This is what a former colleague of mine said to me when I ran into him at the grocery store on Friday night. And he couldn't have known how happy that statement made me.
It was very, very nice to see Brian at Shaw's on Friday. Brian was my supervisor when I was an intern at Beacon Press back in 2003, which feels like 100 years ago now. We do this periodically--he'll pop into Tremont or I'll drop him an email by way of saying hello, and we'll catch up in a cursory way. Last time we spoke I was still acquiring books at my last job, still working at Tremont to pay the bills, and trying to call in a favor and get my friend an internship. That was maybe last March?
This time when I saw Brian, I was rushing through the aisles at the grocery store, trying to find pancetta and bucatini in preparation for the Amatriciana dish I was preparing for a special dinner with the Mathematician--our mini-Christmas before he departed to California for the holidays. I caught a glimpse of Brian out of the corner of my eye as I ran from the pasta aisle to the bacon section (yes, Shaw's has a sepcific refrigerated area labeled "BACON"), by my brain didn't register who he was until I was many, many grocery store aisles away. By then, it seemed the opportunity to make small talk had passed...until I walked right by him in the candy aisle, on my way to the check-out counter.
"Hi!" I said, walking right up to he and his partner, with a very big friendly grin on my face.
"Um...Hi," he said, casting a sidelong to his partner that said, 'Why is this crazy girl STARING at me???' Then, a second later, he realized who I actually was and said the magic words:
"Oh, it's you! How are you? I didn't recognize you...you're so blonde!"
And I felt so proud of my blonde hair. I mean, it caused him to do a double take, to stop mid-sentence, and even cast a dubious sidelong glance to his partner because he didn't know who the fuck I was! My blondiness baffled him! I was--am--so elated by this that it didn't even occur to me until now, as I sit down to write about the effect my blonde hair had on this scene, that in my mind the very, very artificial color of my very, very blonde hair overshadowed ALL of the other life changes and accomplishments that have shaped the past three years of my life. I of course filled Brian in on the latest news--my career change, my fabulous new life as a cookbook publicist, how happy I am that I no longer had to commute every day, how much I ADORE my new boss and my fun new job. But as I was chatting away, all I could think about was how I couldn't wait to go home and write in my blog about Brian's confusion and his inability to recognize me as a blonde. Even as I stood there rattling on about my career and my life changes I felt that Brian's bafflement was somehow proof positive that my theory about going blonde is true--it has made me different.
But really, my hair is about the LEAST significant thing that has changed in my life since I last worked with Brian. Since I left Beacon Press I have:
- Gotten my first publishing job (my first REAL job) as an editorial assistant
- Been promoted in that job and learned how to be a book editor
- Grown dissatisfied with my job as an editor and quit
- Started a new career as a publicist
- Started writing a book
- Survived the demise of my engagement, a slow collapse which included: years of patient waiting, hundreds of hours of personal & couples therapy, even more hundreds of hours of arguments, and gallons of tears
- Supported my mom as she battled breast cancer
- Supported my dad as he battled a myriad of heart problems
- Fallen hopelessly in love with a Mathematician who whisked me away to Prague twice and Italy once
Yet the blonde thing is the thing I cherished most about seeing Brian? Am I a little too obsessed with the project? Or just in the habit of underselling myself? Or is it maybe that I've just got the whole thing twisted...that being blonde hasn't made me different at all, rather, that being different is what made go blonde?