Thursday, June 2, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Flaming Red

"Okay, so what are we doing today?"

I release my hair from its lank ponytail and gaze into the mirror. Dark caverns attack my face. Dry, chapped lips. One rogue hair sprouting from my chin. It feels wrong for me to be here, in this place of jojoba infused conditioning treatments. I find myself apologizing.

"Sorry I didn't wash my hair. Paul didn't get home until late, and the boys were...." I trail off, as I catch Natalie glance at a picture of her boy, Landon. Her boyfriend is presently deployed, and she cuts hair while her mother babysits. He smiles at her from his place on the mirror, clutching his beloved Tow Mater.

I feel, once again, like such an asshole. My life isn't hard. I don't work. I mean, yes, I am home with the boys, and that is work. I plan adventures and pack sliced strawberries in the lunch sack. Boxer shorts are folded and placed in drawers. Little fingers curl around mine as we cross busy streets.

And yet, on days like today,  I feel invisible.

Natalie lifts my hair in small pieces, examining her craft. "Are we doing the short bob again? That is the best cut on you. And what about color?" Her eyebrows lift, waiting.

The words release,  "I want you to dye my hair FLAMING red."

I laugh, twisting my fingers under the cape. "I mean, it's just hair, right?"

Natalie frowns. She flips a few strands, examining my roots with scientific precision. "Red is one of the hardest colors to stick. Do you plan on swimming a lot this summer?"

I nod, "Just bought a summer pass." If my boys don't burn off energy in the water, I cannot be responsible for the subsequent damage to the upholstery.

"Hmmmm. If we did red, you would need to get touch-ups probably every two months."

She knows me. The last time I cut my hair was around Christmas. It is now late May. I came to the appointment late, sitting in the car with the boys, waiting for Paul to relieve me. I almost had to cancel.

"I mean," she adds, "I think it could But I'm not sure if you would be happy with it." She speaks with the confidence brought by  full schedules and glowing referrals.

The image of my vibrant, red-headed self sputters, an engine stalled. "Okay," I say, "I need something. What do you think I should do?"

She purses her lips, and says, "We could do some auburn lowlights? Maybe add a bit of spice to it?"

I nod. "And the same bob, please."

She grins. I know she loves doing a razor cut.

She returns with the mixed color, and we talk about children, if we're going to Rehoboth, and how hot it is. This is our summer conversation. At my other appointment, we talk about children, our Christmas shopping, and how cold it is.

I want to tell her that I dream about returning to work, of being something more than a professional snack dispenser/sparring partner. I want a classroom. Dress clothes. Adrenaline.

But I also want to drink my coffee at the kitchen table while the boys draw. To swim in the Chesapeake until we are properly brined and pruny. To fill the hours with puzzles and Curious George.

I want everything for me and everything for them. Or at least really amazing hair.

Soon we're drying and styling. The cut is sleek, and my cheekbones come out of hiding. The color? It's brown. I pay over a hundred dollars to have really nice, low-lighted, subtle brown hair.

Natalie says, "It's better for people to see a beautiful face than a loud hair color, don't you think?"

I nod, "I think so."

But inside, there are flames of red still burning, still waiting to meet the air.

This week's Red Dress Club asked us to write about what our character wants most. All feedback is appreciated. I've attempted to remain in present tense, which is a struggle. Please don't hesitate to let me know if I strayed.


Cat said...

I have a hankering to go back to my college purple hair/nose ring days, but corporate life... I feel some of what you feel from the other side. Great writing.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Well, I bet it looks great Nancy! Interesting take on the prompt this week!

I once dyed mine cherry red. It was shocking. People about fell over when I came to work afterwards.

Kim said...

What a telling moment of the life of a SAHM. I loved the juxtaposition of feeling invisible with the desire for flaming red hair. Your writing talent always leaves me in awe and envy. And also you expressed exactly what I feel about the cost of hair these days. I've been dying my own for the last few months. $100 is crazy to spend on my hair anymore. Especially when the gray starts showing a mere three weeks after I've dyed it.

CDG @ Move Over Mary Poppins! said...

You said last night that you were stuck, and then go and write something poignant and realistic and what the heck are you doing in my brain?

I didn't notice any tense issues, and the conversation sounds exactly like mine with Elisha, my stylist who is ten years younger and a hundred years more fashionable than I.

Anonymous said...

Bad hair dye (and day!) last time I went to my colorist. Flaming red (not pretty, just flaming) came out of nowhere and we were both shocked. She had to start over and I ended up being there over 3.5 hours and came out with 2 shades darker brown than I wanted.
Girl, I am "skeered" to go back and my roots are already showing the need!
Loved this story!

Elaine A. said...

You make me want to be a better writer. You are an inspiration. And this piece flows so well and so many of us can relate, I'm sure. I know I can!

p.s. I say try the red. I did and I loved it! ;) Of course now I'm too chicken to go back...

p.s. 10th paragraph down, I think you might have a typo at "to the my upholstery."

Paul said...

This is awesome. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

You knock it out of the ballpark every time, my friend. Your writing is so natural and engaging. I never get tired of reading here.

PS I've been all shades of red. It just fades away but that flame inside you won't. : )

Formerly known as Frau said...

I really love the way you write! Your flame will come out in other ways! When we lived in Germany any and every color was worn I remember seeing more shades of red and pink known to mankind. Once saw a lady with white bangs and black hair now that was freaky.

erin margolin said...

um, you were supposed to post a pic with this, silly! i wanted to see the new 'do!

i've always wanted to put a few streaks of hot pink in my hair. not permanent, obviously, just a little something fun.

but i can relate to the desire for red.
this piece was impeccable.

