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Tuesday, Dec. 09, 2003 - 11:52 p.m.

Well, I’ve finally got the head space for a real entry. Perhaps we should call it head room. Like a post-tweed era Fender, I do not break up so easily these days. However, I still lack a midrange.

One of my students wrote the following at the end of his final exam today: “I think you should write a book about teaching English, stay open-minded, and keep watching The Simpsons”. Thank you, Student, for that unsolicited life philosophy. It’s not quite ironic enough to serve as my own, but it is appealing nonetheless.

Speaking of writing books, how about that Mimi Smartypants book deal? It gives me hope, certainly, that cultivation of personality does pay off.

I have been struggling this week with my hair. This has inspired me to recap my hair history:

Birth: I have light blonde hair which begins to turn mousy gray-blonde-brown in short order.

4th grade: I am Japanese for Halloween (yeah, I know). Semipermanent black hair dye fails to wash out entirely, giving me greenish hair for a few months.

5th grade: Mom and aunt talk me into letting them frost my hair in the manner of the day, using a hole-filled cap and nasty crochet hook. This results in exactly three large chunks of yellowy “highlights” on the top of my head. I concoct a story for my classmates of my brother accidentally dumping bleach on my head as I was leaning over the washing machine. This story shadows me throughout my elementary career.

6th: Am taught how to curl my bangs, and though they never perform as they ought to, I maintain this style for a year. I also acquire a crimping iron.

7th grade (early): Become metalhead. Shave lower back half of head.

7th grade (late): Get my hair cut short to impress Shane, who responds by calling me Joe for the rest of the school year.

8th grade: Begin cutting own hair. Continue throughout much of next 12 years. Also, give first haircut to another person, resulting in curly triangle disaster.

10th grade: Bleach hair to an orangish color, maintain short bowl cut. Pluck off eyebrows.

11th grade: Become backpacker. Begin to let hair grow. Quit shaving legs and armpits.

12th grade: Become raver. Go to fancy hip salon, get classic Vidal Sassoon cut (close at nape, angled down to points in front).

** College begins, and with it the real art of hair **

Freshman year: Discover Punky Color (superior in every way to Manic Panic, I still maintain). Hair becomes Mandarin Orange. Hair becomes Flamingo Pink, and remains that way for eight months.

I still dream about that pink: it would start vibrant, rich, then fade gradually to a light seashell pink, with stages in between resembling Jem and Poochie. My hair, I discovered, takes dye beautifully. I had pink beehives, pink curls, pink preppy barretted affairs.

Also, freshman year was spent dying the hair of others. We burned scalps with bleach, stained our hands with green dye, crowded around tiny dorm sinks bearing brushes and pots and mixtures, turned our pillowcases glorious colors. I became the avowed expert dyer of the dorm. I also began cutting hair more regularly, acquiring my own set of clippers.

At the end of the year, I bleached my hair pure white.

Sophomore year: Keep hair pure white. Cut it very short.

Junior year: Shave head. Let natural hair color grow for exactly nine months, then dye hair red. Grownup red, though.

Senior year: Start shaving legs and armpits. Continue on and off until present.


Since college ended, I have become hooked on henna. I miss obnoxious hair colors, but I have also had to search for real jobs from time to time. So, henna has fulfilled my desires. The kind I buy requires me to boil water, add spices, and stir up a greenish sandy goo. The goo forms hardened chunks all over my bathroom and stains my shower orange, but I continue to use it. I revel in the ritual, and I like the way it makes my hair smell like hay.

However, henna has begun to pose some problems. First, my hair is longer than it has even been in my life: it reaches the bottoms of my shoulder blades, and long hair is not amenable to dye because the ends have just seen too much of it. And second, henna is notoriously stubborn. It reacts poorly with other hair products, with chlorine, with itself. I decided this week that I don’t want to have red hair anymore, but henna is a brutal mistress.

I performed strand tests with pieces of my own hair while dying a friend’s hair this weekend, and everything seemed fine: no funky reactions, still a little red, but not much. So I dyed my own hair yesterday, using a darkish ash blonde, as close to my natural color as I could find. But the henna would not be vanquished: my hair is still red. It’s a slightly lighter red, sort of orangey. I hate it, because I haven’t had a hair failure since high school. I give L beautiful haircuts and have shiny long hair. Grrrr.

I am undaunted. I dare not dye it again, not yet, so I have to take the slow road. So today I purchased some Fancifull Hair Rinse. You may have seen this stuff sitting on your Grandma’s bathroom counter; it is what turns her hair so famously blue. The bottle is pink and gray. It’s supposed to tone down brassiness. It may indeed do that, but it is even more effective at toning down brain waves. I swear: the stuff smells pretty innocuous, sort of like Emeraude or some other old lady perfume, but it makes me positively dizzy. Senility is a myth; Fancifull is to blame to for any battiness we attribute to the elderly.

I fear I may have to cut my hair to ever rid myself of the henna scourge, but that would mess up my experiment of letting my hair grow long.

And this concludes today’s trivial exploration of my hair. Odes, paeans, memoriams, and abuse can be submitted to the address at the top of the page.


Addendum: Hey, look! There it is.

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