I’m probably allergic to you

A few weeks back I bought a GroupOn deal to get some allergy/sensitivity testing done. It was a good price, and I’ve been wanting to get some help in figuring out any food or environmental things that I’m particularly sensitive to. What could go wrong?

The testing kit finally came in the mail and I was excited to get started…until I read the following instruction:

Cut approximately 90-120 hairs, as close to the scalp as possible. The amount should be roughly the width of a pencil.

A PENCIL??? Needless to say, the whole idea was quite alarming. Didn’t those allergy test peddlers know how much time and energy I spend on my hair? How it’s my glory…my best feature? And to top it off, I had paid for this golden opportunity to wreck my ‘do’!

OK…I took a breath. I had to come up with a plan, the goal of which was to not end up with a big old missing clump that would grow out looking like a spiky post-chewing gum hair debacle from my sister’s past (more about that in an upcoming post). I first tried pulling out some hairs, but that got old really fast. (So much for the high pain tolerance I claim to have.)

Plan B – I would selectively cut teeny bunches from a variety of locations, thereby spreading the damage out so that it wouldn’t be noticeable. After patting myself on the back for such an ingenious plan, I picked up my (impossibly awkward) work scissors, decided I didn’t really need a mirror (since I was sitting at my desk at work), and got on with the cutting. The first few, ‘shhh-nip, shhh-nips’ went well enough, but when I bundled my harvest together the grouping wasn’t even the width of a pencil lead…much less a full Ticonderoga #2. Deciding that bold action was called for, I decided to slightly increase the size of the bunches. I would be careful to distribute the damage and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

Until…SHHH-KA-NIP!

I pulled my hand away…afraid to look. When I did I saw that I was holding at least a good half-pencil’s width of 18-inch strands, ranging from gunmetal gray to L’Oreal #8 Medium Natural Blonde. It was at that point I decided that my career as a beautician was over.

So far I haven’t noticed any real damage, but I check every single day for evidence of my (lack of) tonsorial skills. Was it worth it? Yesterday I received the following Allergy/Sensitivity List:

  • Ragweed / Mixed grass pollens – Duh.
  • Milk / Lactose / BUTTER FAT – I knew about the milk thing, but THIS explains sooooo much….sigh.
  • Courgette – OK, I had to look it up…only to learn that I’m allergic to one of the only vegetables I actually like. Goodbye, Zucchini…I’ll miss you.
  • Anise – I never liked licorice…I’m SO vindicated!
  • Pine – I think I told ya’ll I’m allergic to Christmas trees.
  • Pine nuts / Pumpkin seeds / Castor bean – And I care because…?
  • Box elder – I’m pretty sure this is the big old tree that #1 planted right in the middle of my backyard 15 years ago – the one that throws seedlings all over the whole neighborhood. Thanks, buddy.
  • Moths – Um…that’s just weird. I guess I’ll have to give up that ‘hanging out under the street light’ habit I’ve been working on.
  • Horse Fly Bot – WTF???? I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far of avoiding most bugs, but especially the larva of flies that live around horses. So much for my dream of becoming a farmer…cause that was so gonna happen.
  • Trimelletic Anhydride – OK…I had to look this one up too, and it turns out it’s an industrial POISON. Wouldn’t pretty much every human being on the planet be sensitive to it? (I hope they didn’t charge me extra for that one.)

And, last but not least…

  • Cat dander

I guess my consolation is that vodka, hair dye and ladies Rogaine weren’t on the list.

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Do mannequins dream of electric curlers?

“I’m goin’ to Walmart… ya’ll need anything?”

I had a long, extremely detailed dream the other night that involved (what felt like) hours and hours of me trying to put my hair up in those old-fashioned black brush curlers…the kind your grandmama might have worn. I fumbled with a myriad of bobby pins, psychically willing the aforementioned demonic brushy tanglers curlers to stay put, but most just slipped out, clattering to the floor. A few stayed put, but only because they were hopelessly caught in my hair like lame crickets dangling from a fat mama spider’s web. I tell you, I woke up exhausted the next morning!

After waking and checking the mirror to make sure that I hadn’t really turned my hair into a mass tangle, I looked up curlers in my dream dictionary: To see curlers in your dream suggests that you are thinking in circles. You may be going over the same problem/ situation again and again without any conclusion.

