ME & HUE

I read some shocking news. It said, “Betty White dyes peacefully in Los Angeles.” Since my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, for a second there I believed she left this earth and I went into momentary mourning. Apparently the actress sits in seclusion tinting her own hair at home. She was a natural brunette but went from dark to light blonde. She said that going back to brunette now might frighten her animals. It might also scare her mailman. I would hate to think my mailman or my daughters dog would all of a sudden turn on me. I’m glad to know that Betty hasn’t left us yet, and that she stains her fingertips regularly with color solutions just like I do. I would like to sneak onto her property and peer into her windows to see how she does it. But media cameras might capture me in a hair-iffic moment.

Most of the problems I’ve ever encountered in my life had to do with hair. I’m jealous. My boyfriend can shower and not even comb his. It comes out looking shiny and beautifully silver streaked, and falls perfectly into place. If I cut mine down to his length, I’d be living with the nervousness that he would be calling me Patrick, Plattypus, or trading me in for a body-licious babe with better hair. That is if she’ll have him.

This old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be. If I wake up grouchy, it’s probably because I went through a category five hurricane in my sleep and rolled out of the sack with flyaway hair, and roots showing. As a stringent stylist morning, noon, and night, I could have the looks of hueless, hopeless, and even homeless. Thanks to humidity, the upsurge of strands have put me head and possibly shoulders above Dyan Cannon. And about coloring. The box said sassy redhead. It didn’t tell me I’d end up looking like a sockeye salmon. I can hardly even frost a cake. I have totally re-invented the color wheel. I was going for honey and caramel and came out with a sort of peachy brise-soleil with pumpkiny ochre highlights and twine-like split ends. I’m sure real life Rapunzel’s like Beyonce and Khloe Kardashian never have these problems. Although I’m pretty sure Lady Gaga tints her own. If you want to go from dark brown to platinum, it helps to have a gallon of Clorox and rolls of aluminum foil accompanied by a sunlamp, then highlight with purple food coloring. I could have reserved time with a professional as long as I had taken a blank check and signed my life away. From what they charge, I don’t have the bank account to help pay for their mansions in Maui. Besides, I don’t want hairdressers drinking double espressos at the time they are dying. And I already have plenty of girlfriends I can gossip with. It’s bad enough I’m probably the talk of the town when I go outside with a new “do” every month. But I figured it this way. Halloween is here again, and I just may go as a tinted Brillo pad.

I’ll bet that the shading techniques I applied back in the sixties have deeply integrated and is now part of my DNA, which is totally affecting my color unsaturability today. Which likely left me with less brainpower to accomplish this tedious task at hand. Most of my sense of self depends on my hairdo, so I’ve been trying to get this down to a science. At times of fidgeting with my filaments, I’ve thought of becoming a skinhead. But I wouldn’t want anyone to think I am part of some movement. There’s nothing a helmet, or maybe a lit torch wouldn’t cure. They say inner beauty is what truly counts. I’m not sure about you, but all I need is love, and terrific follicles sprouting from that inner to outer self. I want to be strawberry blonde. Not gold. Not orange. And definitely not a walking neon sign. If I had known coloring would be this difficult, I would have started out using my kids or pets as experimental models.

Inevitably when I am tinting, I hear my phone. Then I leave remnants of red all over the door handle and various other household objects as I’m scurrying around trying to find it. Because us gals just can’t let it go to voicemail. It’s against our religion. I haven’t timed that period way from my bathroom sink, so I leave the color on a lot longer than directed. I never know how many more minutes to keep hair paint permeating once I get sidetracked. Then showering the dye away usually looks like a scene from Psycho with red splattering everywhere, minus a murder weapon. But the screams can be heard just as dramatically if my hair doesn’t turn out as planned. Plus I’m forced to invest in new towels because that dye really messes up the ones I have.

Last time I did my hair somebody said, “You look different.” I asked, “Different good? Or different bad?” You pretty much know when they don’t answer and just stare. It’s kind of like building a house that needs to pass inspection. This house is getting older, so it needs more inspections. I suppose the only way to not have anyone notice my head is to go out in public without anything on. I will probably try to leave the house tomorrow and my door will be boarded shut. This follicle-female relationship is not easy. But having permanent possession of a pigmented mop top, I have come to the realization that these tresses were planted on my skull to remind me that I simply can’t control everything.

