The Perfect Child’s Room. Recycled Sundays.

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In the pre-designer days, my sister and I shared a “make-do” bedroom that was also partitioned for my brother. It didn’t measure up to the brass beds and white bed spreads in the catalog.

When I got my own room, I was allowed to redecorate. An adolescent with a paintbrush is a dangerous thing, but I merely stained my nails blue and added pattern to the linoleum. The cracks still showed through the paint, since I hadn’t known about patching. Because I measured the window without considering gathers, the curtains barely met in the middle. I overcompensated for my disappointment by smothering the room in rock and roll posters. The tacks Swiss-cheesed  the walls.

After marriage, my husband and I rented a home. When we had eaten enough macaroni and cheese to save the down payment for a house, I began a quilt for my seven-year-old daughter. Each of the 20 one foot squares  had a detailed fabric painting. There was a tartanned Scottish lassie, a wooden  clogged Norwegian milkmaid, and a demure Chinese girl holding a Pekingese dog. So much for my battle against stereotyping!

We worked on our new home before moving in. I rolled the rose-mauve semigloss over the scuffed (and patched) yellow paint in what was to be my daughter’s bedroom. This time I wore gloves and used a floor tarp.

I bought a three-dimensional wall-hanging of Victorian misses, matching curtains and yards of material to edge the quilt. The white furniture had brass handles graced by roses. I was giddy with pride. My little girl’s room was not only pretty and feminine but a unique demonstration of her mother’s devotion.

I bought my four-year-old son Care Bear curtains and a bedspread. In the name of equality, I made a wall hanging of Bedtime Bear inscribed with embroidery that read, “Sweet Dreams”.

My son was ecstatic. My daughter stood in the doorway of her brother’s room and stated, “I sure hope mine is Care Bears too.”

My heart seized. Hastily, I drew her aside.

“Yours is very special. I finished the quilt I’ve been working on for months. (Get that? Months!) Everything is in shades of your favorite color.”

She nodded doubtfully. I threw open her bedroom door. “Ta da!”

“I like the Care Bears better,” she wailed and burst into tears.

Stab me through the chest with a garden fork! After a talk with her father (I could hear his pleading tone through the door), she thanked me. Over time, she stained the quilts with markers, juice and glue. A visiting hamster chewed it. Each mark was a drop of acid in my soul. Finally I asked the dreaded question. “If you could have any bedroom you want it, what would it look like?”

“Well, I do like my bedroom, (she had grown in diplomacy), but if I couldn’t have this one, I would love a bedroom with My Little Pony curtains, a big unicorn wall hanging, and a pink lace bedspread.”

Fourteen minutes of shopping could have given her a dream come true. Why hadn’t I asked her in the first place? I realized I had created a bedroom I would’ve loved as a child. Major embarrassment. Parenting books and classes hadn’t helped. The tartanned lassie smirked. I’m one of those mothers.

My daughter learned to appreciate her room as she grew, and has forgotten her initial reaction, but I haven’t. Whenever I become ambitious for her, I stop and remember. Am my stitching together future she wants, or something I thought I missed? The quilt is my reminder.

November 18, 1990.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko. Illustrated by Tim Miller. Book review. 

This is one of those books where the protagonist argues with the narrator. On the cover we see a picture of the alligator holding this book and saying that he did not asked to be in it. The narrator is at odds with  Snappsy all the way through. He describes everything Snappsy does and narrates inner dialogue and emotion for the alligator. This is hugely inaccurate.  At one point the narrator says the alligator is looking for victims when he’s really off to the grocery store. They argue back-and-forth until Snappsy hangs a sign on his door that reads “no narrators allowed.”

The narrator continues and Snappsy he feel so pressured to make his life more interesting that he plans a party. It is going well until the narrator, who turns out to be a hen, shows up with sandwiches. The guests eat and dance and have a good time, including Snappsy until the narrator/chicken announces, “We were really looking forward to Snappsy throwing parties like this every week.” To which the alligator responses, “Hey!”

I think many children will find the beginning of the story confusing. The exchange back-and-forth between the absent narrator and the alligator is tricky. There’s also no explanation for why it is a chicken who suddenly shows up in the story. Some of the humour is a little sophisticated for children so I would recommend this book for ages eight and up.

