Friday, April 30, 2004

You say vain like it's a bad thing.

My hair is naturally brown. Well at least it used to be. I've worked tirelessly over the last twenty years to make sure I have no idea what my actual hair color is. I've spent so much money on various hair colors throughout my adult life, I would have probably come out cheaper hiring a mad scientist to develop blonde hair plugs for women from the hide of young goats. As far as I'm concerned, Loreal is French for "Sherri, your hair is ugly".

I started to color my hair when I was eighteen. Times were simpler then and I was a timid home colorist. Just a few little highlights here and there and I was happy. Nothing too drastic for me.

After I finally landed a husband... this will be Hubby #1 for those of you keeping score at home... I noticed something remarkable about his behavior. Whenever a female with blonde hair was anywhere in the vicinity, he would practically break his neck to get a closer look at her. I mean he went stupid at the mere hint of blonde hair. Naturally I put two and two together and decided that in order to keep his eye from wandering, I simply needed to be blonde.

Blonde in a bottle equals faithful husband. I was too smart.

It so happens that about the time I had made the big decision to go blonde, we were heading out to visit my Mother who by this time had moved to Oklahoma. We were going to be there for a few days and then it was on to a big softball tournament in Kentucky in which hubby would be playing short for The Tankers. There were always lots of softball groupies sniffing around these Army softball tournaments, so I knew I had to act fast. I needed to be blonde and fabulous in order to counteract their wiley ways.

Now, my mother is me to the tenth power. That is to say, if you ever saw me and thought I was too crazy, wore too much make-up or my hair was too big, you would hardly be able to take her in. She is Dolly Parton without the boobs.

When I was only five years old, Mother decided to go to beauty school. I remember her big, black case filled with all sorts of beauty creating devices. No woman was ever more suited for the profession than Sybil. However, no sooner had the instructors covered what scissors were for than my Mother dropped out.

We don't discuss the beauty school incident in our family, so I have no idea why she left. The important thing is my Mother was a true to life beauty school drop out who never let the fact that she didn't finish stop her from practicing random acts of beauty on her young and defenseless daughter.

Although there were countless emotionally scarring hair incidents, by far the most frightening of them all happened when mother had sewn for me a lovely, one of a kind outfit for school. I should probably mention here that Mother's skill with a sewing machine ran a close second to her skill with perm rods. Mother often had just enough knowledge in any given subject to be dangerous.

Anyway, this stunning creation featured a halter top made out of a multi-colored terry cloth kitchen dish towel. Seriously. I couldn't make that up. Basically, she had folded it into the shape of a triangle, hemmed the edges and attached fabric ties at the top and bottom. In effect, it was kitchen camo. When I stood near the sink, you couldn't see me.

She was so proud of her handi-work, she couldn't possibly let me go to school the next day with hair that didn't properly accentuate the sporty new duds. So, she washed my long, brown hair and sat me down on the floor in front of her. Painstakingly she sectioned off tiny pieces of hair, wound them tightly around her index finger and then bobby pinned them to my head. There must have been hundreds of the itsey-bitsey coils of hair and my head itched so much that night I barely slept a wink.

The next morning I remember sitting at her feet again while she commenced the lengthy process of taking them out. One by one the bobby pins fell at my side until the pile was at least 6 inches high.

"Oh, honey!" my Mother cried. "Your hair is beautiful! Come look in the mirror!"

When I saw my reflection staring back at me, I burst into tears. I looked like Little Orphan Annie after a night of doing tequila shots and sailors. And to top it all off, I was wearing a dish towel. Oh, the humanity.

Now you would think that a memory like that might discourage me from ever uttering the following words to my mother when we arrived for our short visit to Oklahoma.

"Do you think you could make my hair blonde?"

Mother was so excited, she nearly broke her neck getting us out the door to the nearest beauty supply shop.

She bought bottles and combs and chemicals, the entire time gushing about how unbelievably beautiful I was going to be. She was so convincing, I was pretty sure this was the single smartest decision I had ever made.

The night before we left for Kentucky, mother began the process of my transformation from dull to fabulous. She was in her element. Don't worry, she'd remind me again and again. She had gone to beauty school afterall.

After what seemed like hours, she was finished. It was already dark outside. All that was left to do was to blow-dry my golden locks and wait for the compliments.

As I stood in front of the mirror in her dimly lit bathroom, I was a little shocked. It was quite a drastic change. I was blonde. Very, very blonde.

"What do you think?" I asked my family.

"Well, it'll just take a little getting used to," Hubby said.

"You need to put on more make-up," my mother said.
(That was Mother's answer to all life's problems. More make-up.)

I went to bed feeling like a new woman and I couldn't wait to get to Ft. Knox to show off my inner goddess. As was our custom when we traveled, we woke up while it was still dark and got on the road. I woke up extra early so I would have time to style my new hair and put on the turquoise shirt my mother gave me to show off my blondeness.

It was only after we'd been driving awhile that the sun finally came up. As it got lighter outside, I began to notice that other travelers on the interstate were not only looking my way, they were absolutely staring! They were obviously so taken with my Marilyn Monroe like beauty, they could barely keep their eyes on the road. I was Sherri, queen of the beautiful.

I couldn't take it any more. I asked my husband to pull over so that I too could see how amazing I looked. We whipped into a McDonald's to grab a little breakfast and give me some alone time with a mirror. When I walked in the front door, all eyes were on me. I walked to the bathroom like a homecoming queen in a parade. Work it, baby.

What I saw when I stepped in front of that mirror haunts me to this day. I wish I could accurately describe the color of my hair for you. Let's just say if there were a color called Nuclear Lemon, that might come close. In fact, my neon, glowing hair was so bright it was emitting the faint hum of a power plant.
Add to that the stunning oh-so-trailer-park turquoise shirt I was wearing and you can see that it in fact was not my beauty that was garnering the attention.

Sybil, the beauty school drop out strikes again.

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