Then I looked up bobby pins. Shocked to actually find a listing for such a random item, I learned: To see or use a bobby pin your dream represents your need for order and neatness. Everything needs to be in place. You are feeling insecure about something.

pinsWhen I looked online today to find pics of these outdated rollers (as the beauty parlor set calls them) for this post, I found plenty of pics of the brushy things, but I also saw that there were PINS that go with them. Not bobby pins at all…big honkin’ plastic party skewers that hold things in place by basically stabbing them to your head. No wonder I couldn’t get my hair up in the black monsters…I was so insecure that I had to pick dream bobby pins instead of the appropriate dream tools!

I’m not going to lose any sleep over the interpretation of this particular dream (see what I did there?) Lucky for me, I happen to already KNOW that I’m neurotic.

Oh, and my apologies to Philip K. Dick for the title of this one. I couldn’t resist!

 

Teacher’s pet on steroids

"Come on, you know you're just projecting..."

“Come on, you know you’re just projecting…”

I was wandering through a Goodwill store the other day when I ran across one of these dinosaurs. For those of you not from the era of mimeographed handouts (with that weirdly addicting, shiny-blue chemical smell that couldn’t possibly be good for you), or if the fun of turning the egg-beater-like handle of the requisite manual pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom is lost on you, this contraption ———> is an overhead projector.

 

These beauties were used to share super important information…like this:

Important stuff

Hey Jimmy…we can’t see THROUGH you!

 

 

 

School was pretty different back then. (And yes, I’ll see that bet and raise you a, “Hey you kids, get outta my yard!”)

 

 

One thing that probably hasn’t changed in the classroom though is that annoying kid who sits in the front row and seems to always have their hand up…you know the one. hand up

Well, let me just tell you, it’s not EASY being that kid! I would keep that hand up in the air until I sometimes thought my arm would fall off!

Eventually, that eternal hand in the air syndrome morphed into all of the telltale signs of a geeky teacher’s pet: refusing to cut school (even when threatened with bodily harm), being the kid chosen make bulletin boards or run to the office to deliver messages, and the one most likely to be left in charge when the teacher left the room on business (smoke ’em if you got ’em, boys).

In case you ever wondered what happened to those annoying kids, well, this one just recently found out her Myers-Briggs scores during a training event at work. It turns out that the Extrovert part of ENFP can be somewhat…um, I think the word the Introverts used was EXHAUSTING. They also mentioned something about having to fight to get in a few words during classroom…, um, I mean office discussions. Of course, I was so busy trying to get the instructor’s attention that I may have missed a few details. Maybe I’ll be able to do some extra credit follow-up…or at least buy the boss a latte.

 

 

 

 

Whatdya mean I have to wear pants?!

Big news…I’m finally going back to work at an honest-to-God 8 hour a day so-called normal gig. For the past four years I’ve done free-lance project management which (somehow) paid the bills, but it was never very dependable. There have been quite a few sleepless nights — sometimes because I had to work all night to meet a deadline, and sometimes because I had no idea where the next insurance or mortgage payment was coming from. The best part was that I got to work from home and, while it can get boring not going into an office, at least you never have to work with a nosy office mate or smell anyone else’s lunch being nuked. Best of all though…PAJAMAS! There were some times when being dressed certainly added to the experience, but sweats and yoga pants were usually fancy enough for even the most formal conference call.

Six months ago I took on a second job, doing some part-time front office work for a small heating and air conditioning contractor. It was fun having an office to go to again, and since almost all of my work was computer and phone…no dress code. To top it off, there were regularly dogs in the office, which is a definite perk.

Buck happens to like my 'style'...

Buck happens to like my ‘style’…

Working the two jobs simultaneously was challenging, often requiring me to get up early for my freelance job to take client calls and then stay up late to meet a deadline…squeezing in 6-8 hours of phone work in between. I could no longer wear pajamas all most of the time, but jeans were standard and no one even cared if I bothered to wash my hair (scrunchies were practically encouraged). As you can see from the photo, my office mates were very non-judgmental.

My wonderful new job won’t have fun puppies to pet, but it will have a regular schedule (no more over nighters!), a 401-K with matching funds, insurance that will only cost me a small percentage of what I’ve been paying, and lots of other exciting benefits. I’m really happy about the whole thing, but there is the (unfortunate) requirement that real clothes be worn. Welcome back to the world of business casual, Tammywhich typically does not include fuzzy pj bottoms with bunnies or super hero logos on them, and where yoga pants just won’t cut it. I’m hoping that the extra time I’ll now have will make it easier to do more writing…assuming that I don’t have to spend the whole weekend doing laundry!

 

 

 

Ash, Ash Baby….

