Over the holidays, the girls and I found ourselves with the richness of empty time together in someone else’s house. Games? I wondered. Barbies! they cheered. The Barbies looked as boring as the ones at our house but perhaps I was misinformed.
I declined the invitation to join. (I don’t know how, I said. I’ll read a magazine.) Then I felt guilty and recanted. My cynical side was not amused. My creative side felt certain I could muster enough imagination to overcome my God given repulsion to so many long haired plastic women with deformed feet and monstrous bosoms.
Upon sitting down with assigned Barbie in hand, I spied a plate of plastic cupcakes. Both girls were grooming their Barbies. I looked at mine but she looked fine so I walked her over to get a cupcake. She wanted the green one, which turned out to be a problem because the Barbie sitting at the table said she wanted the green one also. This was ridiculous. Table girl had been sitting there all night. If she’d actually wanted the green one she could have consumed it hours ago, but no, she waited until my Barbie politely asked for it to cause a scene. Things got heated. My Barbie had just stormed off when the girls interrupted to tell me I wasn’t doing it right.
I ignored them and walked my Barbie back over to the table. She and the other girl agreed to split the cupcake. I got them to hug, high five, and squeal, “sisters!” Nobody tells me I can’t do that Barbie thing.
So how are you supposed to play Barbies, I said.
You like do their hair and put on clothes and stuff, they said.
As far as I can tell the perfect Barbie would have clothes that disintegrate after 30 seconds exposure to air, thereby assuring that Barbie would be in need of almost constant dressing and accessorizing. In other words, a picture of hell. My Barbie was already dressed. They weren’t our Barbies so I didn’t feel right cutting her hair, irritating though it was. I sighed and my eyes landed on one of the ugliest pair of shoes I have ever seen.
Petunia (my Barbie) was thrilled. O my gosh, she said, I am soooo happy. These are like the best shoes, ever. Just look at all the little bumps. I have no idea how many toads they used to make them, but 100% toad skin shoes are like totally awesome, she added.
Mom, said Girl one, those are shoes for a completely different doll. They don’t even go with that Barbie. But you can use them if you want.
I took the shoes off and put them back on three times, thereby proving that they did go with my Barbie.
It’s ok, Mom, said Girl one.
Yeah, said Girl two, they weren’t made for her, but you can use them.
But don’t say stuff about toad skin, said Girl one.
Yeah, said Girl two, that’s just silly.
Long narrow face with long hair
The kids haven’t had a haircut since before school started. It’s been two months since my last hair cut. It’s not a movement. I’ve been feeling cheap, and they’ve been wanting shaggy. Hair is not something I have a lot of opinions about. In fact, very few of my hopes and dreams have involved hair. Only one really. I wanted to grow my hair quite badly once in order to be a real Indian brave. My mother pointed out that I was only qualified to be a squaw. The fact that I am a girl has at times proved troublesome to me, but I ignored her narrow vision of my possibilities. In my dreams, I was already running barefoot in my long hair and loin cloth, bow and arrows in hand.
I have a grade four picture to prove that by the times I was nine, my hair had grown at least a little bit below my shoulders. When I was ten, my mother met a woman who had once been a model. I have since realized that this kind of person can be dangerous. My mother saw stars and a woman with qualifications.
Fifty-Something former model declared that my hair was all wrong for my face. There was a formula. My face was long and narrow. I needed short hair. My grade five school picture notes the change. Sometimes I would look and the mirror and try to see my face the way she saw it. This thing now bearing a description seemed deserving of inspection.
The next summer my face spoke to Fifty Something again. Straight hair did not suit. She could hear my long and narrow face saying, “permanent.” All school pictures from there on are identical give or take an inch. I did not change my hair again until I was in my thirties, at which point I finally stopped getting permanents.
My girls admire extremely long hair. The only strong opinion I have about hair is that it shouldn’t be in your food when you are eating. I have therefore kept them in bangs against their wishes, until now. My boys have grown tired of the tidy cuts I like. So yes, my children’s hair desires landed in lock step with my budget cut backs this fall. We are all looking a little shaggy.
“I’m taking everybody in this week for a cut,” I finally say.
“Mom, please, no . . .please, please, please . . .”
“It’s cheaper this way,” whispers my wallet.
Their hair has been bugging me for weeks now. Friday, I finally snapped, but not the snapped where we finally get our hair cut.
We’re not going to the hair dresser. Any of us. The guy with a job can see his barber. The rest of us are growing our hair.
I expect mine in particular will look fairly awful, but I would rather have tried it than not. Before I cut it short again, maybe I’ll stuff a few marshmellows in my cheeks and see if it makes any difference.
Dear Birthday Girl,
When you were born, I was so afraid I was shaking. Outside I was smiling but inside I was scared down to the deepest parts of me. I wondered if God had made a mistake – not about you, just about letting me be your mom. I wanted you so much the words for wanting you couldn’t get out without closing up my throat and coming out in a whisper. But you were a girl. And a girl was me. And I didn’t have any idea how to be someone that you would want to grow up to be like.
You took care of that part, being so much yourself that I didn’t have to worry about you trying to be like me, I just had to love you. And that was easy.
I’m glad I got that little jean jacket outfit for you when you were a baby. Otherwise, I would have never seen what my kind of clothes looked like on you. As soon as you could walk and open drawers, you tore off anything you didn’t like. Only the frilly stuff stayed on, so I could dress you in what you loved or find you playing naked and search the premises for whatever reject outfit I’d chosen.
Here’s a picture of my favourite present you ever gave me. You made it for me when you were about five, wrapped in tissue paper in a box and you danced while I opened it.
“You’re going to love it. I made it myself.” And then leaping and pointing. “See! It’s a rosary. There’s the beads. And the cross. I got it off the bottom of a toy car. I couldn’t believe it. Doesn’t it look just like a cross?”
Eventually, when summer came and the sun got hot on my dresser, I found out that you had used molasses for the glue to hold it all together. Three years later, the top of the coffee lid medallion is still sticky. It was too perfect to change so I didn’t.
So much you have taught me, my curious, artsy, feminine, non-conformist.