Friday, April 28, 2006
Here is a picture of my palsy pirate face. Arrrgh.
So, when my doctor prescribed prednisone to me, she told me it might make me a little jittery, and make it difficult for me to sleep.
She did not tell me that within an hour of taking my six pill daily dosage, I would be so amped up that I would feel like the walls in my bedroom were closing in on me. Or that my heart would be pounding. Or that I'd feel so fucking irritable that I'd want to push the old asian lady walking too slowly in front of me out of my way, shopping cart full of bottles and cans and all.
I am off work today, and am supposed to be relaxing, trying to rest up and sleep, so that the nerve that was damaged by this bullshit palsy business can regenerate and I can smile again. Sleep, of course, would require an ambien or a valium or at the very least a benadryl, none of which I have on hand.
Instead, I am going to stap on my running shoes and go for a jog. Maybe I'll run to Cape Cod and back-it's nice enough out.
I know this much is true: if I don't leave my house right this instant, I will likely end up shredding apart my pillows or my stuffed animals, like my dog Goldy used to when we left him alone in the house for too long.
Thanks, prednisone, for allowing me to reach previously unachievable heights.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
In one scene, they showed her in the bathroom with mommy, recognizing herself in the mirror, which I find to be one of the cutest moments ever in a young child's life. "Look honey, that's you!" Her mommy said, like any mother talking to any other child, seeing themselves in the mirror for the first time. The little girl got so excited, and waved exuberantly, and squealed with joy. What was she thinking? "Look, that's me! Hey, hot stuff!" Or was she too little get it, and therefore thinking, "oh cool, another baby is in the bathroom! what's up, girl?" In any case, one thing was clear: she greeted her own image with the most innocent, sincere, unadulterated joy, without even the slightest sense that there was anything wrong with her young visage. If I were her mother, I would have sold my soul to bottle that blithe confidence.
Then I would have sold it to the women of the world who spent thousands of dollars on bleaching their hair, smoothing their wrinkles, and flattening their cellulite. Women, like me, who take their working parts for granted.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Here's a picture I took a week or so ago while waiting for the Mathematician to finish shaving so we could make out without my face getting all scratched up. As you can see here, I am smirking, and raising my left eyebrow, because that's the only one I can raise by itself and I think that's cool.
Here is a picture of me after Bells Palsy overtook the left side of my face. I call this Frumpy Palsy Serial Killer.
Okay, so it's not that bad. According to Michael, I still look pretty. Here I'm smirking & I look almost normal. But you can tell my face looks funny, right?
A few weeks ago, while I was writing away in my room in an attempt to tighten up my first stab at actual chapters, my hot gay roommate, Michael, was watching a horrifying/fascinating show on The Discovery Channel. It was called Face Eating Tumors (thought I believe it is now being re-aired as Face Saving Surgery, most likely because of the many bloggers who ranted about the awfulness of the title, and whose posts turn up in a long, angry list when you google the aforementioned appellation.) It was the tragic tale of a little five-year-old Indonesian boy whose face was disfigured by, you guessed it, face-eating tumors. I'm talking tumors the size of golf and tennis balls. I know because Michael kept calling me into the living room to watch, despite my repeated explanations that I don't have the stomach for that type of show.
MICHAEL: Kitty! KITTY! Oh my GOD, Kitty...you have to come watch this.
ME: Ohhh...I can't! I can't watch those surgery shows...you've got the wrong twin, that stuff's for Undercover Brother, not me.
MICHAEL: Oh...oh, ew, that's soooo disgusting...you have to see this! Come on, just come in here for one second!
ME: I can't! It's going to give me bad dreams. Didn't I tell you that I can't even watch the X-Files without having nightmares?
MICHAEL: Look, I know you're busy, writing that book about being all hot and blonde and stuff, but you have to see this...it's intense...
ME: Are you crying???
He had a point. What's five minutes away from the blonde?
The next show, from which we both couldn't tear ourselves away was called Born Without A Face. This show is about a toddler who was, you guessed it, born without a face. Two shows, opposite problems: one kid has too much face, the other doesn't have enough, I see how their program director thinks. This little girl was born with no upper jaw, no cheekbones, no eye sockets, and the corner of her ear is missing. This show is being re-aired as well; you can see for yourself.
