Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Past Deadline: Hair - The Not Musical

You know one of the best things about turning 40? (Yes, there is one thing.) It’s that I am finally starting to feel as if I am on the cusp of not really caring what other people think about certain things.

I have a long way to go (sensitive soul that I am), but it’s a start.

The first – and possibly only – item on the “don’t care” agenda so far? My hair. At least to a certain extent. (Yes, this is one of those “really deep thoughts” columns.)

My hair and I have had a long and tumultuous relationship. It is naturally curly and I, apparently, am not.

Ever since I can remember, my hair has been difficult. Maybe when I was a primary student I didn’t notice it so much, but once I hit around Grade 3 I think even my mother had had enough of trying to tame the fine, unruly curls because at that point it was all lopped off.

Sometimes it was not just short, but “really really short.” One time, in Grade 6 or so, my mother told our hairdresser to cut it “really really short.” For those who don’t know, “really really short” basically means “buzz cut.”

A girl having hair that is shorter than most of the boys’ hair in the class? No fun for me.

Not surprisingly, sometime after that I began to assert my individuality in a kinda-sorta way and said I wanted to grow my hair longer. I’m not really sure what I had going on over the next few years. It was “undefined” at best.

And then, in high school, I discovered hair products.


From that moment on it didn’t matter what length my hair was – I could “style” it with truckloads of gel. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I didn’t just control my hair, I oppressed it by pasting it to my scalp. If my curls had been able to stand up on their own and hold picket signs, they would have staged a bloody coup and ousted the dictatorship that was my gel.

Remember the Robert Palmer girls from the 1980s music videos? They had my hair, except I added a weird little pouffy thing near the front.

For about a kazillion years my hair was either gelled or pulled into a tight ponytail or braid. It was too frizzy to wear down and I didn’t know how to deal with it properly. I thought anyone who coveted my natural curls was crazy. Lots of people did. Weirdos.

Eventually, though, my hair and I found a manageable style and some balance in the use of hair-care products. (So now it’s kind of like Canadian government – my hair thinks it has some control, but doesn’t really.)

There is a fine line between my hair looking “as if it has seen a brush” and looking “like a bird’s nest,” however. I have this habit of running my hand through my hair while I work (at home, by myself, with no one watching). Consequently, anyone unfortunate enough to come to the door will be greeted by someone who looks as if she should be one of the three witches in the opening scenes of Macbeth.

“Double double toil and trouble” indeed.

At least this is probably slightly more professional than being greeted at the door by the musical Hair.

The thing is, though, I am not mortified about this as I once might have been. Okay, maybe a little mortified, but not enough to go back to slapping 30 tonnes of gel on my head every day.

“Help! Help! We’re being repressed!” call the curls.

The other night my father-in-law popped in for a visit. He took one look at me. “Your hair appointment wasn’t today, I take it?” he laughed.

There was a time when I would have run from the room before anyone could see me with crazy hair. Now? I am inclined to have it declared a nature reserve for rare nesting birds and see if I can get a tax break.

The Stephanie Gray Wild Bird Sanctuary, perhaps? And Gift Shoppe?

I’m not sure what that is saying, exactly, but I’m okay with it.
Published in The Perth Courier, March 31/11

Past Deadline: Current Events 101

It’s tough being a so-called humour columnist these days.

You may have noticed that in the grand scheme of things there isn’t a lot of funny stuff going on. Oh, sure, I could tell you about March Break and how, for a change, the kids were healthy but I lost the battle against a yucky slobbery cold. I could wax woeful about listening to all sorts of people jetting off to warmer climes. I could probably come up with an entire column about the misery of looking out my window and seeing everywhere in the backyard melting except my ice-encased patio, where I would love to be sitting right about now.

But now, given current global events, doesn’t seem to be the right time for minor complaints.

Groom-boy and I are news junkies, which goes with the journalism training, I suppose. So we often watch the news in the evening, and it is usually on in the background during supper, too. I realize the news and family dinners do not always make good companions. Fortunately it is mostly background noise – we can’t all see the television while we’re eating. That’s a good thing, too, because I honestly can’t think of a time in the last few years when there has been so much really bad news in one newscast night after night after night.

It’s safe to say recent current events have raised a lot of questions in our household, and it all started with Egypt. Boychild is beginning to get a handle on his place in the world, but sometimes that link is a bit tenuous. Since he is showing an interest in current events I’m not about to discourage it, even if it could, conceivably, cause nightmares. That’s why I’m around to help explain it and put it into some sort of context. This isn’t always easy, though. When he asks why people are rioting and protesting and fighting in Egypt and Libya, I have a tough time coming up with suitable answers about north African politics (and please don’t ask me about the Middle East).

“Well, the people don’t like their government, and in those countries that is the only way they can express that.”

“But why?”

So there are watered down explanations about government oppression and democracies versus dictatorships and how dictatorships aren’t considered to be a good thing and how some leaders are a bit too crazy to be running a country. (I left out the part about Gadhafi’s weird costumes.)

“But Stephen Harper is a good prime minister, right?”

Ahem. “That depends on who you ask,” I said, biting back some beautiful opportunities to be sarcastic about dictatorships in Canada.

Now we are bombing Libya, but as of this writing that development has not registered with any of the shorter residents of the house. That one might be trickier to explain. And then there is Japan and the “would that ever happen here” questions. At first it was easy to answer “no” to the tsunami and earthquake questions. First of all, we’re too far inland to ever be affected by a tsunami. But then eastern Ontario gets rattled by a tiny earthquake (which I thought was someone slamming a car door really really hard). So then we have another discussion about plate tectonics and how even though there is a fault line near here, it’s not the same as what exists in “the ring of fire.”

So far there haven’t been many questions about the nuclear catastrophe. I’m still thinking about responses to that one because even though we have been assured our plants are “safe,” it’s nuclear power, for crying out loud. Never say never. If it’s not an earthquake, it could be something else.

“What kind of disasters could happen here, Mom?”

I think about the ice storm and climate change and how we might see more severe storms roaring through here. I think about terrorism and its “randomness” that isn’t necessarily random. Flooding, fires, train derailments, chemical spills – lots of things could happen. Thinking about these things is just one more reason why being a grown-up can be stinky.

“I think we’re really lucky to live where we do, Boychild. We live in a good place.”
Published in The Perth Courier, March 24/11.