The pictures are cartoonish. Snappsy walks on his hind legs, lives in a house and behaves like a human being. There is no explanation for why he wears a fez on his head at home.

I am sure children who get this humour will enjoy Snappsy sparring verbally with the chicken.

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Other books where the character interacts with the narrator, writer, or illustrator.

Click on the covers for more information or to buy the book.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

     

    

When Did We Have This for Supper? Recycled Sundays.

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Photo by Isaac Mao

I went through a stage of picky housekeeping. All of our books, computer games, phonograph records, floppy disks, lists, cassette tapes, and spices were put into alphabetical order. Photo albums, negatives, and warranties were chronological. Housework was scheduled by the week.

The older I get, the farther I get from these organized days. I chuckled at suspense movies when detectives searched through people’s bureau drawers for clues. They find telephone bills, correspondents and incriminating lists. In my house, none of this stuff is in drawers. It’s all on the kitchen table.

I sometimes think the table is magnetized to paper. Children’s schoolwork, unanswered letters, coupons, advertisements, clippings, bills, pleas for donations, and magazines accumulate in leaning towers that would put Pisa to shame. When it reaches the point when we can no longer fit four dinner plates around the junk, I enlist my family’s help. After an enormous flurry of activity, 5% is tacked onto bulletin boards, 20% is thrown on the living room coffee table or in the bathroom magazine rack, and 50% is moved to the hutch. Cleaning off the hutch is an all day job.

I’ve become quite blasé about housework. Three cats, two kids, and one husband have weaned me off any need for an orderly household. I learned that I was usually the only one disturbed by the chaos. So now the mess has to attain crisis level before I discard my own plans and assume the attack position.

I have the same lack of energy toward keeping the refrigerator free of alien growths. I suspect the actual value of Tupperware is to properly age leftovers for the compost heap. Two prominent questions are, “When did we have this for supper?” and “Does anyone know what this is?”

The living room curtains are a variation on this theme. It only took 45 months of hating the drapes that were installed by the previous owners and innumerable snags and tears by the cats before I reacted. Knowing I needed strong motivation to refinish the water damaged window frame and redecorate, I cut the shears up for a Halloween decoration and threw the drapes into the trash. A stark window stimulates action.

In previous winters, we had covered the interior window with plastic to insulate us from the cold. The two sided sticky tape left a residue behind as difficult to remove as gum from a child’s hair. Despite numerous chemical forays, which probably left me with permanent lung damage, the guck remained. I realized stripping the wood down would be a serious undertaking. I was not that motivated.

I patched the damaged wood, painted a heavy stain over the mess and varathaned it to a gleaming gloss. I felt like a goldfish in an aquarium during the work. There’s nothing like an enormous bare window to make us creep around in the dark. I suspect the neighbors learned more about us than they desired.

A surprise bonus from the exposed natural light was the plentiful blooming of my violets in early winter. Now see, if I’d been quick and capable, I might’ve missed that lovely surprise.

May 5, 1991.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

What’s That Smell? Recycled Sundays.

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David Suzuki once said that research indicates females have a higher developed sense of smell than men. I could have told you that. Most wives could have told you that.

Take Patty for example. She came home to a smell of gasoline in her house. Since she couldn’t track down the source, she phoned the fire department for advice. They said they would to come right over. She carefully explained that it was not an emergency. Nevertheless, two trucks, lights flashing and sirens wailing, roared up to her house. (It must have been a slow day at the fire hall.) The firefighters (all male) searched the entire building, top to bottom, inside and out while she stood in the shivering cold. Not one of them could locate the smell. In fact, not one of them could even smell it. The next day she learned that gasoline had been spilled in her driveway, soaked into the ground and wound up in the sump pump. That’s what she had smelled.

My husband and I often play the What’s That Smell? game. It goes something like this.

Me: “What’s that smell?”

Him: “What smell?”

Me: “That strange smell.”

Him: “What strange smell?”

Me: “Can’t you smell it? Over here. I think.”

Him: “No. I don’t smell anything.”

Me: “What do you mean, you don’t smell anything? It reeks!”

Him: “What reeks?”

