this season’s trends: a haiku

hair dried with chlorine
conspicuous tan lines — this
summer’s aesthetic.

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Throwback Thursday: when I had blue (streaked) hair

Athens, Georgia. 09.23.07.

When I had blue-streaked hair. Athens, Georgia. 09.23.07.

 

none of this is for you

men cannot dictate
how we (women)
style our hair
choose outfits
or apply makeup.
many assume that
we only exist to be
aesthetically pleasing
(to them)
& are shocked when
we explain that
none of this is for you
& we could care less
if you don’t think
we’re beautiful
because we know we are.

The reclamation of beauty

When I was four years old,
I drew (fair-skinned) mermaids
with huge breasts & light hair
that flowed down to their tiny waists.
The mermaids’ faces never looked like mine —
their eyes were larger (& not almond-shaped),
their noses were smaller (& pointed),
their mouths were fuller (& bright pink).
Every night, I’d pray that the next morning,
I’d wake up transformed into Ariel,
a beautiful (white) mermaid.

When I was fourteen years old,
I watched Gilmore girls obsessively.
While I could relate to Lane (Rory’s Korean best friend)
she never considered herself pretty,
nor was she sought after by cute boys
(the measure of a teenage girl’s beauty & self-worth).
Her first (unrequited) love was music &
her failed attempts at dating were a repetitive punchline.
The sarcastic brown girl was always the funny foil
to the doe-eyed protagonist with a porcelain complexion.
I wasn’t the heroine in my own life.

When I was twenty-four years old,
I lifted my chin defiantly & looked in the mirror.
My eyes were dark brown (& almond shaped)
my nose was wide (& round)
my mouth was small (& pale pink).
I’d never be a tall, restrained, universally liked queen,
since I was a short, loud, unapologetically honest woman.
There was a newfound freedom (& power) in being myself.
I (finally) recognized that when
my handsome man said, “You’re beautiful.”
it was the truth.

The antithesis of a basic bitch

Who would wear a t-shirt and overalls on her first day of third grade?

I did.

The girls at Greystone Elementary didn’t dress like the girls in West Des Moines. In Iowa, kids dressed comfortably. Girls wore clothes they could play in without having to worry (about boys looking up their skirts, or dirtying church clothes).

The Greystone girls wore sheer blouses with camisoles underneath. Low-rise jeans. Tiny denim shorts. Halter top dresses.

These girls were groomed to be miniature copies of their mothers (the ladies who played tennis and downed cocktails at the club for lunch). The pretty girls who were enrolled in cheernastics and dance once they could walk. The popular waifs who were dieting at age eight, so they could wear string bikinis to the pool during the summer without sucking in their bellies.

There was no way I could ingratiate myself into their crowd by being a chubby Filipino girl with crooked teeth. So I retreated into my schoolwork, reading books for fun, and filling composition notebooks with angsty scribbles. Resigned, I knew my fate was to be known as a smart girl, not a pretty girl.

Braces and a growth spurt weren’t the answer to my ugly duckling phase. Years later, I no longer yearned to look like those girls. They were society’s default version of pretty. Basic bitches. Instead, I got tattoos on my shoulder blades and a pixie cut.

Finally, I felt beautiful — which, as it turns out, is synonymous with free.

The Ridiculous reaches sketchy equilibrium

XIV.

“Samantha, do you think you can fix it?” Andrea squeaked nervously.

“I’ll do my best.” I gingerly tugged the stubborn ponytail holder entangled in my roommate’s waist-length brown hair.

We were taking a creative writing class and staying in the dorms at the University of Southern Mississippi. Though we only met the day before, we knew we were kindred spirits. Neither of us fit in with our classmates at private schools (a Catholic one in Birmingham and an Episcopalian one in Orlando, respectively). Neither of us liked math or scary movies. Both of us had quirky little brothers and enjoyed pop punk music.

Please don’t let the one friend I’ve made in so long hate me because I ruin her hair. 

I sat Andrea in the chair facing their room’s mirror. After several attempts to extract the pesky ponytail holder, I eyed a pair of scissors on her desk.

“At least you won’t be walking around with it stuck in your hair forever.”

Andrea flinched, but nodded. “Just do it quick.”

A few minutes later, I held up the ponytail holder triumphantly. “No hairs lost, either!”

“Thank you!”

Andrea jumped up and played the Josie & The Pussycats soundtrack in my stereo.

“When’s the last time you brushed your hair?”

Andrea shrugged.

“Maybe we can brush and do our hair together every morning.”

“Sounds good to me.”

XIX.

High school provided polar opposite experiences for Andrea and me. Andrea attended an arts school in downtown Birmingham, while I attended a public school in the suburbs thirty minutes away. Andrea honed her creative writing skills and took the arts school versions of math and science classes. I stressed myself out with honors and AP classes. One of Andrea’s classmates got kicked out for hoarding pain killers in her dorm room. My friends played croquet after the dance on prom night.

After we made it to college, we improved our schoolwork/fun balance. During winter vacation of freshman year, Andrea visited me at UGA. Athens was a ghost town whenever students were on vacation, so it was the perfect time to sneak drinks into the dorms.

“M’dear, it’s finally happening.” Andrea daintily sipped her forty.

“What is, m’dear?” I drank her Parrot Bay rum and fruit punch.

“We’re getting drunky drunk together.” 

“That’s true! We need a picture to capture this moment.”

Surprisingly, our self-portrait looked like all of our sober photos together — Andrea looked high, while I looked like I was on speed.

XXIV.

“It’s so great to see y’all!” I greeted Andrea’s dad and stepmom with hugs.

Dr. J chuckled amusedly. “I can’t believe how much you guys have grown up.”

Susan laughed. “Get ready — he’s going to tell the story.”

Andrea groaned. “C’mon, Dad. It’s my birthday!”

“I remember ten years ago, we talked Andrea into going off to camp at USM for a creative writing class. She wanted to get out of Florida, so we provided her that option.

“When we got to Hattiesburg, we were having lunch and Andrea said, Dad, I’ve never had a roommate. What if we hate each other? And I said, What if she becomes your best friend for life?

Andrea interrupted, “And I said, I never thought of it that way before. So yes, Dad. You were right.”

We linked arms and ordered margaritas at the bar. Giovanni’s was one of Andrea’s favorite fancier restaurants in Nashville, but the margarita was her preferred cocktail to order there.

“To your birthday, m’dear!”

“And a decade of being The Ridiculous.”