(Posts can be found in the EXTRA weekend edition of the Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

SEASONAL DIFFICULTIES

There is positive proof of global warming. Females have gone from pantaloons to thongs in one century. The great outdoors is my favorite place for any activity, assuming the temperatures are balmy and the San Diego soil beneath it isn’t shaking or on fire. There is nothing finer than fair weather, unless that fair weather changes and becomes an unstoppable surge of severe heat or instant flash of frigidness. I never know when I’ll be walking around rare, medium or well done. Wasn’t it the Beatles who said happiness is a warm sun? My happiness depends on how warm. Last month it went from the 70’s to blazing hot with sides of severe sunburn if I didn’t coat myself with sunscreen. It felt a little like hell, so I wondered if Satan was nearby to thank for all the free sauna treatments. Then it cooled down again and everyone was back to their normal nicer selves. That sort of heat brings out the barbarian in people. Yet who doesn’t love Palm Desert? Heatstroke, scorpions, eighteen dollar martinis. But I look at it this way. No officer is going to leave the coolness of his air conditioned cop car let alone drop his doughnut to write me a ticket.

The arrival of sweater season coincides with spiced flavored everything and purging through purgatory. You know, that place between summer and winter in which case I am contracting the critical disease of fork lifting tendonitis, since I start filling my yapper with comfort food and sweets. Because with autumn comes the World Series, werewolves, and Whoppers. Besides all those candy connoisseurs descending on every doorstep. I have two gunny sacks ready to fill. But why put off till tomorrow what I can pig out on today. All those people running marathons, I’ll bet there’s a pan of fudge waiting at the end. I know for myself that I cannot stay out of Baskin Robbins. For years I have offered a seemly benevolent exchange rate. My three children for just one of their 31 flavors.

It’s nice to know that the cobwebs hanging around the house will be put to good use with Halloween approaching. I’ll take them down after the holiday. Although I am not exactly sure which holiday yet. I’m also going to make good use out of the newly arrived dishwasher box. I will be cutting out gravestones for the yard and have them say R.I.P. Jim Morrison, LP record albums, and Sugar Babies. I might suggest that no one goes trick-or-treating on roller blades. I did once, and was still banged up by the time Thanksgiving came. But I felt like Bette Midler, with that wind beneath my angel wings. Even though I lost my halo somewhere among the Dempsey’s dandelions, or the time I swiped calla lilies in front of Crate & Barrel. It was cold that Halloween in my child’s shadow, but she was my hero, everything I wished I could be. She was dressed as Wonder Woman. And I did fly higher than an eagle after that kid whipped right in front of me with his wagon. I never got any candy that year. Not when I soared past every opened door candy giver in the neighborhood and spent all my time trying to figure out how to stop the skates. I was bummed. My diet for that October was going to consist of 99% confectionery. After we got home that spooky night, I had to resort to scheming for sweets. I reminded my daughter that it was her turn to change the toilet paper roll and to leave her bag of goodies with me for safekeeping.

Think of all the seasonal rituals there are. Every Fall I rise and typically try to shine, put my pants on the same way, shower the same way, and pour my coffee in a pitcher with one and a half pounds of sugar. October is another costumed time of treating, or tricking everyone by letting them think you’re not at home when they come to take all your candy. Before we know it, along comes another Christmas. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, those telemarketers might want to think again before hounding me. And I need to pay off last year’s presents. Debt is just one more seasonal difficulty. I hate to make anyone cry, but I can sue unwanted callers. Up till now I’ve just been giving excuses. I gave the last guy a sob story complaining that my eyebrows were sore, my fingernails were filled with crud, and then I asked him if he would marry me. Thank God he hung up. Women don’t have time for telemarketers or bill collectors this time of year. We have to think about how much candy to buy and keep for ourselves, decorating, parties, costumes. There’s such pressure to be a witch.

Mood variations often accompany a new season as well. Everything from your heart pulsating with holiday excitement to ‘I hate everybody and everything.’ When today’s mood can be solely sponsored by Schnapps. There’s no reason to call a customer service rep a rude, amateurish moron. Sometimes the only way to overcome a bad mood is to sit around Victoria’s Secret and salivate over their strapless bikinis. That’s what I do. I figure if you can’t wear them, join them. You can only be in a bad mood for so long before you realize it’s just seasonal affective disorder. I decided that if anyone breaks into my house dressed like a thief, that’s a real problem. First I will shine a sunlamp on his face. Then I’ll try to appease him with candy. But if he has a slight attitude problem and tries taking something that doesn’t belong to him, I will gladly hand it over before I nail him with my rolling pin. Sometimes the only way to deal with life is by one hit at a time.