People sometimes ask me what color my hair really is…implying that my particular shade of blonde may not even be possible in nature! Let’s set the record straight right now…I did have very light blonde hair…um, as a baby. Please note Exhibit A: Blonde Baby Picture

Exhibit

Exhibit A

And yes…that’s a 2 year-old me being potty trained by my grandmother…I cropped it to protect my PG rating.

Fancy Hair0001

Exhibit B

It’s not clear at what point my hair went from adorable baby-girl pale to the ashy, dishwater color I ended up with as an adolescent, but it definitely happened by the age of 10. (Exhibit B: Who Does This to a 10 Year Old?) 

The color was natural (and drab), but seriously…what’s with that hairdo? I’m pretty sure that this country music wannabe ‘creation’ was concocted by one of the two male hairdressers who owned the beauty parlor (old people speak for ‘hair salon’) that my mother and grandmother went to–“John & Quincy’s” (right near the Dobb’s House diner). Once a week, both of my female role models would spend an hour or two hooting it up with the boys, come home crunchy, and then sleep with their heads wrapped in toilet paper for the next 6 nights. (Oh, a final note on the scary Exhibit B hair…everyone thought this was so cool that they had a friend paint a portrait of this shot…thankfully, it has mysteriously disappeared, hopefully to never surface again.)

When I was a teenager, it was popular to use ‘Sun-In’ to add blond streaks to whatever color hair you might have (an unfortunate choice for some of the darker haired girls who ended up with harsh orange-ish swatches). My own hair lightened up a bit when I spent time in the sun, so I stayed away from the commercial lighteners…at least for a while. In my junior year of college I worked as a receptionist at a barbershop for a few months, and one of the perks was getting my hair done. I had it frosted…the rage back then. The stylist was a friend, and she went to the trouble of pulling my (very long) hair through the awful cap with all the holes in it, bleaching it, and then invited neighboring business people in to see how ridiculous I looked before she took the cap off…somewhat like a scary, half-bald white-haired witch. I decided it was time to start looking for a new job right about then…

Me at 25

Exhibit C

Enter Exhibit C: Honeymoon #1 Hair.  The blonde streaks had grown out by now and I was back to my normal ashy tone. This is the last existing photo evidence of my natural hair color before I started going back towards the lighter end of the color spectrum (with a vengeance…and a little help from the kind folks at L’Oreal). You can’t see it in this picture, but I was already getting gray at the ripe old age of 25–I’m told that my father’s mother had silver hair by her 20’s, so I guess I was lucky! 

Between then and now I’ve probably had every shade of blonde you could imagine. In fact, it‘s been so long since I’ve seen my real hair color that I don’t even guess at what it might be anymore. I just add a little of this and a dash of that…with a heavy hand on the Preference #8 – Medium Blonde, and it seems to work out. I also figured out that I need long hair…no bobs or short cuts for me. (Here is some evidence of some pretty frightening bad hair days that I suffered through as a child. You’re welcome.)

About 8 years ago I had a job that required me to travel regularly between Portland and Montana, so I spent a lot of time in smoky hotel bars (the living room of the road). I didn’t want to wash my hair every day, so I got the brilliant idea of spraying just a little Febreze on my hair brush…and it worked like a charm! I was all proud of myself for figuring out how to keep my hair smelling fresh like some kind of Clairol/MacGyver…until I got back to Portland and decided to touch up my hair color. I put the solution on my hair just like I always did, but it felt strangely sticky. I checked the mirror and…oh my GOD…my hair was AQUA! I tried to wash it out but it wasn’t working, so I panicked (of course). I finally calmed down enough to call a salon and they said, “Get down here NOW!” The chemicals in the Febreze had bonded with the color I was adding, and they had to pull that color out of my hair…strand by strand…ouch! In addition, like my friend at the barbershop, they felt the need to share my shame, and they had everyone they could find come by to see what the woman with the aqua hair had done to herself. Three torturous hours and $250 later, I was back to normal…well, at least my hair was.

Tammy closeup small

Exhibit D

I haven’t had any more hair-science experiments, thankfully. I keep it long and get good cuts, so I only need to have it styled about 3 times a year.  I do have to admit though…I’m not an easy client when it comes to someone who’s tasked with using scissors on these beloved, processed locks. The first time I went to my current stylist I almost made her cry. I didn’t mean to be mean…I’m just so picky when it comes to my hair! I got nervous because my ‘do’ didn’t look exactly like I thought it should, so I got a teensy bit critical. I felt awful about it later, and I think the stylist was surprised when I walked in a few months later to see her again. I only cringed a little that time, and we laughed about it. She’s great, and I’ve been with her for over 10 years now, but she’s got me pegged. She won’t finish the final stages of the styling after she cuts and dries my hair! She just hands me the brush and curling iron, and I finish it up myself…and everyone’s happy. I’ll bet that neither John NOR Quincy would have allowed that!