Me: “Over here!”

Him: “I don’t smell anything.”

We played a continual version of What’s That Smell? Last autumn. I first noticed it when we switched to daylight saving time. It was a chilly morning. I woke, switched on the lights and turned on the furnace. A few minutes later, I asked, “What’s that smell?” The game followed the usual format. I left for work later in the day still unable to identify the mystery odor.

The smell worsened as the week progressed. Some days it was faint. Other days it seems slightly smoky. I decided there was something wrong with the heater system and telephoned a furnace expert. He arrived the next day.

“What’s that smell?” I asked him.

“What smell?” he replied.

He left after thoroughly checking the system. There was nothing wrong and he couldn’t smell of thing. He decided it was probably dust in the piping.

As time passed I narrowed the smell down to the living room. I decided there must be something stuck in one of the vents. After I vacuumed them out, however, the smell remained. I despaired of ever locating the source.

One morning as I sat quietly reading the newspaper, I heard a thump on a living room end table. Since the cats were all in the kitchen with me, I went to investigate. There sat a gently smoldering green blob. I picked it up and instantly recognized the scent. It seems some little person (I assume this was a trickster fairy since both my children emphatically deny responsibility) had hidden a soft plastic toy monster on top of the lamp’s bulb. Every morning when I turned on the tri-light, the plastic would heat up and start to smell. If the light was low, the scent was weak. If I turned the light on high, the fire smoldered and smelled stronger. The lampshade hid the melting toy from my sight.

I think my husband is tired of playing the smell game. He does the shopping and although I environmentally disapprove of air fresheners, he’s been smuggling them in. It isn’t going to make any difference though. With two kids and three cats there always mysterious organic and inorganic odor makers. In fact, when my son was helping clean the family room, I noticed something.

“What’s that smell?” I asked him.

“What smell?” he responded.

I looked at his bewildered expression.

“Nevermind, son,” I said. “I’ll ask your sister.”

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Can You Invent This Please? Recycled Sundays.

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Photo by Shane McGraw

Don’t you think the rate of useless inventions has outstripped the useful? When was the last time you really needed a skinny musician doll wavered when you placed it in front of a stereo speaker? Can you believe people are still buying lava lamps and fuzzy dice? I really think we would have a solution to the garbage problem if we just banned novelty shops. But, perhaps I am just bitter. There are too many things I need that haven’t been invented yet.

I need water-resistant pen and paper for writing in the shower because as soon as I get out, I’ve forgotten what I meant to do. How about a bathroom door that won’t open until the child has washed his hands? Or an alarm that rings when a child tries to leave the building without making his bed. Both my daughter and I could use a tiny colander for sterilizing pierced earring studs. Perhaps then we wouldn’t spend so many hours on our hands and knees playing find the microscopic piece. How about self composting toys to avoid overloading the landfill sites in my kids’ rooms? Bedrooms should be designed with slanting floors so that balls and toys with wheels all roll safely to one end.

Wouldn’t we all benefit from twist tops that didn’t require the wearing of oven mitts to prevent the need for stitches? How about childproof bottles that parents didn’t have to ask the kids to open? Or travel shampoo bottles that did not leak all over the contents of your luggage?

Let’s have some serious government grants to perfect a lie detector admissible in court. Imagine the money we’d save on lawyers and court costs as well as incarcerating innocents. There would be a lot fewer crimes if the guilty were proven guilty and sent directly to jail instead of allowed to pass, “go.”

How about suspended animation booths for hospital emergency waiting rooms? We wouldn’t get served any quicker but at least the time would past without every second seeming like an eternity.

Someone without children obviously invented Daylight Saving Time and then decided to begin it before summer vacation. That way the kids could be absolutely wrung out from lack of sleep while coping with the emotional ups and downs of the end of school.

A genuinely nasty person invented high top runners, with laces, for small boys. He probably also designed handheld (meaning small enough to be easily misplaced) video games with alarms that sound at three in the morning.

An inventor who wasn’t making his quota must’ve come up with the useless instructions I find in my bathroom. A phrase on the suctioned bathmat reads, “This side down.” No kidding. Could you imagine someone sticking the suction cups to the bottom of their feet and hopping around the tub? Obviously, he did.