After some time, I went crawling back to my room, to write more in my Blonde Log about the sexually harassing comments that I'd heard that day. Comments that this young toddler girl, who walked and talked just like an adorable little cutie, who waved at mommy and was delighted by her own image in the mirror like any other toddler, would probably never hear.
And as for the Indonesian boy, well, I missed that part of the show, but Michael told me that people in his native village screamed and howled and hollered at him when he walked down the street with his daddy, because his deformed, disfigured, grotesque face must be an indication that he was deeply evil.
These shows have stuck with me since that night, long after Michael turned off the TV and went out to meet his boyfriend for a drink, leaving me alone in the apartment to ruminate, long after I closed my laptop for the evening and tucked into bed. I have been thinking constantly since then about how lucky I have it, thanking god (or whomever) that I have two legs when I see a three-legged dog bopping down the street, and reminding myself that I'm fortunate to have a face at all whenever I start to fret over the wrinkle that's forming between my brows.
I've also been thinking about my own vanity, and about the importance of retaining my humility in my quest to see if blondes have more fun. Kind of obsessively, actually.
And now, here I am with my own facial problem. A palsy of my very own.
Monday, April 24, 2006
I am in the bathroom, brushing my teeth.
Gosh, my left molars feel kinda funny... Oh well, must be yet another cavity. Hey, what can I say, I've got soft Irish teeth. Still, if I keep going at this rate, I'm gonna have a grill like Nelly in no time.
I lean over the sink to take a mouthful of water from the faucet, swish around my mouth a little and...
Oops! Water is now everywhere, running down my chin, even dribbling in a few little renegade drops towards my neck, and also sprayed all over the counter in the Mathematician's bathroom.
Ugh. What the hell did I do that for? You'd think I just got a shot of novocaine or something. I don't usually dribble water all down my chin and all over the counter uncontrollably when I spit. I'm so gross.
Examining my face for blackheads in the mirror...
Whoa, look at those brows! Looks like I'm growing a small forest under them. I mean, I know thicker brows are in, but this is ridiculous. I can't handle growing them out, I just can't. Where the F*** are those tweezers. Those hairs are coming out RIGHT NOW. Who cares if I look a little like an old lady, pencil thin brows will be back "in"...eventually.
Pluck...Wow, that wrinkle I was developing between my brows sure looks diminished...Pluck... My new toner is no joke!...PLuck...now if only I could get at that goddamn baby hair right under my left brow...Pluck...goddamn baby hairs...
Lifting my brows in an attempt to wrest an almost invisible little baby eyebrow hair from it's follicle...
Hey...wait a minute...I'm lifting both eyebrows, but...only the right one seems to be going up...
I give myself a little old man wink with each eye, but only the left one seems to want to wink...
Dude, what's going on with my face?
Several hours (and over $80) later, I am walking out of the second CVS I had to visit today to get everything I needed, with a bag full of drugs.
According to my doctor, I have Bell's Palsy, which is a virus, related to the same virus that causes cold sores. Palsy. I have a freaking palsy. Some people get cold sores when they're stressed, I get a palsy.
I am taking:
- prednisone (6 tabs w/ breakfast)
- valtrex (3 a day)
- prilosec, eye drops every hour
- eye ointment for bedtime
- she decided not to make me wear an eye patch (though she thought about it), and
- I was spared having to wear special glasses or goggles,because I promised to wear my prescription glasses all day long
- I may need to take a benadryl in order to fall asleep because prednisone is REALLY speedy
- and I think my glasses are giving me a headache, because I usually wear them so infrequently, so I may also need to take some advil.
I am a mess.
Is this some cruel joke God is playing on me for undertaking such a vain book project?
Saturday, April 22, 2006
For the record, this is indeed basic statistical math that anyone who wasn't totally intimidated by fractions probably could have sorted out on their own. But hey, if East Side Girl can rely on spiceboy to kill the bugs, I think it's perfectly appropriate for me to rely on the Mathematician to sort out little details like statistics.
6 times more likely to be gay than to be naturally blonde. Well how 'bout that.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
About 1 in 3 of us are currently sporting blonde hair.