Anonymous said...

I just said today I wanted to go red...and then decided strawberry blonde might make more sense. I think you've given me some courage...maybe I will go red!

And very sweetly written! Loved it!

Joann Mannix said...

Sometimes, I ache, physically ache when I read something that is just so gorgeous, so full, so eloquent. I've got that ache right now.

The longing you captured in your short, powerful piece was so palpable. Maybe, because I longed for both of those worlds, too, especially when they were young and some days were nothing but maddening and the next day was joyous in its sweet simplicity.

I think this is my favorite of far.

Really beautiful, Nancy. Now, I'm going to go read it again and maybe again and again.

Kristy said...

Beautifully written. I love this line:
I want everything for me and everything for them. Or at least really amazing hair.

AND the last line.

So relate-able - the daily angst, yet set among words that really work.

Ash said...

I'm with Joann. And it might be the glass of red, but I also have tears. That desire - to be noticed for something other than snack dispenser. Yes, that would be nice.

The other night I commented to G about the beautiful women in the Miami stands during the NBA finals. He looked at me and said "there's beautiful women right here in Dallas." I swooned until Oldest said - "you mama! when you cover up this (pointing to the scar on my face) and wear your hair and..." he shut up about then.

I wanted to show him pictures of my in expensive suits and new highlights that I used to get touched up every 6 weeks, but he's right. I hit the hairdresser on Saturday. I've already tried red, not good. Maybe really blonde :)

Your writing is so good. So good.

Coby said...

I just love this! Especially the line "the image of my vibrant, red-headed self sputters, an engine stalled." The longing that has been stifled (perhaps again? Because SOMEONE ELSE isn't sure?) is so apparent.

Natalie doesn't HAVE to be happy with it. Girl, go red.

You once told me about breastfeeding: "It's just food."

I say, "It's just hair!" Go for it!

Although that's where the analogy breaks down. Hair and breast milk are vastly different. ;-)

Yuliya said...

Oh I love, I love...this in particular "properly brined and pruny" just delicious. And I want the character to fight harder, but then again I love the humor at the end, paying all that money for brown. Nicely done.

Galit Breen said...

Oh Nancy, your souls slays me.

Yes, this desire to be seen. To be right there "in it" where we are but to stride right out into MORE. I get this.

The flaming red hair? A perfect analogy and example.

And your writing? Absolutely divine.

Perfectly crafted moment in time.


Jen said...

Ooh, this is so good!! I didn't want her to cave, I wanted her to have her red hair!! This was so so good!!

Erin said...

Ummm Pic? =)
I did the red....maybe not "flaming" but I went from always being a blond to being Red that always fades back to it's blondish roots

Definitely think it would be something to try....just for fun!

Gretchen said...

Cute story. I say try the red hair, you don't have a professional job where you can't. The boys aren't old enough to be embarrassed, they might think its cool. And like the stylist said, it won't last long. If you love it, you can always do it again!

Cheryl said...

This is amazing, Nancy. Truly. Absolutely one of your best. I've been having similar thoughts, lately, of being invisible. Especially at my age and current position in life.

I would love to see you translate THIS kind of writing into fiction. It comes so much more naturally to you. Everything flowed. You captured your vulnerability so beautifully.



Kir said...

one of my favorites of yours, really. I can just see you sitting in that chair, the red so tempting.

I feel that way too, to just want "Something" that says "THIS IS ME" inside, this is how I feel.

It was so descriptive and wonderful. I hope you know how VISIBLE you are to me. ;)

Anonymous said...

I was red for several years in my other life... now I'm getting blonder as I get older.

The writing here is great - but you forgot the photo!


christine @ quasiagitato said...

This piece cut right to my core. I know this woman, have been this character, maybe still am. Why do we let people talk us out of things we really want to do? Especially things that can be undone if we decide it was a mistake? Beautiful piece.

Susan said...

I know this character so well. So many of us moms have been there or are there, wanting both to be their own person with a life of their own and be able to be home with their children so they can give them everything they need. And isn't that the truth about women and hair! How many of us think a new hairdo is going to fix everything, make us feel better about ourselves? Loved this!

MiMi said...

I like it. It makes me wanna get my hair colored. :) Maybe the red would work during the winter...not during swim season.

dosweatthesmallstuff said...

Your approach on this week's writing prompt is interesting and relate-able! I really enjoyed your writing... underneath the surface there was honesty, self-doubts (and we all have them!!!), and most importantly that fiery spirit waiting to come out. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Looking forward to reading more from you.

Anonymous said...

new to red dress ... haven't written for it yet, but wanted to comment that I loved this piece ... beautiful.

Anonymous said...

That was fantastic. Really. I 100% get it.
Came from TRDC.

Anonymous said...

This was utterly amazing. You've hit on a part of every mother, every woman really, that craves something red. Something a little wild. Something free.

Amazing job!

Kristin @ What She Said said...

This is beautifully written. I've been that girl in the chair. I think every woman has. And you illustrated it so perfectly.


Incredible! So glad you were "picked" by TRDC. I didn't get a chance to come by last week and I would have missed out on a GREAT story had you not been chosen. I cannot relate to being a mom, but I can relate to wanting something outrageous and going with practical instead.