
Aunt Buddy D (originally Barbara Dean), who will be blonde until
she dies if she has anything to do with it, stopped by. This is
the same Aunt who remarked during the O.J. trials, "Oh no,
oh I don't think he did it, no, oh he's innocent...oh he's a pretty
nigger." That's Aunt Buddy D. But the look of concern that
she got on her face as she laid her eyes on Carly for the first
time made my heart drop. What was she seeing that I hadn't? A rash?
A mole? Uh...third nipple?
Carly's a brunette. I couldn't tell from the pictures. Oh, her hair
is dark, it is, yeah she's going to be a little brunette. She's
going to be brown-headed."
she's going to be a beautiful brunette, Aunt Bud!"
Melanie, now come on, that's nothing a little 'ol bottle of bleach
won't take care of!"
just cracked herself up with her comment and, as she continued to
cackle for what seemed like an eternity, I had a vision of myself
sneaking into the viewing room at the funeral home when she dies
and placing one of my nappy old wigs from my sketch days, preferably
a dark brown one, on her head just for kicks. Then I imagined her
raising up, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror behind me,
and with a high pitch tone saying, "Oh no, oh that won't do,
oh that's awful, oh that color is just about to make me sick to
my stomach. I'd just as soon be dead and buried than to have this
color of ha
oh shit, I am dead. Lo' I said Lo' I tell you what's
is short for Lord and pronounced law, as not to take the Lord's
name in vain. "Shit, God! They are just going to have to close
this casket. Will somebody close this casket
hair went from brown to red to blonde in her first year of life,
and when she turned four, it turned dark again. Being married to
a Jewish guy from Chicago, I thought for sure this reaction that
my family had when she was a baby was just a Southern thing. But
when Fred's mom saw the course nature had taken with Carly's hair,
she just about lost her dang teeth! In the thickest Midwestern accent
you can imagine, she exploded, "Oy Gutunu! Her hair got so
dark, when did that happen?" As she wiped off the piece of
noodle she had spit onto her blouse because her new set of false
teeth didn't fit, she continued, "I mean the color is just
I thought well maybe it's a Midwestern, Southern thing. But even
one of my cool, hip Hollywood friends said in a monotone voice,
"Wow. Carly's hair got dark. That's weird." And then!
My friend Supriya's mom came in from India, and said, "Oh my
God, Carly's hair got so dark, vhen did it happen?"
I could tell you that I stood up to defend Carly from this shallow
attitude coming from every direction, but I can't. I wanted her
to stay blonde, too. I even resorted to a kid's highlighting product
that didn't do crap. "Add a touch of natural looking highlights
to your child's hair." Yeah right, my ass! I'm just as bad
as my family. I'm worse! I'm like a pageant mom walking around looking
shabby while my daughter is perfection. My husband will say, "I'm
sorry honey, is your hair wet or is that grease?" What am I
teaching Carly, anyway? That color of your skin doesn't matter,
but the color of your hair does? "Carly, people come in all
shapes and sizes, but honey sit still while I put this lemon juice
in your hair, I don't want to get it in your eyes -- oh shoot, honey,
I'm sorry. I know. It hurts. I'm sorry. Oh honeeey."
a few weeks ago I went for a walk in Palisades Park, and found myself
mesmerized by this homeless man sitting on the ground eating someone's
California Pizza Kitchen leftovers. His hair was neatly styled into
curly Buffys. He was tan and good looking. Perhaps he once had his
own Hollywood dreams. As I walked closer, I noticed that his hair
was beautifully streaked from all of his days in the sun, and it
was parted down the back of his head in a perfect straight line.
He couldn't have done that himself, could he? Friend? Maybe a girlfriend?
Boyfriend? As I watched him shaking his head as if to say, "No,
no, no, no," all the while rocking back and forth, back and
forth, staring out at the vast, wide open Pacific Ocean, I could
only hope that he likes his hair that way, and that whoever did
his Buffys for him is someone who loves him.
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