Because I find statistics infinitely confusing, I'll leave it up to my dreamy Mathematician boyfriend to figure out what those percentages mean in more complex mathy terms. However I do think the moral of that story is that there are many of you out there who are fellow UNDERCOVER BLONDEs. Ladies, I'd love to hear from you. How have you been treated differently since you became a goldilocks? Guys, I'd love to hear from you, too.
By the way, isn't the gay statistic something like 1 in 10? So, does that mean that statistically, you are more likely to be gay than naturally blonde?
Mathematician, please come to my rescue if I am making some sort of dumb (blonde), improbable correlation.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
While walking home to my apartment from my car tonight, a young black man approached me. He was my age probably, maybe a little younger, but not that much. He was wearing normal clothes, I was wearing my day job clothes, so I looked professional, dressy, and cute. I had a long day with a shitty end, which involved the timely death of a book project that I loved (so sad to outlive your children!) and I was in no mood to talk to anyone, friend or stranger. I should also mention that I haven’t had a day off in two weeks, NOT ONE, so I’m tired. Just freaking tired.
So, when he said, “Excuse me. Excuse me, ma’am, hey, excuse me,” I didn’t look up. I didn’t even make eye contact or anything until the third “excuse me,” at which I raised an eyebrow. And when he said “Can I ask you something?” what was my reponse?
“NO.” Then, somewhat softer (but not much), I said: “I’m in a rush.” I then looked down, avoided eye contact, tried not to talk to him for the remaining ten feet or so from the curb to my apartment. He walked beside me and I could feel him struggling for something to get me to pay attention and I just kept walking.
A part of me feels very guilty about this interaction. Very, very guilt. Lots and lots of white guilt.
Another part of me feels proud of myself for what I did. The bottom line is this: I reserve the right to not have to talk to someone, no matter who they are, no matter what the situation. I have not always had full access to the kind of power that enables women to set personal boundaries. Today, however, I did just that.
It’s not like I thought he was going to steal my purse or anything. It was broad daylight in front of a bunch of traffic on Tremont St. My neighborhood might be a tad gritty, but it’s certainly not that gritty. What I really didn’t feel like dealing with, what really made me not want to talk to this dude, or any dude was because I didn’t want to be tricked by him. You see, I am INCREDIBLY gullible. I joke about it, and I like to think that it’s symptomatic of a sort of innocence that people find charming in me (it’s probably also why people often mistake me for stupid, but hey, what can you do.) But I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a man has come up to me and said: "Excuse me miss, excuse me, excuse me, can I just ask you one question?" And when I've said, "Oh, okay, sure, what's uo?" with my eyes wide like a deer in the headlights, he's followed it up by saying something like: "Man, are you looking fine today, can I just talk to you for a minute, damn girl..." and proceeded to just talk to me like I’m a well marbled piece of raw meat that he might decide to buy from his local butcher.
Today, I just couldn’t deal. I wouldn’t deal. When he asked if he could ask me something, I said simply, coldly, “No.”
I wonder what he wanted to ask me, anyway?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
COOL TATTOOED GUY: Hey there, what can I get for you today?
He recognized me! The cool tattooed counter guy recognized me! OMG! I've been coming here for a year and he's never given me the time of day! I wonder if it's the blondeness...? Mental note: write about that in the blog. He's so cool...
ME: (Beaming) I'll have a tall dark roast and a low-fat scone, please.
COOL TATTOOED GUY: The usual...A tall dark roast and a raisin pecan roll...
OMG! He knows my "usual"! I've been coming here for almost a year and he's never known my "usual"! But look! He knows it now! He's poured my coffee..he's walking over to the pile of raising pecan rolls on the counter...Wow! But wait...I don't want my usual today...
COOL TATTOOED GUY: Oh wait, you said you wanted a low-fat scone, right? A low-fat scone, eh? Splurging today, huh?
ME: (Shrugging, Beaming) Hey, it's Friday!
COOL TATTOOED GUY: (Raising one eyebrow and giving me a funny look now) Wait a minute...so, your Friday treat to yourself is a low-fat scone? Heh...(he shakes his head a little bit)...whatever floats your boat.
