Tag Archives: hair

Straight Hair and Monkey Agar: A Question of Existence

I straighten my hair maybe twice a year. It’s kind of a lot of work and exceptionally sensitive to moisture, so only given the right amount of time and a precipitation-free forecast will I even consider doing it on my own.

Straight hair -- feels so good!
Straight hair — feels so good!

Last Friday was one such day. It was a marathon training rest day, which makes for a considerable amount of extra time in the morning because I am a s-l-o-w runner, and there was a 0% chance of precipitation (lies!! but that’s not important).

As I ran those super-heated ceramic plates over and over and over my clipped up, back, over, and down strands, I thought back to the first time…

It was my senior year of high school and I sat on a toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom at my bestie Stephine’s. We were getting ready for a Halloween party — I was going as a witch. A subtly sexy witch, heavily eye make-upped, and nursing a crush on a friend. That was when Stephine pulled out the straightening iron. Because nothing says I’m-subtly-sexy-and-you-should-date-me like flat-ironed locks, am I right?

Stephine did my hair and then I returned the favor. We both looked ridiculously good, of course. Probably less because of our hair than because we always, always had F-U-N together and the party promised more of the same. But I don’t remember the party, really. Only a little bit, and probably mostly because there are pictures.

Oh, hey -- here's a picture from that party. Incidentally, this man is now Stephine's husband. And baby daddy. Which absolutely delights me! But more to the point -- that straight, straight hair, right? Super sexy with the witch hat!
Oh, hey — here’s a picture from that party. Incidentally, this man is (not the aforementioned crush, but is) now Stephine’s husband. And baby daddy. Which absolutely delights me! But more to the point — that straight, straight hair, right? Super sexy with the witch hat!

(Of importance here, LHS c/o 2001 was exceptionally goody two shoed. And quite frankly, proud of it. Chances are excellent that Christin’s parents were home during the party. Probably participating. Because they’re awesome, as were all of our parents, and they treated us like the fun loving nerds that we were. I’m sure alcohol and the like happened… but it must have been happening elsewhere. Mostly, we ate pizza and sang to whatever Stephine’s dad played for us while sitting around a fire or biology books or a Pistons game or a lawn croquet set or whatever. A lot of us literally went to band camp, the rest of us were in drama and/or AP biology. All that to say that when I write “I don’t remember the party, really,” it’s not about being blackout drunk or otherwise altered in anyway. It was just a long time ago.)

So, I don’t really remember the party. But I do remember that tiny bathroom, the flat iron, and my friend Stephine making me feel pretty for some long forgotten boy.

In this season of It’s a Wonderful Life and my frequent internal response of, “really? is it?” this small scene that popped into my head made a surprisingly big difference. Certainly, that flat iron didn’t really* change my life. But sometimes that memory comes back anyway. And it made existence kind of seem worth it. (Non-sequitur, yes, but hang with me for a sec.)


To wish for non-existence is a hard thing to explain. It’s not that I wish to be dead… just that I didn’t exist. And there’s a surprisingly big difference there. I hate the things I think about myself, I hate the things I know other people are thinking about me. The debates they have amongst themselves about when to tell me what so as how best to not hurt me (hint: it always hurts, so it really doesn’t matter). The whispered plans about what might be “too hard” for me, what might be ok (hint: it’s always simultaneously too hard and in the end ok). The feeling that I’m surrounded by land mines covered in egg shells.

If I just didn’t exist, none of that would be true.

And let’s be honest — I’m not exactly George Bailey. My wingless angel isn’t going to show me miserable people and a hometown swallowed whole by corruption. One less blog, a few still-happy people with an alternative assortment of friends or family, a different writer in my chair, perhaps. But nothing earth shattering. Except away go the egg shells and the landmines. No need to tiptoe, no cause to whisper. And that’s what I thought would be best. For everyone.


But to not exist means to not have the flat iron scene in that little bathroom. Or any little scene like it.

Callie purring on the end of my bed. The taste of over-sweetened grape koolaid at the kitchen counter. Pointless hikes through a poison ivy infested field. Drumsticks flying through a Go! cadence. Popping into the room next door on the fourth floor of Wadsworth Hall. The northern lights swirling around Misery Bay. Trussing a duck; still not really knowing what trussing means. Surprise kisses from Curly.

A million little moments. Moments that didn’t change anyone’s life, really, but matter anyway.

When I stood in the bathroom on Friday, straightening my hair, desperately trying to not sweat (because moisture from the inside is as threatening to straight hair as moisture from without), I thought that maybe that’s what existing is about. Maybe that’s the problem with loving It’s a Wonderful Life — it makes me believe in the notion that my life is only worth anything if no one else could possibly do without me.

That’s narcissistic. Yet, so is my realization — that my life really is about me.

Yes, by existing in my broken state, I probably do pose a challenge to other people. I’m probably frustrating, a source of discomfort. Surrounded by egg shells and landmines. But the way other people choose to react to my brokenness, on tiptoe or otherwise, isn’t really my business, is it? My existence is not to please another, but to have moments along the way that please me when I look back on them. Like the little scene with Stephine.

