Perspective helps. A healthy perspective. Mostly, I've been walking around my house thinking about car bombings in Basra and insurgents with heavy weapons in Fallujah and trains colliding in North Korea.
That's why my problem doesn't matter. Does not matter! So what if I am Shoe Polish Head? So what?
I am looking in the mirror. I am trying to believe my husband. "It's not that bad," he says.
Here's the thing. If you find yourself comparing your hair to car bombings and colliding trains, it's bad.
It doesn't matter. Does not matter! Because whenever I do get the nerve to go out of this house without a hat on, I will go with pride. People will poke fun at me, and I will hold my head high. I am bigger than bad hair! Because in this world there are hostages and there are wrongly convicted people and there is bound to be an earthquake somewhere soon.
"It's really not that bad," my husband says to me again. I appreciate it. But for his own safety, I think he'd better just stay away. Woe is the husband stuck in the house with a wife in hair crisis.
I did it myself. It was a moral choice. There are more meaningful things to do with three hours than spend them at a hair salon, I reasoned. I felt bad about Christine, my hairdresser of some 10 years. By learning to do it myself I would, in essence, be dumping her. I bought the irresistible Starlight Soft Ash Blonde. I poured the goo on, waited, rinsed, blow-dried, and when I looked in the mirror it was only for a second because it hurt. It actually hurt my eyes, like orange Day-Glo paint.
Then I called Christine to confess, to plead for mercy. But the salon said, "She's out of town for a week." I tried to process this information. I took a deep breath. There has not, I thought, been a death in my family. Nor do I need a root canal, and my cat has not been hit by a car.
If you work hard enough at it, you can fill up a whole day of horrible things that haven't happened to you. Then you start running out.
"I have an idea," I say to my husband. I put on a baseball cap, grab my car keys. "I need to go to the store."
"Don't!" he says. "Don't do it!"
I return with a kit to make highlights and another to make lowlights. You paint this stuff on. You can put it exactly where you want it, thanks to the "Free-Form Highlighting Comb." I can disguise the bright orange. I can allow that orange to shimmer through at only the right intervals, making my hair look as natural as a field of wheat. I won't have to compare my head to car bombings anymore. I can get out of this mess.
"Hold the Highlighting Comb so that the handle points straight towards the floor, and slowly stroke it through 1-2 sections of the hair," the directions say. I'm confused by that word "sections." How big is a section? "Do not go back over the stripes you have already created." Um, is a "stripe" the same as a "section?" I work through these issues on my bangs and above my ears. "Don't forget the back."
I can't see the back. How am I supposed to do the back? I call in the husband.
"I don't want to do this," he says.
"I am your wife," I say, "and I can't see the back." I hand over the Highlighting Comb. "Fill the chamber, aim straight towards the floor." I tell him about sections and stripes.
He begins his work. I can see him in the mirror concentrating. He has his tongue stuck out to one side. "You," I say, "are a good husband." I think this boosts his confidence. Soon he appears transported. "I'll clip up some of these top sections so I can get under and give this area some depth," he says. He starts talking "texture" and "movement," and at one point he says, "I need more product over here."
He is going hairdresser on me. I am trying to decide if this is a good thing. Does a woman want her man to be in charge of her hair, or is this more of a church/state thing?
"Okay, I'm done," he says. "Voila!" I turn around, hold up a hand mirror and what I see are: ribbons. Not sections, not stripes, but thick ribbons of product. At least that's my interpretation. He looks at my work on the front. "Why did you make your stripes so thin?"
I've got pinstripes in the front, ribbons in the back. This is not a head with one central vision. Definitely a two-artist head. I rinse, blow-dry, and when I look, I don't cry. Car bomb, train wreck, monsoon, plague of locusts.
"It's not that bad!" he says.
"Honey, I have a striped-orange head."
"Oh, that's just the henna," he says. "You'll see, that will fade in a few days."
Henna? Where is he getting this? "You're a good husband," I say. Let's just leave it at that.
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.