(Posts can be seen in the EXTRA weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

GLOBAL GRINNING

A smile starts on the lips. A grin spreads to the eyes. A chuckle comes from the belly. But a good laugh bursts forth from the soul. Overflows, and bubbles all around. -Carolyn Birmingham

I must applaud a major portion of the populace. People can be so nice. This admittedly comes from a very smiley public policy perspective. I realize humans are usually far too dangerous to mess with. Forty per cent have swine flu, a million have aids, and the rest may have just gotten up on the wrong side of the stall. But it just takes a second to smile. And longer to stick out your tongue at someone who doesn’t smile back.

Flowers always make me smile. They make me go against my ethical morality of not stealing. I weaken, and swipe them from wherever I can before cramming their good looks into the first available vessel for my gazing gratification. But I am convinced that rose thorns are planted on stems to see if we will endure them and smile anyway. I even try to smile when I’m by myself. Like this morning when I did the dishes. It made me happy knowing my kitchen was clean until I turned around and saw dirty pans still sitting on the stove. But I kept smiling, after focusing on the fact that someone is washing dishes at the Golden Langar Community Kitchen in India where they feed up to 100,000 daily. That’s a lot of dishes. I don’t think I ever smiled when I was a kid washing dishes for twelve of us. I wanted to say sayonara to tiresome grimy plates and pans with a Ball-Peen Hammer.

Living with the assumption that people are good was confirmed after meeting my boyfriends brother Rick. He had me on the phone recently saying, “You never write about me!” I could see him frowning through the telecommunication equipment. His plea was uttered with the same bellicose hunger of Wimpy, begging for a hamburger. So I decided to grant Rick his wish and make him smile. Never mind that I wanted to aim some of my lampooning impulses by trying to embarrass him at the same time. Bob told me about the incident as youngsters when they had gone to a restaurant to eat with their mother. When they were finished, their mom let Bob go pay the cashier and Rick asked him to bring him back a toothpick. My humorist boyfriend emptied the whole toothpick container and went back gifting Rick with a fistful. Something that simple made Rick laugh hysterically. It tickled Ricks funny bone to the point of imminent combustion, and he began peeing his pants and passing gas and as they headed out the door. No doubt he had the patrons laughing along with him during the blast of stale air mingling with a trail of tinkle. And you can’t just pick up the phone directory and expect to find a dry cleaner that will come and freshen you up on the spot. He left in a contortioned pose worthy of a diaper commercial, and dampened the car seat going home. I’m sure Rick wanted to permanently relocate to Mumbai where it is more acceptable behavior. If a guy does pee elsewhere, it means he won’t be peeing on the toilet seat.

In all seriousness, I love the guy. Despite the fact that he has a weak bladder, and dances like he’s having an epileptic seizure. If I wasn’t so convinced of his normal stability, I’d suspect him of being a chinchilla. I’ve heard the number one rule between a person and a chinchilla is to never try to rush being friends. But Rick and his wife are wonderfully kind-hearted, with a superb sense of humor. I’m glad we are friends. They have a light that shines directly into your eyes and grinned expressions of considerable contagiousness. With laugh lines to prove it. When the brothers were young and camped in their front yard, they played strip poker and Bob made Rick run around the neighborhood naked. It’s been a life-long older brothers job to continue to torment him, and now both Rick and his wife. For a number of years they have come to California to visit Bob. And for years, Rick’s other half usually goes to the store asking if anyone wants anything. Bob always has the same ritualistic answer. One time he went with her shopping and she asked if he needed something from the personal care department. Separated by an aisle, Bob caught up with her and yelled his common response so everyone could hear. “Don’t forget the gross of condoms, extra large!” And every year, she rolls her eyes and grins. The angels might not help my boyfriend get into the gates of heaven, but he has sure made a lot of people chuckle on this earth. Including me.

The only thing that deters me from going to Russia is the certainty that I’ll come back depressed. And with frost on my bones. Smiling in public is an attribute so woefully lacking in our Soviet sisters and brothers. Maybe the people there just can’t get warm. I read a scientific report on the disturbing subject of people who don’t smile and wondered, in the event that a cyclone lifts me up and sends me flying, how would I explain my smiley self to all the people I pass? Plus, would I have a little dog Toto with me? Being on deaths door is no laughing matter. If a plane decides to drop any of us, it’s doubtful we’ll be smiling as we’re crushing the armrests with our fingernails. But I must remember to maintain an air of humor about everything. It’s heart smart to smile. We could all benefit from propositioning ourselves, that both privately and going out in public is met with smiley enthusiasm for everyone. Whatever darkness there is, it’s good to shine a bright light.

(Posts can be seen in the EXTRA weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

TEMPLE OF DOOM

“Mirror, mirror, made of glass….. tell me I’ve got the greatest cheekbones ever.”

