Even after all my years as a columnist, I’ve never quite gotten over how good it feels to receive a compliment from a reader.
Lydia, on Capitol Hill, thank you for including a photo with your e-mail. Girl, you are gorgeous! Love the blue highlights!
On the heels of your generosity, I dedicate this month’s writing to you.
See, my hairdresser has been trying for some time to get me to update my cut and color and, finally, I let her have her way — though I rejected her next suggestion, highlights, simply by putting my hand up to hold my ground.
“Stop and ask yourself, Mary Lou,” she said, persuasively, “just what are you afraid of?”
Frankly, it wasn’t the worst idea, and I knew it. I was tempted, then swayed, to at least let her remove the gray strands that run (or used to) directly through my younger and older selves, dissecting my self-image right down the middle, even though I’d been trying to see and accept them as otherwise for some time.
“And,” she said, after all the goop from her cup was gone, “you wouldn’t want to let me do a cut because then you’d look 10 years younger, and no one wants that.”
An hour later, my haircut felt — dare
I say such a ridiculous thing — like a gift from heaven.
It didn’t stop with the hair on my head.
A Vietnamese woman smiled at me from the doorway of a little room off the side of the salon. Minutes later, I lay on a cot, obediently, as she spread hot wax... there, trying to think about something else, anything, like how her nametag said “Kathy” and how it could not possibly be her real name and why didn’t they give Americans more credit for being able to remember names like Quyen.
Then I thought about how “Kathy” and I lived in the same Seattle, yet in completely different worlds, but after she patted my thigh and said, “It hurt a liddle, OK?” with her eyes down, struggling to suppress her amusement because, to my horror, I let out a little squeak after the pat. I couldn’t take the suspense any longer.
“Just do it already!” I yelled. “Pull!” Oh, oh, oh, OUCH!
Notions of a bikini wax not hurting excruciatingly is wishful thinking, believe me, but it’s nearly time for another Thanksgiving family reunion in Hawaii.
You can pick out the women from Seattle by scanning the sand. They are afraid to bare their midriff. We just don’t get enough practice in the sun. It takes more than a week or two for the sun to wiggle in and shake loose our bikini reserve.
“If you stay long enough, you eventually give in,” my one friend living in Hawaii told me on the phone, the whole subject of bikinis coming up when I proudly told her about my wax. “After weeks of sitting on the beach next to women of all ages from France and Italy and Spain and Brazil and Mexico and Russia and, of course, Hawaii,” she explained, “you eventually go to the mall and spend the afternoon trying on two-pieces.”
“Honestly, I long ago discarded my last bikini notion,” I said.
“If you stay longer, your two-piece blossoms into a bikini, and that’s your Lady Gaga moment.”
“You’ll have to fill me in on what that means,” I said, because I did not keep up with current trends in pop music. My Pandora station is solid Motown.
So she sang the lyrics to me — not just one chorus, but two: “I’m beautiful in my way/’Cause God makes no mistakes./I’m on the right track, baby/I was born this way./Don’t hide yourself in regret./Just love yourself, and you’re set./I’m on the right track, baby,/I was born this way.”
I knew the song! I thought it was Madonna singing.
I put my hand on my stomach. “Oh, for the courage in which to expose you to the world,” I whispered.
The next day, I made my way to Macy’s to get a head start on the process.
MARY LOU SANELLI’s latest book is “Among Friends.” Visit her website: www.marylousanelli.comTo comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@ nwlink.com.