I’ll leave you with Exhibit D: Grown Up Hair with Birthday Tiara, and this quote…

Only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

–  W.B. Yeats (who was married to a woman with DARK hair)

When I was plain

Now, I don’t think I’m any great beauty, but I’m not too shabby, and I’m frequently told that my parents must have had good genes. I take pains to get my makeup (a.k.a. armor) right, and hell, my hair should probably have its own blog. There was a time, however, when I was…well…maybe not exactly the prettiest girl at the picnic.

One weekend when I was about 10 years old I was at my great Aunt B’s house when her best friend June came over to see her. They were ‘visiting’…laughing and solving world problems left and right. I was (naturally) right there with them, thinking how grown up I was and totally enjoying all the ‘lady talk’. During a lull in their conversation, my aunt’s friend looked me over, paused for a moment and matter-of-factly said, “You know what? Some day I think you might end up being a pretty girl, Tammy.”

I was stunned. I knew I was no Miss America, but I don’t think I’d ever really been called out on it before! I excused myself from the seat at the grown up table and took my plain (red-faced) self to another room to sulk. There may have been a tear or tw….well, yeah…I cried.

I’m sure June didn’t mean to crush me, but she was an attractive woman with two beautiful daughters, and it just didn’t occur to her that I might take offense at what she thought was a totally unbiased opinion. I actually think that she figured I’d be relieved to hear that she thought I had possibilities…sigh.

Tammy - 5th grade

5th grade hair

In school, I was never one of the popular girls. Now, people liked me and I had friends, but I wasn’t as outgoing as I ended up being later, and I was a bit of a teacher’s pet (a.k.a. know-it-all). And then there was…my hair. I blame my mama…I mean, who does this to a child?—>

Actually, my 4th grade picture was much worse, with longer, scraggly hair…I’ll spare you that one. I guess Mama was just doing the best she could with what she had. It’s entirely possible that she may have even gotten a 2-for-1 deal, because my poor sister had the same cut. It worked better on her though…she never liked to comb or brush her hair, and it was harder to get gum stuck in that pixie cut than in her former longer (tangled) locks.

8th grade

8th grade

Those of you who know me in person are probably wondering, “Hey…what’s with that dark hair…Tammy’s a blonde!?” I promise that my hair was almost white when I was a little girl…it just got more and more dishwatery the older I got. L’Oreal and I got to be good friends relatively early on in life.

Luckily, my hair grows fast, and within a few years I had that long, stringy, parted in the middle, hippy wannabe (awful) non-style that was popular in the 1970’s. For your enjoyment….my 8th grade picture. (Be sure to notice the love beads…as if you could miss them!)

Now this brings up another issue I was dealing with…that MOUTH. I never got braces as a child, and I was always self-conscious about my buck teeth. (Someday, if you’re lucky, I’ll tell you the glorious tale of getting braces when you’re 40 and about to get married…it’s a classic.)  I did eventually grow into my teeth and (what I thought were) freakishly huge lips, but not without a lot of whining. My mom’s sister once told me to hush and stop worrying about my big mouth…that I was lucky to have ‘voluptuous’ lips. I was about 13 at the time, and that just sounded gross to me. At least now I appreciate that I don’t have to worry about ever having that old lady thin-lipped look, but in high school I just moped around and prayed that June was right about me maybe being pretty one day.

I’m happy to say that I eventually stopped worrying, and my face and my self-esteem are much happier these days. I did grow into my looks, and I actually think that I look better now than I ever have. As it turns out, getting to know and love yourself, not cutting your hair short, and developing life-long relationships with Mabelline and Aquanet can do magical things. I now wield a mascara wand with the confidence of a samurai, and if anyone says anything disparaging about my looks, I just chuckle to myself.

I sometimes think back kindly on June, who passed away many years ago. When that happens, I send her a secret little ‘thank you’ for getting the worst out of the way early on. I know now that she couldn’t help the fact that she didn’t fully see me, but her words finally helped me learn what true beauty really looks like.

Moroccan Kryptonite

Yep, I went to Morocco…in a very hot August…alone with another woman…with my regular wardrobe… no real itinerary or guide…and NO CLUE. I should have known what was in store when the two (apparently local) young men on the last leg of our flight in a small regional jet spent almost 40 minutes snickering at us. Maybe I really should have figured it out by the time we walked to dinner in the small town of Agadir on our first night – a group of men walked by us and the oldest of them stopped, pushed my shoulder so hard I almost fell, and yelled, “You are BEAUTIFUUUUUL!” while he pointed at me.