The mirror is a reflective phenomenon to which I allocate very little value. It used to be good for making funny faces. Now mine says, “WARNING! Object in mirror may appear older!” They are meddlesome mechanisms designed to contort us into something we aren’t. And never will be. At least that’s a conversation I continue to have with myself. The rest of me is in an agonizing crisis situation. Cyrano de Bergerac was a gifted strong-willed individual who was the prime subject of ridicule with his large nose, yet still fought for love. I have a fairly large gray area in my head, so I’m similarly fighting for something as well. Like lucidness.

I’m not here to talk about my body, or de Bergerac’s. Just my mind. Which is resting atop of this fine monolith of feckless flab. People are already calling my girlfriend Sidetracked Sally since she gets distracted. Next they’ll be calling me pre-occupied Patty. Middle agers do everything we can do to stay sane and focused, while convincing ourselves that we aren’t deteriorating into doomsville. It’s a question of mind over matter, and who is the best lipo-surgeon in town. It cannot guarantee to prolong our lives, but can guarantee our thighs will look darn good in a graveyard. If they could just devise a plan to keep brain cells from going bonkers and ice cream from cultivating cellulite.

Mental mystifications began back in grade school. How does the landing of Christopher Columbus have anything to do with maturing? Or parenting? Because what I learned should have been more helpful once I was grown and was trying to combat imperfections, and my first born was spinning paper clips in the microwave. School put this awful pressure on us to figure the square root of fourteen, when I really needed to know how many liters of soda I should have for a party of thirty-eight, or fifty, if friends bring friends. Furthermore, they should teach children in classrooms how to serve mommies breakfast in bed without messing up the whole dang kitchen and getting grape jelly all over the sheets. It shouldn’t take me a millennium to comprehend mathematically how to do a diamond wall pattern. But it took nearly that long when my room design business partner and I went to outline a clients bathroom that wasn’t perfectly square. My focus wasn’t always on ratios and variables. Educators should have taught us about skirting boards and cornicing. Luckily three heads are better than one. Mine, my partner’s, and the homeowners. The resident held the manometer while us professionals measured. This instrument was much needed, since it detected the pressure of gas in the atmosphere.

That job took eleven days, nine hours, and thirty-two minutes to complete. It would have been quicker if the homeowner had previously scrubbed down the walls, and we didn’t have to stop to check up on our kids, consult the mirror for wrinkles or paint in our hair, snack, or watch Oprah. My affiliate and I had a contest who would eventually acquire the most facial creases. I haven’t seen her in quite some time. But I’ll guess I’ve outnumbered her by fifty. Thousand. I’d have less if my teenagers hadn’t fought over the pink towel. I take that back. She probably has more. She had six kids, and I only had three.

I look at the longevity of my father. At 92, he is golfing, going to the gym, and still able to steady a martini. Most other people his age are lounging passively in recliners and holding onto bathtub safety bars trying to hoist themselves up. You can find my father gleefully perspiring through challenging greens, milking every possible putting minute as he sinks balls into the ground. And probably swearing under his breath if his stroke is slightly off. This is otherwise known as purposeful living. You know, making those tough choices between ordering a simple after the game Tanqueray and tonic, or a drink a bit more detailed. On the rocks with Italian vermouth, lemon juice, dash of bitters, 1 c. ice, then shaken, and strained to perfection. Elders can be such troublemakers.

Where was I going with this?

Perhaps we can finally concede that Cyrano didn’t let a mirror and his proboscis head obstruction get in the way of pursuing his passion. Except his passion wasn’t spending countless hours searching for items in grocery stores. Columbus made it to the free land. But he lived on fruits and veggies, and wasn’t concerned with rapid aging or finding the Hamburger Helper. I do have the brainspan to remember my birthday, meal times, and where I live. But there was the time I was cross countrying and veered towards downtown Duluth, then found myself in El Paso. I’ve spent a third of my existence counting age spots and standing in places wondering if I was meant to be there. It does make me curious when I’ve lived in a perpetual phase of transportation. With a little luck, I will age like my dad and not be a troublemaker. Although the golfing gene is not hereditary. I need a putting hole the size of Shea stadium and the only wedge I know is a salad. But hopefully I will still know what Tanqueray is at 92, and hope I don’t give off caustic and unmistakable scents of Ben Gay and pureed cauliflower. I have already started using a pill caddy, for sorting earrings and Skittles. And know that soon I will be one of those drivers who will likely get passed up by a street cleaner, and possibly even a snail. Cyrano only lived to be 36. But nothing could beat his wit and panache. So there should never be the pressure of going to Princeton. Not when your temporal lobes are filled with aphorism and street smarts.