Maybe, if I’m doing things right, I may even pop up as part of the happy scenes that come back when other people find themselves doing mundane things. And that’s nice. But probably not the point.


My friend Lara, doctor of philosophy, writer of novels, mother of human, said to me on one of my more recent boo hooey posts:

Please don’t think your worth is tied to what you can do for others. You matter simply because you *are*, because you exist.

Because she’s smarter than me. By a lot.

I originally interpreted the notion she presented as a reason to wish myself out of existence. I think that was not her point.

Rather, on a day-to-day basis, existence is about moments. Getting through the hard ones, surviving the devastating ones, enjoying the simple ones, remembering the happy ones, being present whenever possible. Maybe there’s a larger purpose, a plan, a tapestry, but I know that’s not something I should be too concerned about. Even though I continually am. I can’t see it or change it or feel it. Not really. I can only trust it. Only live my moments. Exist.


Incidentally, like Stephine introduced me to hair straightening, Lara introduced me to microbiology — gone was the tiny bathroom of high school, in its place the lab where Lara ruled and I rotated first. Lara was the first person I tried to talk to about microbiology, when it was still so new and so fresh that I was saying “Monkey” agar instead of MacConkey Agar. Which even now makes me laugh.

Moment worth existing for.

(Or, for those opposed to ending on a preposition, no matter how thoughtful: A moment that makes existence worthwhile.)

My friend Stephine -- moment maker extraordinaire.
My friend Stephine — moment maker extraordinaire.



*Ok, maybe the straightener did change my life. A blow dry alone, sans flat iron, as was my frequent habit in my pre-curl-acceptance days, was really not a good look. Exhibit A. (Oh, hey Bekah — you happen to be in a pretty glorious photo of my HAIR, so there you are!)

Exhibit A. Pre-straight iron. In the band room. Nothing but cool.
Exhibit A. Pre-straight iron. In the band room. Nothing but cool.


I went to Aldi. It’s a bigger deal than you might think.

There’s an Aldi grocery store in the little city of Marshfield. I shop most most often at Festival Foods and I’ve been to the Pic N Save  and Super Walmart on a number of occasions for groceries, but despite frequenting the Menard’s right behind it and even the Applebee’s and Goodwill next to it, I’d never set food in Aldi.

About a year or so ago, Aldi put up a sign advertising open positions at a starting hourly rate well above minimum wage and Seth and I liked that– we thought maybe we ought to patronize Aldi to support their willingness to employ people for a living wage. And yet, month after month went by and I still hadn’t set a foot inside.


Honestly– because I was scared.

A grocery store is a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, I realize, but in addition to that bass (no treble!), I’m also all about that truth– and there you have it. I was scared to shop at Aldi.

Turns out, my fears were completely founded. I didn’t understand how the quarter-based cart release thing worked and stood there for what felt like an eternity (probably 45 seconds) trying to figure it out (think Zoolander, Hansel, and the computer), I somehow couldn’t find a pen in my purse (which contains pretty much everything else) so I couldn’t check items off my list which made navigating the unfamiliar store to find all of my items ridiculously challenging (up and down and up and down and up and down the same aisles over and over again– the store is not that big, I’m sure I looked like an absolute loony toon), and I didn’t understand how the after-the-fact bagging mechanism worked and was super confused by the ledge on the far well meant for bagging groceries after being checked out (also I dropped my bags on the floor not once or even twice, but three times– admittedly, that has nothing to do with Aldi and everything to do with me). So, basically, all of my fears came true– I didn’t know what I was doing, I was unprepared, I had a hard time navigating the store, and I looked stupid. (I did remember my debit card though– mini-win!)

Yet, here I am today. Surviving to tell the tale. The consequences of all my fears coming true? Negligible, save a bit of embarrassment, which in the grand scheme of things is pretty insignificant considering that I’m a 31-year-old woman walking around with two skinned knees and perpetually frizzy hair.

(I’m working on the frizzy hair though– I just brought the hair products that made Sister Athletic Trainer look this this!)

My hair was so huge I had to pin it up completely before we even went downtown-- Kayla's curls were perfection until the NEXT MORNING! Unreal!
My hair was so huge I had to pin it up completely before we even went downtown– Kayla’s curls were perfection until the NEXT MORNING! Unreal!

And after all of that, I will definitely be going back to Aldi again. Regularly. Because my grocery bill was ridiculously low AND I know that by shopping there, I am supporting a company willing that pays it’s employees a reasonable wage. But seriously, selfishly, the bill was so much lower. And the food, especially the produce, is just as good as any other store in town. (Ok, comparable to Festival, better than Pic N Save… I said it. I hate Pic N Save’s produce section. Hate it!)

All of that to say that Joan is right today. Right freaking on. Because change.

 “Change is the manifestation of our ability to grow and become.” –Anne Wilson Schaef

“I am still becoming: I am becoming myself — independent, different, free. Those are dangerous, unacceptable, qualities. They violate groupness. And yet, without this kind of change, can we possibly die adults? My problem is that this kind of change came so late and more in response to rejection than to process. But whatever the circumstances, the leap was worth it. I am not the person I was before. I am changed forever.” –Joan Chittister

Change is growth. And even little changes, little seemingly insignificant changes, like screwing up the courage to shop at a new grocery store, can be a big deal. Process, rejection, embarrassment and fumbling through– whatever the reason for change, change is growth. Growth is good.