How about a bottle of round, orange vitamins? Inside is a white paper square stuffed with absorbent cotton. On it is printed, “Do not eat this.” If people are that stupid hadn’t they better right this warning on paper plates, Styrofoam cups, swizzle sticks, straws and plastic wrap? Or maybe someone should invent edible substitutes for all these things. Of course that would put the person who writes warnings out of work.

December 9, 1990.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Can You Hear Me Now? Recycled Sundays.

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Some people have a strange need to humiliate themselves. A favoured method is to buy an item for display that is so tasteless, it leaves your guests speechless. One obvious example is the purchase of cow patty clocks. Honest. People actually spend their hard-earned green stuff to buy a sun-baked pile of brown stuff inlaid with a clock face. The larger the better. What can one say?

“I’d like to see the milker that dropped that one!”

The higher-priced ticking manure piles have mushrooms and weeds. I suppose one should expect to pay a little extra for natural embellishments. I mean, doesn’t a mushroom show the superior fertility of your chosen timepiece?

Maybe the idea is to humiliate the guests. After all their years of reading Miss Manners, perhaps attending Toast Masters meetings, these guests suddenly find themselves unable to say a single polite sentence.

What about the “Kiss a Pig” elections? Candidates in the U. S. actually run against each other for the humiliation of kissing a pig. Not a porcelain pig. A living, breathing, runny nosed, stinky swine. On the lips. In public. They don’t even get to choose the pig. It isn’t humiliating enough to let the entire world know that they are desperate enough to compete for Porky’s; three of the contestants will have to face the public embarrassment of losing. Imagine. “I wasn’t desirable enough to win a kiss from a pig.”

I’d heard of hog-calling contests and thought the participants were skirting public humiliation. While the pig-kissing elections definitely outrank them in weirdness, the husband-calling competition outdoes them all. Wives at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield actually compete against each other while bellowing for their spouses. Now you may think this is more humiliating for the men involved, what with their names being shrieked across the fairgrounds. Not so. You see, the women get to dress for the occasion.

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The featured competitor in the newspaper, Paula Tyler, was wearing a frumpy cotton house dress, curlers and a bonnet that looked like the tinfoil on a self-contained popper package minus the wire handle. She also utilized props: an iron board, iron, and a pair of man’s trousers. As I examined this photograph, I realized the woman was not only humiliating herself for a few laughs, but every woman who ever wore curlers while she ironed and yelled for her husband.

Not that it isn’t a necessary art for many wives. I mean when you finally have the iron hot enough and the steam hissing, you don’t want to leave the tense of the door or pick up the baby. Why is it that the husband can’t hear pounding guest or a wailing tot anyway? No wonder these women have to stretch the vocal cords. Their husbands are probably one of those men with selective hearing. You know the type. They can hear the opening notes from The National for rooms away but can’t hear the kid with his head stuck in the banister.

On second thought, maybe it is the husband who is being humiliated by this contest. Perhaps this is a not-so-subtle way of saying, “I know the real you, and now so does everyone else.”

 

Published Sunday, September 2, 1990 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Swamp weed, again! Parenting a Picky Eater. Recycled Sundays.

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Children alter the contents of a refrigerator more than marriage, low-calorie diets, or self-improvement classes. They may not do the grocery shopping, but 9/10 of the list will be parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.

Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed the sabertooth rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either aided or starved. The first time Cave Daddy, in an effort to improve his family’s diet according to the Neanderthal Food Guide, brought home a swamp weed, Cave Baby spoke his first word, “Yuck!”

Urban parents can forget bean sprouts and avocado, even for themselves. There is no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples. For two full years this will be the only unprocessed food the child will eat, switching overnight two pears, only pears, I hate apples.

There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken by Current Cartoon Remake microwavable dinners. These are most often used after the parent has spent hours cooking from scratch. The child will recognize that the twenty piece casserole contains parsley, which he decided yesterday was worse than swamp weed, and announce, “Yuck!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the microwavable dinner. If parents could learn how to add that specialized cardboard flavour, they’d have a chance. Children will eat cereal that sparkles, comes in the shape of stars, letters, doughnuts, or hockey sticks, makes noise and contains a prize package guaranteed to cause a minor tidal wave when it falls into the milk filled bowl. Granola doesn’t qualify because it has “weird stuff in it.”