Now, I’m not homely by any stretch, but my companion for that trip is truly beautiful in a petite Nicole Kidman sort of way, and is about 12 years younger than I am. Men always pay her tons of attention, but in this setting, I seemed to be the focus. I’m thinking, uh, hello…fluffy middle-aged woman here! What, is that guy blind?

The next few days were not much different. Obviously, two very pale women stand out in a country of mostly dark skinned people. Everywhere we went my big blonde hair was like a L’Oreal beacon, drawing in men who yelled at us, asking if we spoke French, German, English…ohhhhhh…you are AMERICAN! (We were told later that American women are known for being ‘easy’…who knew?) Once the gawkers figured out our nationality, it was game on. We learned quickly to not make eye contact and just keep walking…mouthing ‘oh my god’ to one another. I think it was on that day that my friend dubbed me ‘Arab Kryptonite’. I tried to wield my power carefully, but it seemed to be pretty potent stuff.

Somewhere in my trip planning I had picked up a sundress…well, it was more of a mumu, in truth.  When I look at the pictures from the trip, this hideous smocky, tenty thing is probably the most unattractive outfit I’ve ever worn. I figured, damn, this oughta protect me, it’s more like a burka than anything else I own, so I wore it for a long day of sightseeing. NOPE. Not only did it not seem to shield the innocent locals from my curvy blonde ‘American bad girl’ aura, it may have actually added fuel to the already radioactive fire. They couldn’t help themselves, I was told. “Your beauty is too great!” said a small Berber man before he tried to get wayyyyy too close. It certainly wasn’t effective with the old man waiting by the roadside with camels for tourists to pose on. We only rode for about 20 yards, turned, and as I was wondering why he just handed me the rope lead for my camel, he slapped my camel’s butt to make it gallop! Now, my friend’s ride just plodded along, but there I was, boobs and everything else bouncing all over the place, eliciting a round of cheers from the other camel guys who were hanging around in the shade of a nearby palm tree. After the camel finally stopped, the guide then managed to accidentally lift up my tent-like skirt (in the direction of the peanut gallery, of course) as he helped me dismount.

Needless to say, I didn’t even bother to wear the mumu on the day we saw the famed ‘goats in trees’. It wouldn’t have stopped the thin middle-aged man in traditional Berber robes and orange Crocs who posed with us and his goats…his hand grabbing my ass as the picture was snapped. My only consolation was that he also grabbed my friend’s butt, so maybe my powers were fading? Oh, and in case you’re wondering about this much written about wonder of Morocco: Yes, there were goats in these argon trees.  Do they climb the trees….not so sure about that!

Goats in Trees

Nope. In Essaouria, a beautiful coastal town, we swam among children and burka-clad women, their water logged drapes billowing out around them. My own suit was a one-piece black one that I dubbed my ‘mom bathing suit’. With my hair piled on my head and crowned with sunglasses, my eyes ringed by smudged (ooops, shoulda taken it off first ) mascara, not to mention my allover uber whiteness…well, it must have made quite the picture. We waded out to shoulder depth in the calm waters. Suddenly we started feeling that we were being watched. Then touched! Several men had started diving from yards away, swimming past us, grabbing at our legs and I actually felt a hand on my ASS. We dog-paddled away from them, later saying that we “swam for our lives!” after evoking the “dun dun….dun dun” from Jaws.

A few minutes later, my friend said, “Um, Tammy…you seem to have a fan club.” I glanced around and realized that a ring of six or seven boys ranging in age from maybe 8 to 13 was forming around me, closing in by the second. I can only imagine the panicked look on my face, when suddenly I felt a hand on my…well I think Grandmama would call it my ‘lady parts’. Seconds later the brown face of a boy of maybe 9 popped up right next to me, laughing hysterically! My reflexes kicked in and I pushed him…hard. I just remember my friend grabbing my hand and pulling me toward shore…I think she was worried that I’d started an international incident! A sweet old woman scolded the boys and they dispersed. She spoke some English and told us that she blamed the video games, but we knew that osmosis was a much stronger teacher.

As we moved farther north in the country, my appeal thankfully cooled off a little. The bigger cities of Marakesh and Casa Blanca were more sophisticated, and more women wore western clothes.  My friend was once more the focus of attention, and my blonde locks lost their power…whew!  Well, at least until we ate at a restaurant with a local who knew the employees.  He introduced us to our handsome young waiter, who within 5 minutes had offered to be my man for the trip, “…just in case you need one!”