(Posts can be seen in the EXTRA weekend edition of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

SWEET HOME CAROLINA

I have read Southern Living. So I was on board when it came time to attend the wedding of my boyfriend’s niece and spend a week with his family on Sullivan’s Island. Flying is fun unless there are layovers, and turbulence keeps you from roaming free around the cabin. Captain Kangaroo bounced us through towering billowy cauliflower. And you really get to know people when you are pinned between them on an aircraft. Their every mole, body scent, and if they’ll share their snacks or not.

We arrived on a Monday and started getting tuned up for the nuptials. Only the wedding was still five days away. The next 120 hours was a blur. You get to know family members as well when you’re holed up together in a house under the customary direction of distilled beverages. Certain people just prefer doing death dives to the floor, and waking with head gashes leaving traces of ornamental plasma on the furniture. It made my boyfriend look like a monk. Although I was interested to see if the floorboard hugging population was going to multiply so I could announce, “Prepare for landing.” Names are being withheld to protect the inebriated. Just a thought though, those same people should probably not pounce around in public unsupervised when they are retaining that much spirit water.

I didn’t know I was entering a collective camp of gut splitting story telling. These folks had to be the most tireless and dedicated liquor filled narrators ever. I heard one tale regarding the deceased mother who was convinced one time that a house fly had followed her on a plane to California and back. Forget the fact that the normal life span of a fly is thirty days and it had already lived twenty-nine. I wished I had met her. My laugh lines have grown a little longer. Apparently she was making out a shopping list once when her son walked in and asked if she was scribbling her suicide note. She answered, “No. But I’m adding a shotgun because my family is such motivation.”

The ladies were invited to a bridal luncheon, so the guys went to a local ale house & eatery. I rode separately with the mother of the near newlywed, while the other gals rode in another vehicle that turned into a joy ride. So I missed out on the drive-by finger flying. There is something very liberating about a van full of females, two juveniles included, flinging their middle fingers out the window as they pass by boys at a brewery. Girls wanna have fun, provided they don’t grow up to be fist fighters, or continue extending any part of their hands at peers. Thankfully the young girls refined upbringing won’t allow them to carry on this tradition. Although what you do in Carolina, may not always stay in Carolina.

It was my first time visiting Charleston. Also a first eating Shrimp & Grits, Catfish, fried Green Tomatoes, boiled peanuts, and busting on Beaufort Stew. I didn’t feel one blood-thirsty mosquito. But I received a pesky ant bite, and my hair was a real mass. I looked like Carrot Top, with two perms. There’s not a hair product on the planet that can cure humidity. I doubt the combination of deep conditioners mixed with olive oil, camphor oil, citronella oil, crude oil, and several moisturizers would have done the trick. I wanted a hairstyle that displayed the docile, true essence of myself. Instead, I spent the majority of my week wondering what to do with my mane if I ever visited a steamy state again. Which might involve a wig.

Then came the rehearsal dinner. No party comes without a tall twenty something Russian beauty who sparks the interest of most men. My boyfriends sixty year old male cousin felt that tingle, and was ready to adopt right then and there. Or at least defect to her country if she gave him the go. My guess was that he wouldn’t last five minutes in that frigid atmosphere unless she was good and ready to keep him warm. Except she wouldn’t have noticed him even if he had Glo Tape wrapped around him and he was firing flares. His wit alone would have captured her if he had approached her loveliness. But his liquid courage wasn’t working.

There has to be that one thing that goes wrong during festivities. The bride was at a nearby hotel getting ready for the nuptials when she placed her shoes on the heating vent and one heel got caught. She pulled the vent out, freed the pump, but lost her grip and lost it down the duct shaft. Cinderella shared her last remaining hour as a single woman with her savior, the maintenance man.

When you go to southern unions, you hear a lot of “Y’all.” Not to mention all the questions. Who are you, where you went to school, plans for the future? I went to a local wedding once and met a young attendee who admitted that he flunked high school. I told him that I was sure he did the best he could. Then pre-warned him that I will want cheese on my Big Mac. Luckily no one asked me any questions other than, “So! How long have you been dating Bob?” I wanted to say, “For the last five minutes. We locked eyes coming out of the restrooms!” But I felt it was a little premature asserting such sarcastic humor with Bob’s kinfolk too soon in our relationship.

The marital setting was a stunning site, as was the bride. There are three words for those who make the world a better place one family member at a time. Weddings, southern style. I don’t recall going to a ceremony so lavished with Charleston charm and warm people. But I do remember saying “I do.” Although at the time, I didn’t mean deep cleaning, or dinners at Del Taco.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)