Parents learn to save empty margarine containers and stock up on plasticwear. At least two thirds of the refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your noodles, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, or vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like noodles anymore. The bacon is too greasy. The eggs are dried out. The pancakes have raisins and I wanted chocolate chips. The steak is too fatty. The vegetables taste like swamp weed.” In stubborn persistence, (far simpler with a microwave than an open-pit cave fire but just as futile) the parents will continually reheat the leftovers until they have reached the texture and flavour of drywall.

Pity the poor parents who express delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate chili in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade chili.

“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.

“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly response. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”

“Yeah, but these are the wrong tomatoes.”

“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s Chili has tomatoes.”

“I only like tomatoes when you can’t tell they’re tomatoes,” the child will respond firmly.

Childcare experts (few of whom I’m sure actually live with children) say parents should learn their child’s preferences. Right. They hate macaroni and cheese casseroles, but love it packaged. They prefer chili without beans, lasagna without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stroke of midnight. In which case, the parents put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a container knowing it will be eaten the same day that the children claim to be receiving too much allowance.

Published Sunday, February 16, 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Parents please note: this was written before the risk of putting hot food, and especially microwaving, in plastic became public knowledge. Please use glass containers in your microwave.

P.S. This same picky eater, now an adult, has become an advocate for plant-based healthy eating. He’d have no problem eating parsley, tomatoes, or even swamp weed now.

            

Click on the cover for more information or to buy the book.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

How to Get Robbed. Recycled Sundays.

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Having grown up in a twelve street town, I wasn’t prepared for life in the city, complete with burglars.

When my husband and I moved into our first single-family dwelling we stupidly considered ourselves at no risk. The house was older than our combined ages. We owned a rusty Chevette and wore clothes from the bargain bin. Surely no one would consider robbing our home worth the risk of incarceration. There hasn’t been such naïveté since Wendy trusted Tinkerbell.

My husband, infant daughter and I lived in a 2 1/2 story home. The bedroom ceilings were sloped. We adopted a permanent stoop after repeatedly dashing our skulls in Wile E. Coyote style. In summer, the upper half of the home retained heat like a kiln. We ran fans in our room and the baby’s, as well as the furnace vent. Every night we propped up the windows with the removable screen and then shouted good night over the whirling machinery.

One sultry evening my husband and I stared at a mountain of dishes and engaged in dueling excuses.

“The baby has been so colicky today, I’m just exhausted,” I said.

“It was so hot today, I shouldn’t have done all that yard work,” responded my husband.

“She didn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. I couldn’t get anything done,” I said.

“Those cinder blocks must’ve weighed a ton,” he said.

“I’ve got such a headache,” I said.

“I’ve got such a backache,” he said.

“It sure is hot,” I said.

“Really hot,” he agreed.

We left the dirtiest dishes to soak and stacked the rest on the counter. Suddenly, my husband noticed two teenagers in our backyard. He hammered on the window and thumbed toward exit. The boys scrambled over the fence and disappeared.

“What do you suppose they’re up to?” I asked.

“Probably raiding the garden,” said my husband.

Now I suspect they had bigger thefts on their minds than wormy carrots. But we will never know for sure who visited us at 3 AM. My husband had just placed the baby back in her crib after a diaper change, when he heard a faint crash. With all the fan noise he couldn’t tell the direction. He switched on the hall light and went down to the landing. All was quiet.

The next morning I couldn’t find his lunch pail among the mountain of dirty dishes. Then I noticed the screen was gone from the window and his small portable saltshaker was in its place. After investigating, we discovered the lunch pail, thermos, two potted plants, and four dishes on the backyard lawn. A prickle went down my spine.

Someone had piled our cinder blocks against the wall creating makeshift stairs, climbed on top, and then tried to climb through the kitchen window. There they encountered the stacks of dirty dishes. They tried to remove them in order to get onto the onside counter. The crash my husband heard must have been the window accidentally falling shot and trapping the saltshaker. Switching on the light had scared them off.