No...NO, wait, that's not what I meant! Ew, that sounded so anorexic, food neurotic, and LAME! I don't only eat no-fat things all week, then splurge on low-fat things on Fridays! I eat fat things all the time! All kinds of fat things, just ask the Mathematician. Medium fat things, full fat things, the other day I ate cheese and pate for dinner and nary a vegetable. I swear! You've got to believe me!
ME: (Smiling so lamely, face bright red) Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right?
The following Monday, while putting milk (not half n' half) into my coffee, I noticed this quote of the week posted on the chalkboard:
Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
Thanks you, staff of flour, for the reality check. I'll have you know that for lunch that Friday, I ate mozzarella sticks and a smoked turkey wrap layered with cheese and dripping with so much presumably full-fat ranch dressing it would have made you proud.
And god was it good.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The brunette inside of me doesn’t know if she can take this, and wants to run back up the stairs, out of the bar, and down the street to the closest trendy South End mostly-gay bar I can find.
I take a deep breath and remember that my hair is blonde now. That means I fit in here, and to these people that means I am hot. I realize that at Clery’s, my blondeness is my armor, and that if I hold my head up high, and make my face into a blank mask, imitating models on the runway, I can do this. I step gingerly off the last step between the stairs and the basement and begin the hunt for Undercover Brother.
I make one round of the dance floor, sailing through crowd slowly, deliberately. I feel eyes searching my face, again looking for that crack of vulnerability. I make eye contact with no one, careful to look over people’s heads as I nudge and elbow my way through the crowd. I take in the dancers, who are unilaterally sloppy-looking, drunk. They grip and clutch at one another, and 50-Cent is bumping so loud, I couldn’t hear the men who are trying to talk to me if I wanted to. My eyes glance up for a moment, at the ceiling, which reveals exposed pipes, reminding me that this dingy space is indeed a basement. It reminds me of the basement of my childhood, where I’d hide in the dark when playing hide and seek.
There is another bar down here, and eventually I find it. As I reach the edge of the dance-floor, I realize that this is what Dave meant by “in the back,” this is where he was trying to send me in the first place. Far at the other end of the bar stands Undercover Brother, surround by a group of girls and guys I don’t know. As I approach them, the guys look me up and down, with the same consumptive glares I’ve been receiving since I arrived. “Ew,” I think, “I’m Undercover Brother’s sister.” But I’ve never met any of these dudes before, and I am certain they think I am just another available chick, looking to score at the meat-market that is Clery’s.
I push past two guys, who I am later introduced to as Undercover Brother’s friends, and tap my brother on the shoulder. He is flirting with a short brunette, who he later refers to as the “girl with the great rack.” She looks up at me, with glassy eyes, and I see a cloud cross her pretty faces as she takes me in.
“I hate you,” I tell Undercover Brother. This is our standard greeting.
“I hate you more,” he says, and I give him a hug. Then I see his friend Errol, who I’ve me several times, and turn around to give him a hug, too. When I turn back, Undercover Brother is making out with a different brunette at the bar. “Ew,” I say to Errol. Does he know that girl?”
“Huh…kind of,” says Errol, and we shrug at each other. Errol is a Muslim and doesn’t drink, and I have just arrived. I feel instantly bonded to him, in that we are both taking in this scene with clear, un-intoxicated eyes. “I think your brother’s drunk,” he says to me.
“Ya think?” I say, looking at Undercover Brother, who is still lip-locked with the brunette. “Maybe just a little bit. And by just a little bit, I mean totally wasted.”
Finally, Undercover Brother is done sucking face with Stranger Girl (“I had to,” he tells me later, “even though the girl I really wanted to make out with her sister,” who it turns out is the girl he was hitting on when I walked in. “The only way her sister would stay and have another drink was if I made out with Stranger Girl.” Right, because that makes so much sense. Drunk logic, go figure.) He comes back over to where I am standing, talking to Errol.
“Dude, did you lose weight?” he asks me. Then he cracks a smile, “You look, like, thin. Are you anorexic?”
“No,” I say. The truth is, people have been telling me this a lot lately, and I think it’s the hair. Or maybe it’s the slimming cut of these jeans. In any case, often when people say “you look thinner” they mean “you look better”, and this fact is not lost on me, as I conduct my blonde research.
“I think it’s my hair, people keep saying that,” I say. “By the way. do you like it?”
“Umm, the anorexia?” he laughs.
I make a face at him: "NO. The hair?"
“Yeah, dude," he smiles. "It looks good."
"So, do you think I look, like, different as a blonde?" I ask. He is my twin after all, and Undercover Brother is nothing if he isn't deadpan, cut to the chase honest.
"Yeah, you look totally smokin’. I mean, hey, let me put it this way, if you weren’t my sister, I’d totally hit on you.”
“Uch. Ew,” I say, but I can't help but smile, as I think: “Mission accomplished.” In this outfit, with this hair, I have miraculously transformed myself into something I never thought I could be: the kind of girl that my brother would hit on.
I realize that I have successfully crossed over to the other side, I have passed in this seedy other world as the UNDERCOVER BLONDE.
And no one, not even Undercover Brother, is the wiser.
I stand on line for just a few moments before being whisked inside by the nonchalant bouncer. People are crowded around the door—there is a throng of twenty-somethings trying to get in, and a handful of them trying to get out, including two bitchy-looking brunettes, who are trying to nudge their way out on either side of the crowd. I see them coming at me from either side, elbowing and pushing at people, finally whacking me with their skinny arms on their way out the door in a way that is slightly too aggressive: I can’t help but think of it as a brunette on blonde attack. In their defense, they do look really drunk, as though one of them might be rushing out the door to puke and the other might be rushing along after her, to hold her hair. And if that is the case, I guess I can let their aggression go.
The minute I am past the front door of Clery’s I feel like public property. All eyes are on me and it is palpable. But is this because I am a blonde? Or just because I am a woman? I see guys searching my face, much like the guy from the line, looking for a vulnerable crack in the too-cool-for-school exterior I have affected to buffer me from too aggressive drunk guys. When they can’t find the chink in my man-avoidant armor, their eyes travel down the length of my body, taking in my breasts, my hips, my ass in these hint-of-lycra jeans. This is happening on all sides of me, and I can almost feel the gaze of these guys touching my skin: it gives me goosebumps, and not in a good way. “I knew Clery’s was a meat-market, but this is ridiculous,” I think. I feel hunted. I pray that my brother will find me soon.
I am just starting to feel overwhelmed by the task of scouring this bar and looking for my brother, when I notice a ridiculously tall, line-backer of a guy moving slowly through the crowd, like a glacier through icy waters. “Is that Dave?” I think. Dave is a friend of Undercover Brother’s and of mine. We went to high school together, and had advisory (my school’s version of homeroom) together freshman year. “DAVE!” I yell, loudly as I can over the blaring dirty hip-hop and the baritone bellows of the drunk guys around me.
“K-uhr-rsten Ah-menn,” he says, and all of a sudden, I feel like we’re back in the halls of Souhegan High School, as though it’s ten years before this moment and we are meandering up the halls to advisory together. Dave always thought it was hilarious to pronounce my name completely wrong—why would I expect it to change now? I run over and jump on him, give him a big bear hug.
Dave is 6’9”, 350lbs. I bounce off him like a raindrop off of goretex. “I am so happy to see you,” I say. “Where’s my brother?”
“He’s downstairs, by the dance floor, trying to meet chicks.” Dave gestures to a small line that has formed by a flight of stairs leading down into the basement.
“Christ. Another line,” a part of me thinks. This is the brunette underneath it all thinking, my everyday self, the me that hates to wait indefinitely, with no sense of when resolution will come. “Perfect, another line,” another part of me thinks: the research hungry part of me, the morbidly curious part of me, the UNDERCOVER BLONDE self. Something in my face must have betrayed my mixed feelings, because Dave quickly says: “Eh, you won’t have to wait in that.”
The line is about 7, now 8, now 10 people long and growing. The brunette underneath it all feels a surge of insecurity as I watch the line snake around the side of the staircase: “Come down with me,” I say to Dave? But he has is already talking to the bouncer, telling him that I need to get down there, and that I shouldn’t have to wait.
“Dude, she needs to go downstairs,” he bellows, “her brother is down there. You have to let her down.” The bouncer is maybe 5’6”, and has to crane his neck to look up at Dave.
“I can’t do that, you guys gonna have to wait in line,” the bouncer shakes his head, his face a stone wall. He has one arm spread out to his left, as though blocking a throng of people about to surge past him the minute he lets his guard down, and is talking into a walkie-talkie that he holds in his right hand. His eyes dart this way and that in protective paranoia, as though he’s about to get rushed, as though the entire bar is clamoring to get down to the basement, and is he takes his eye of the ball for even just a second, he’ll get trampled. His neck is craned up a Dave, who is at least a foot and a half taller than him, but his face is fierce and tough.
“Dude, her brother is down there,” Dave says emphatically. The thing about Dave is that he’s a pussycat—he’s 6’9” and though the bouncer should be scared shitless of him because of his size, his voice remains that of a gentle giant. “Her brother’s in the Navy. She hasn’t seen him in four years, right, K-urh-sten Ah-man?”
I open my mouth to tell Dave it’s fine, that the line isn’t that long, that I’ll just get behind the other eager drinkers…Then a bold though crosses my mind: why be obedient? All of my life, I’ve been obedient. I never cut the line, at the restaurant, I never seat tables in my section first, I’ve never cheated on a test, even dumb menu quizzes at 647. So maybe, just this once, it’s time for me to be a little bold. I’m blonde, after all, and I need to see if blonde girls get special treatment. Hell, it’s research, right? And besides, the last thing I want to do is stand in another shit line and get hit on by another glassy-eyed B.C./Bowdoin alumn.
I angle my chin slightly down, widen my eyes, form a small pout with my lips. “Yeah,” I say, “Please? My brother is in the Navy…I haven’t seen him in four years.” The bouncer and I are probably the same height in real life, but tonight I am wearing heels, and I tower over him. I toss my hip to one side, and put a hand on the opposite hip, so that I’m closer to his eye-level. With my left thumb and forefinger, I reach for the blonde tendril that has fallen in front of my left eye, and begin to twirl it around my fingers. “Please…?”
The bouncer does not smile. His tone does not soften. He pauses for a minute, thinking. I see his eyes dart above my head, to the right, to the left, as if scouring the area to make sure his boss doesn’t notice. “Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do,” he says, looking at me very seriously, very meaningfully, as though he is about to let me in on some sort of government secret. “You need to give me your I.D. and I’m gonna let you go down there and say hi. You got five minutes to go down and say hi, then you gotta come back up here and wait on line like the rest of these folks. Five minutes, that’s it. And I don’t wanna have to come down looking for you. Got it?”
I exhale deeply—hadn’t realized I was holding my breath. Dave thumps me on the back and disappears into the crowd (as much as a 6’9” 350 dude can disappear in a throng of average-sized people.)
“Oh, thank you so much!” How about that—it worked. “You have no idea how much this means to me. I haven’t seen him in four years,” I gush. I don’t know why I keep saying that—it’s a blatant lie.
“Yeah, yeah…” the bouncer says, and he resumes his protective bulldog stance atop the stairs. I shove my I.D. in his hands and descend the stairs to the basement.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
The answer is an emphatic yes:
Men look at me more.
My friends tell me I look thinner.
My brother, for the first time in my life, refers to me as pretty.
Yes, people treat me differently as a blonde. Friends, family, strangers, but most importantly: me.
I woke up this morning with the startling realization that no matter what I've always said about beauty being within, about beautiful being more than just what they tell us on TV, no matter how I've shunned traditional concepts of beauty, and the whole blonde haired + blue eyes = beautiful thing, somewhere along the line, Sarah Lawrence education and gender studies aside, I completely bought in to all of it.
As a blonde, I feel beautiful, more beautiful than I ever did as a brunette.
I feel powerful, I feel bold, I feel sexy, I feel as though I am part of a long tradition of symbolism, representing desire, sex appeal, power, and danger.
I know that for this project, I will need to dye my hair dark again, darker even than it ever was before. But the problem is this:
I don't think I'm going to want to go back.