Sunday, April 28, 2013

Letters as Art

I’m reading this book, little by little, that my anti-mommy gave me for Christmas.  It is called Between Ourselves; Letters Between Mothers and Daughters.  And as I read these letters and these stories about the letters and the love of famous and unknown women alike I wonder why I am made to feel that writing letters is a bad thing.

“What’s wrong with a phone call?”

I could go on for hours on that topic!  I hate the telephone.  I call my dad because he lives so far away and I cannot survive without his advice.  I call my husband because we live together yet I rarely get to see him.

Thousands of years we survived and flourished without the use of the telephone.  There were missives carried on sweating, galloping horseback from one king to another.  There were vows of love hidden in secret places, known only to those amorous enough to find them.  There were entire sacks full of words transferred thousands of miles on bright, shiny-new railways, and there are those delivered by the well-known postman to someone just down the street.  There was dirt and despair of war penned back to light and worried, waiting life across the sea and there are conversations of introduction and getting-to-know-you of pen pals.

Letters are beautiful things and I love them.  Because they are filled with my favorite things; ink and words (which are themselves made up of letters) put on paper; scrawled or dictated, typed or etched or cut from newspaper and pasted down.  Letters are eternal, yes both the good and the bad.

“What’s wrong with a phone call?”

Oh, but they’re so impersonal!  A sweaty hunk of plastic crammed against my head.  I can’t see your face and if there’s something more interesting right in front of me I can focus on that instead.  Then, when it’s over, what’s left?  Nothing, really.  All the words fade and are forgotten.

Letters take time and patience to craft.  They draw out the truths in revisions when you realized you’ve used the wrong words to say what you mean.  They draw and expel anger away in their writing, and even if some of it falls to the page you can always come back before it’s sent and append or set it to flame and start again.

Mr. Darcy explained all and made Elizabeth finally love him with a letter.  Amelie mended the broken heart of a neighbor with a well-meaning albeit forged letter lost in transit for 40 years.  Fiction, yes, but even fiction is a letter from the author’s soul to the hearts of the rest of the world. 

Writing, when I know saying it out loud will not suffice, does not make me a coward.  It does not signify disrespect or a hit-and-run approach to communication.  Writing, when a phone call could be made, simply indicates that I should have been born into a different time of simpler communication.  Because words fall out of my mouth in a tumbling
disjointed way and I always get things wrong.  When I put pen to paper and have the time to carefully organize my thoughts and the ability to cross out and resay what I’ve said then I appear fluent in my own language.

Letters are beautiful things.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being A Girl

My original plan for this post headed in a different direction than we’re going today. The longer I mentally composed it, the more things occurred to me to force me to realize what it really was I wanted to say. In the beginning I wanted it to be a story of what it’s like to grow up without a female presence. in the end perhaps it’s what it’s like to grow up with a strong male presence instead. The moment it changed the most drastically was when, at our Easter family gathering my sister-cousin told me to close my eyes and then commented, “You don’t even wear makeup and you know how to put it on. I always feel like mine is the scrawling of a 4 year old.”

That’s one of those things I had to teach myself because I had no one to do it. But I realize that the other deficiencies are minor and few. but the benefit of a fatherly run household are immense. This I realized because of Barbie.

I cannot align myself with the women’s groups who throw a huge fit over the fact that Barbie sets unrealistic standards for little girls. I wonder, does she really? or is it we adults who want to be Barbie and we project our wants on our daughters? Because I never wanted to be Barbie. Did I know subconsciously even as a child that Barbie is not a real representation of a woman? I don’t know. I do know who I wanted to be. Samantha Parkington, my American Girl Doll. I wanted to be her, with her round arms, chubby hands with dimpled knuckles, her soft and squishy middle and charming back story.

I do not have unreal expectations about my body or appearance. Yes, I am currently in the middle of a weight loss event; 16 pounds down 24 to go. But this is croc weight and my goal is neither unattainable nor set in stone. If I find comfort and happiness 10 or 15 or 20 pounds from now, fine. I only want to be at a healthy weight before I start my next pregnancy and have a healthy lifestyle that means I won’t gain as much as last time. I only want to feel good and not uncomfortable, constrained in my clothes. That’s really not actually a hard thing to do; yoga pants and stretchy tank tops are my very best friends.