Our newest home is comfortable, but hardly a burglar’s paradise like the last. I suspect a thief who gained entry would be easily caught. We would be bound to hear him rolling on the floor with laughter over our $50 third-hand stereo with eight track tape deck.

Nevertheless, we’ve installed double dead bolt locks on the doors and bars on the basement windows. There are bright lights on all the exterior walls of the yard are easily viewed by the neighbours. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can buy to protect me from a recurrence of stupidity.

One evening I switched on the outside lights, checked the windows and doors, and went to sleep in my quiet bedroom feeling confident and safe. The next morning, as my husband headed out the door to work, we heard rattling. The burglars had missed their best opportunity. There, in the front doorknob, hung my house keys.

July 7, 1991

Click the book cover for details.

          

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Do You Have to Suffer to Be Beautiful? – Recycled Sundays

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“You have to suffer to be beautiful,” was drilled into my head as a child. I wouldn’t have minded the suffering, if the beauty was forthcoming.

When I was little, every spring I got a haircut and perm. The old permanents burned like Mount Saint Helen, though no one believed my discomfort. Now there are gentle concoctions for delicate scalps to prevent burned skin. I no longer have to look like a nuclear fallout victim in exchange for curls.

I was a long, skinny kid – all elbows and knees. I resembled a Q-tip with my new hairdo, until I moved. Then I changed to a walking stick with a dandelion stuck to her head.

I never had much luck with hairdressers. In high school I begged, borrowed and babysat to earn enough money to get my hair done for the prom. I browsed through racks and racks of magazines with glamorous models (whose hair was teased, braided, sculptured, curled, coiled and bobbed) to find just the right style. Triumphantly, I marched to the hairdresser’s with my clipping in hand. She’d nodded and said, “Yes, I could do something close to that.” We differed on the meaning of close.

I sat patiently through the procedure.

Washing: whereupon I arched my neck backward in a position guaranteed to make an executioner drool and me walk like Igor for at least a week.

Towel drying: here the hairdresser aired her bottled frustrations by rattling my brains.

Combing: due to the excellent towel drying, my hair was now knotted like the Griswold strings of Christmas lights. Periodically, the hairdresser paused to clean the clumps of yanked hair from her comb and occasionally empty the overflowing trash.

Wrapping: the hairdresser used little pricks to anchor the rod to my scalp, stopping just short of driving the plastic sticks into my skull, not that I could tell the difference. Here she gave a Cruella DeVille smile asked, “Comfortable?” As comfortable as a frog mating with a hedgehog.

Drying: I was parked under a loud whirling dome in search of stacks of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Love Story, and Glamour, all of which were filled with teenage models wearing perfect hair. They subdued me into submission even when dehydration caused my nails to split and my tongue to curl up like a taco chip.

Styling: Unlike today’s stylist, who generally works with the patron and uses a curling iron, the hairdresser unrolled all the curlers and stared at the result like a village witch reading the tossed bones. She back combed and pinned and sprayed until she created a hairdo suitable for a woman 20 years my elder who wore red nail polish and tight fake leopard pants. When I protested, she announced, “Your hair’s too (choose one) fine/long/short/straight for the style you picked. This is beautiful.” It must have been, I certainly suffered for it.

No matter what style I brought in, I always left with the same style – a combination of bouffant and pinned, stiff waves which reminded me of the bride of Frankenstein. I rushed home, yanked out all the pins, cried a great deal, and telephoned my sister to fix my hair or I would stretch out on the tracks waiting for the next train through town.

My sister used to help me color my hair as well. My father refused to allow bleach, so our options were limited. We learned that brown hair with auburn tints cannot be dyed blonde without bleaching first. Mix these colors and you get a particularly this vivid shade of Halloween orange.

Eventually, the hair gods smiled on me. I finally have the hairdresser I can trust. My sister learned all about color mixing and the tricks of the trade and opened her own shop. Now I can go anytime, ask her to do what I want, and emerge with a style recognizably resembling the picture. It’s a bit of a hassle though, especially in winter. Her shop is 70 km from where I live. Oh well, I couldn’t expect to be beautiful if I didn’t suffer at least a little.

September 1, 1991.

                    

Click on the book cover for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages