May 17, 2006

Sincere, if Belated and Ineffectual, Apologies

I am having dinner with my Aunt and mother tonight as a belated birthday get-together, which includes a three-layer checkerboard cake*. Because I never learn. I may not eat any of the cake* though, as my stomach is still not right from the last time I dared to eat sugary goodness. What I really wish is that I could join Jackie at yoga tonight; I could use a little serenity. Alas, my evening holds no inner peace. Only outer cake.*

The bizarre acrobatics my hair is doing today reminds me of when I was little, about fifth grade, and had a friend called Angela. Angela was an only child, as so many of my friends turn out to be, and we were pretty tight for a year, until she moved away. The best thing about her house was that she had a Super Nintendo. In her room. And she didn’t have to share a room with anyone, which I thought was amazing.

What came to mind as I tried to comb out my That Girl! ‘do this morning was Angela’s one, ill-fated attempt at doing her hair. She was a small, sweet girl, so of course she was teased for having glasses and dressing plainly. I, being likewise financially unable to afford “cool” things, and also possessing no fashion sense, took all the teasing in stride. Angela, however, decided to take a shot at improving her looks and, therefore, social standing. One morning, she walks over to my house so we can catch the bus, and as I open the door I realize something is amiss. She’s smiling proudly, sporting her usual ponytail, only her bangs and a sheaf of hair beside each ear have been curled. I think she was going for “tendrils”—much the same way my prom hairdresser would (mistakenly) attempt years later in my future—but the curls were so tight and spiraled, the effect was much more… rabbinical. But it looked deliberate, like there are tryouts today for the class production of Fiddler on the Roof that nobody else knows about.

I didn’t know what to do. Do I say something? She looked so happy—I was supposed to say something, but she expected something positive, and I was going to fail at that. Horribly. Tact and I are not close, and never have been. I tried to play it safe.

“What did you do?” It was ambiguous. It might work.

“I curled my hair.” Obviously. Now what?

“Oh,” I said. “It’s different.”

“Thanks,” she said. Phase One is complete: I didn’t hurt her feelings. But what happens when we get to school? If she gets laughed at, I’m going to feel like the asshole who didn’t tell her she looks ridiculous. I’m her friend, and that’s my job. We start walking.

“Did your mom do it?” I press, hopefully.

“No, I did it myself.” Innocent, oblivious, doomed.

“Oh.” Damn. She wasn’t even a victim. She brought it on herself. I suddenly wondered if I were the only one who thought it looked strange. Maybe this is the new thing, and I’m too far out of the loop to know about it. I hoped so.

Not so much. I found her in the bathroom later, red-faced and combing out the curls with all the hostility of a personal vendetta.

“Hey, what happened?” I asked.

“Shauna made fun of me. She asked if was Jewish.” Crap.

“Well, she doesn’t know anything—she wears too much eyeliner. She looks like a hooker,” I tried, barely cognizant of what hookers actually look like.

“Yeah.” I couldn’t tell if she was mad at me. OK, so I didn’t tell her what I really thought; she’d have been mad at me if I did. I waited it out and then took her side later. Cowardly? Yes. But I was there to walk her back out of the bathroom and openly mock Shauna’s poor spelling skills the next hour. I may not tell you when I think you’re wrong, but I’ll be there to pick you up when others do.

Shit, that sounds bad. I’m a total chicken.
I’m really sorry, Angela—I owe you a Coke. Or therapy.

The point I meant to make out of all this is: if my hair looks like ass, please do tell me about it, because I probably didn’t notice. Or slept on it wrong (e.g. today), or it’s dirty (yesterday), or had a curling iron / styling gel mishap (weekends). Please do for me what I couldn’t do for Angela. Be my friend. I promise I won’t hate you.

The Quirky Elevator Story a-Go-Go:

“What do you call a nun who sleepwalks?” one of the front desk attendants, the always-cheerful, happy-to-be-alive one, asked all passengers at large. After a chorus or two of crickets, he announces, “A Roamin’ Nun!” I smiled politely, which was more than the other guy did, and stepped off onto my floor.

I was halfway down the hall before I realized the punchline was actually “Roamin’ Catholic.”

Not that I would have said anything, because that’s rude.
Or conflict-avoidant, take your pick.

* Drink! (I’ve decided to make a drinking game out of the words “cake” and “uterus”; every four weeks, you’re likely to risk serious liver damage.)

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