I think I gained this ability to accept myself as-is because I did not have an example of a woman questing for the unattainable when I was young and impressionable. instead I had my dad; long hair, tattoos, ear piercings, wearing whatever tshirt was on top of the pile; looking the way he looked and not taking shit for it. yes, I wear make up, but it’s eye shadow and mascara, when I feel like it. Yes, I like to dress nicely in bright colors and newer styles, but it’s Old Navy that’s the store eating up all of my clothing budget. And it may be headed in the wrong direction to say this, feminism-wise, but I like causing my husband to think i’m attractive. I don’t want him to think of me as the frumpy hobo who watches his kid.

In the end I hope most that this is what the croc learns from me when she’s looking for a role model in loving of self and finding of beauty in flaws and the confidence to take it all in stride. I hope her eyes land on me and not some silly piece of plastic. I can be her good example and I don’t even have to temper my own actions; watch what I do or say. this is already the way I am; who my dad raised me to be.

And so, as a mom with a daughter, I stand behind Barbie. She is a vet and a doctor, a teacher and a flight attendant, a homemaker, best friend, big sister and mom. And if you can find nothing else positive about that silly piece of plastic, she teaches hella fine motor skills; those tiny velcroed outfits are a bitch to get on and off!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Little Essay, Of Sorts

Curly hair.  I've got it.  I have straight-haired friends who say they wish they had my hair.  and after conversations with my curly-haired contemporaries i know that really it's simply the want of what you don't have; greener grass and all that jazz.

Recently i dyed two sections of my hair a bright, gorgeous fuchsia.  not long after i added some blue to the tips.  pink fading through purple to blue.  I feel like a My Little Pony.  I did it because i wanted to.  Because i never had when i was younger.  Because one of my characters did and i wanted to know how the process went.  Because i wanted to get out of the perpetual mom-funk of ponytails and yoga pants.  When i did this i also happened to rediscover the pleasure of straightening my hair and for the last few months it has been smooth-straight as often as it has been curly; nearly obliteriating that inbetween place of i-don't-feel-like-dealing-with-curls frizzy ponytail.

I don't know if i can even express what it's like to run my fingers through my straight hair.  not a single snarl, no product, no fastners required.  entire days of no frizz control or touch-ups but for maybe a quick hot iron to smooth the funny waves that come from sleeping... bliss.  Beyond bliss.  Contentment.  peacefulness.

Go to my grandparent's house and there's hardly an inch of wall space showing through the photos of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  you'll find me over and over in my gap-toothed curly headed grinning state as a toddler here, a kindergartener there, as a bigger kid over yonder; professional photos and family snapshots.  my grandpa is quick to point out the one of me in purple that at this point in time could be confused with a picture of my daughter.

I guess i shouldn't have been surprised at the reaction he had when i arrived on Palm Sunday with patches of easter egg dyed, stick-straight hair in preperation for a day spent at the craft table with the kids and not wanting to worry about what the fellas on my head were getting up to  while i was busy having fun.

My husband says it too: I like it better curly.

Well, here's the thing guys, so do i.  I wouldn't give up my curls for the world.  they're cute and fun and bouncy and oh, a pain in the ass.

It's not the same hair as when i was a kid; not the baby ringlets.  for a long time i thought i had lost the curl and only had a half-hearted wavy frizz.  it wasn't until i was 16 that i rediscovered the secret of the curl and i was 21 before i mastered it; bent it to my will.  They're not even curls, but a frantic waver.  I once told a friend, whose curls are stronger than mine, that her hair does it obsessive compulsively while mine does it strictly as an afterthought.  The only ringlets i have now are deep down at my neck where the hair is protected from the air and its frizz-inducing chaos.

What does it take to have curly hair for one day?  A shower in which i may or may not shampoo.  i do that only once every three or four washes.  Then conditioner; a thick, strongly sweet goop.  Sleek and Shine by Garnier Fructis.  They used to have a curly hair formula to which i was desperately devoted, but this one works even better.  Then there is the air-dry, product applying marathon event.  Garnier again, twice.  Curl sculpting gel in the roots.  A little while later when things are a bit dry wax for the tips.  Then, when it's nearly all dry and framing my head like an enormous brown halo of frizz i step backwards and wet it down again to apply Dove curl mousse to everything else. 

Then, half an hour worth of styling by which i mean burying a handful of bobby pins in the madness in an effort to pin it away from my face to avoid triangle-head as well as down against my scalp to deter fly-aways.

And tomorrow?  All that product and a night in bed means that i either have messy pigtail buns (the other hairstyle my husband hates) or i have to wash it and start all over.

It's exhausting.  So don't fault me when i put a 3-day livable straight on it and call it done in an effort to end my suffering.

And in the near future?  I'm looking to get a larger barreled curling iron so that after i spend an hour straightening out my curls i can add a bottom-only beach wave to it.  Because that's my greener grass in the world of hair.