Even though change is hard… and consequently, growth is hard. Worth it though, yes?

Especially because this particular change affected not only my actions (inexpensive groceries? heck yes!), but also my perspective– I saw a lot of predatory marketing at Aldi. Off-brand everything, but inexpensive Lunchables? That bothered me– those things are horrifying. It opened my eyes. And when I walked into Festival Foods immediately after completing my shopping trip at Aldi to pick up a few things I couldn’t find (and/or did not actually need, but wanted) I realized that I have definitely spent years paying the premium for appearance and space and little conveniences that are, all in all, not necessary.

Quite frankly, I’m lucky to have a choice of where I do my grocery shopping at all. A little gratitude never hurt anyone.

I recognize that it seems small, but to me… not so small.


Hopefully, when my hair changes, it will be small. Exaggerated WINK.

Chop, Chop!

My hair has been bugging me for a while.  And by that I could mean that my hair has been bugging me since somewhere around the age of 9, but I don’t.  I’d like to focus on the more recent past right now.

Every day for the past month or so has been a battle with this hair of mine and I had become quite frustrated.  I’ve tried different shampoos and conditioners and every different hair gel, cream, or frizz control product I could get my hands… all to no avail.  My hair was up in a pony tail by about 10 am every day, regardless of what I did.

In addition, at the ripe old age of 29 (ok, almost 30… we’re getting very close!) I have become gray to the point that coloring is no longer optional.  (Unless, of course, my vanity changes in some significant way.  Doubt it.)  And that really needed to be done.

So, after work today I finally went in to do something about it.

A couple big chops and many, many, many foils and dishes of color later (I have a lot of hair) and I feel like a new woman!  I’m terrible about getting my hair cut… I tend to go about once, maybe twice, a year and in between I consistently claim that I’m “growing it out.”  But every time I actually pick up the phone and make the appointment, I feel so much better.  And every time I am amazed at what a difference something so simple can make.

My hair has been a single source of frustration in my life as of late, albeit a very physical and outward sign of frustration.  A lot of that frustration needs to be dealt with in other ways, but I think the hair cut is a really good start.

A lot of things in life are that way though, aren’t they?  They are for me.

I don’t feel like going to volleyball, but I do… and I have a good time.

I’m planning not to have a good time, but I smile anyway… and it becomes a real smile.

Running sounds painful and I’d rather just sit, but I get dressed to workout… and end up feeling great.

It’s that fake it til you make it mentality, and it works in so many ways.  My new hair cut says that I’m not frustrated… perhaps tomorrow I really won’t be.

The hair.

You’ve probably noticed that over the past few weeks, I have made several references to my hair.  Perhaps it’s an unhealthy obsession, but what I want you to know is that my hair really is a BIG deal.  Big.  And it has a mind of it’s own.

I’m feeling kind of guilty for the downer-ness and severe lack of funny that was my post yesterday, so to make up for it,  I decided to share with you the photo I alluded to a few days ago when I said:

“Everything through the end of high school was essentially precambrian… early, unformed, and frizzy.  I wasn’t really sure how to have curly hair yet and many pictures exist to remind me of that.  (Many… frizzy… photos…  Want to see one?  Too bad!  It’s far too awful and I’m not that secure.)”

I’m still not that secure, but this hair– it’s too much, and I’m so relieved to finally be able to find it funny.  Here’s hoping you will find it funny too, because I owe you that!

So, without further ado, I present to you The Hair:

Mushroom Hair

This is my school photo from picture day in sixth grade.  To complete the look– that’s a BODY SUIT (complete with crotch snaps) under that crocheted vest.  Let me say that again: crocheted vest.  And I’m wearing green jeans.  Green.  Jeans.  Oh yeah.  Picture.  Day.

This was just the beginning of a really, really bad hair period in my life.  I still remember getting the cut in fifth grade.  I had a pool party at school the next day (because of course) and a boy in my class (who shall remain nameless, but I do remember his name, and this is the only reason…) said, loudly, for all the laughs in the class, “I wonder what it looks like wet?!”  Ahhhh ha ha ha.  Hilarious.  The answer: not so hot.  But then again, didn’t exactly look stellar dry now, did it?

You may be thinking right now something like, “well, it’s not that bad…”  because you’re a nice person and you don’t want me to feel bad.  But stop.  Because this:

Hair Compare

Oh man.  My future children are going to have a field day with this– I’m glad I’ll be laughing with them!


I know it’s hard to believe that a foxy lady like me, all square jaw and size 11 feet, used to look like that.  But believe it.  It’s true.  And my hair still has some of those special qualities.  For example, the more upset or nervous I get, the bigger my hair becomes.  Maybe it’s because my head gets hot?  I don’t know… but much like the mushroom cloud expanding over time, so is the hair on my head.  (You can read that like the Days of Our Lives slogan– like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.)

Cue violin music!