Archive for the ‘First world problems’ Category

the downswing
July 12, 2010

Another family event, another teary emotional breakdown and series of embarrassing missteps that you think would score me a thanks-but-no-thanks anti-invite to these things by now.

Alas, no.

There was the 7 a.m. wake up call, immediately followed by the two-hour long mini van ride that got me up to Long Island while simultaneously sending my back to sixth grade, seeing as it was driven by Dave’s parents and filled with the screeching voice of his 13-year old brother. There was the arrival at Mac’s Steakhouse in Huntington for the grand event – Dave’s grandma’s 80th birthday party – and the arrival of yet another massive fight with The Boyfriend That Gets Me Invited To These Things In The First Place. We’re good with timing like that.

The absence of Christie Lee was more than balanced by the presence of Dave’s sister’s new boyfriend (you knew this was coming), who, despite being Catholic, more than wowed the crowd with his good manners and good looks and, in the case of Dave’s father, Republican sensibilities. Only time will tell if he and his ability to weather the 13-year-old’s high-pitched antics are in it for the long run.

And then there was me, clad in a full-skirted, bright green retro-inspired Anthro concoction, tearing up just in time for the big surprise arrival, over something Dave said; tearing up again after lunch, over something Dave’s grandma said; tearing up later that night once we arrived back at the apartment, over the spontaneous combustion of my pearl necklace, which decided to deposit its petite white globes all over our living room carpet.

I’ve been in a bit of a mid-summer funk, if the lack of posts here haven’t given it away, a mind-set that mixed with Saturday’s activities about as well as tequila shots on an empty stomach. The fact that Dave’s Grandmother Who Says What She Thinks (a character trait that surely I, of all people, should be able to get behind) actually said what she thinks shouldn’t surprise me, shouldn’t set me off. The fact that one of her random old lady friends (“I think we’ve met before,” she said, immediately prompting a flashback to those random old ladies I spilt wine all over at Dave’s brother’s bar mitzvah) decided to give me a 10-minute lecture about how my industry is dying shouldn’t send me to the bathroom with mascara streaked across my cheeks. But it did.

I’ve been kind of a wreck these last few weeks.

I’m trying to get it under control, both by tackling the actual things going on behind the scenes that are there for the tackling, and just by trying to take a deep breath and let go of the things about which I can do nothing. Instead of, you know, trying to solve them with my worrying. A strategy that almost universally fails.

Besides, there’s always a silver lining, even after the back-fired attempt to join in on a family activity (I was trying to be nice!) and the not-so-welcoming responses (Dave’s grandmother to me: “I barely know you.” What does it take to get these people on your side?) and the lunch where they took away our wine glasses before the bottles of red and white even made an appearance.

We were back at Dave’s grandmother’s house, winding down from the party and saying our goodbyes, when she, The Outspoken Octogenarian herself, thanked me for the thoughts I shared at the luncheon, as the microphone was making its rounds. I had spoken of how adventurous and courageous I thought she was, traveling the world, making my India vaca look like a piece of cake (for reals, she’s one crazy AARP member.)

“We should go on a trip together,” she told me, to vigorous nodding.

“What about me?” Dave’s mom interjected. “I spoke too.”

“You’re too hard to please,” his grandmother responded. “Sorry.”

Say what, Grandma Lottie?

Screw the sibling significant others; I think I just bested my boyfriend’s mom.

I just might be able to make it in this family after all.

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Curly Sue
March 8, 2010

The first time Amruta came to my parents’ house in Connecticut, she was fascinated by my seventh grade school portrait.

It sits in a large frame in our family room – a blown-up, close-up snapshot of me in all my 13-year-old glory. My eyebrows are bushy. My skin is pale, nearly translucent, dotted here and there with a stray pimple, made all the more obvious by my inept use of a CVS concealer stick. The rubber bands on my braces match my striped Old Navy cardigan (not a coincidence – I’ve always been completely committed to outfit coordination, no exceptions for orthodonture.)

Most notable though, is my hair: dark, pouffy, frizzy, evidence of the lifelong battle I had just begun to wage against my curls.

Age 6. Apparently OK with my locks.

A few months after seventh grade picture day, my friend Bridget tweezed my eyebrows for my bat mitzvah. Then the braces came off. I learned how to correctly use a blowdryer; I learned how to correctly use Jergens Natural Glow moisturizer. I sacrificed my sixteenth birthday present in the name of auburn highlights, and I discovered the wide world of flat ironing – in Amruta’s freshman dorm room, actually.

Age 20. Addicted to the flat iron. Also, a little chubby - but that's neither here nor there.

And that’s how I looked when Amruta first saw my seventh grade portrait, the summer after our sophomore year of college: skin a little tanner than it should have been, hair a little lighter than it should have been and nary a curl in sight. So I guess it wasn’t so surprising that she was struck by the picture.

“You look so…Jewish,” she said. I think some Holocaust jokes were made; maybe the nickname Rifka was thrown out there. I laughed it off.

But it actually was a pretty significant thing for me, a pretty big part of who I was. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be different, to look different – and that meant lighter, straighter hair. I remember falling asleep as a little kid, twisting a lock around my finger, convinced that if I could just make it a little softer and smoother, I’d wake up blonde.

It’s totally weird, I know. But to me, my hair represented all the things that separated me from most of the people in my school and my town: my religion. My parents. My looks.

Most of this was completely perception – after all, we’re right next to Westport, it’s not totally devoid of Jews. And while African American women often find their hair style of choice to be infused with political undertones, my curls definitely didn’t carry the same weight, weren’t as tied to my ethnicity. Still, I somehow came up with this image of what was right and pretty and perfect and it definitely didn’t have room for ringlets.

So I straightened it. Nearly every day, for nine years.

I wish I could say that one day I woke up and was all, I’m going to embrace who I am and make peace with my body and my genetics and stop wasting hours in front of a mirror with a round brush. But it didn’t really go down like that.

What happened was that my hair started getting damaged, looking flat. My highlights started getting expensive.

So I decided to lay off the styling a bit.

I still can’t really handle leaving my hair totally curly. But I’m ok with wavy now, with letting it almost entirely air dry, especially in the cold, dry winter weather. I’ve retired my flat iron. I haven’t colored my hair in nine months. And I’ve started to realize: hey, this is what I’m supposed to look like. There’s a reason my hair is this color, this texture. It’s me. There’s no point in fighting it anymore.