My mother used to deal with my unrewarding hair by stuffing it into a cardboard tube on top of my head and cutting straight across for a Björk bowl. I saved my sister Claire from those horrors and spent hours plaiting her hair and painting her nails when she was little. These days she is Red Adair to my beauty disasters. She herself is groomed and glowing, and now freshly-LASIKed too. I am dishevelled after months in the wild, and wearing the same outfit I wore the last five times she saw me. So she takes me in, plonks me on the Corbusier ponyskin lounger with a stack of _People_ magazines, and rolls up her sleeves. I’m a project.

She plucks my eyebrows by the kitchen window (we vowed to give up waxing after The Incident, when she accidentally removed most of her left eyebrow). I am not brave enough for Epilator torture, unlike her, so she gives me her boyfriend’s razor (“He won’t mind!”) to shave my legs, which have run wild and free since my last visit. Then we try to dye my hair back to its natural brown, covering the brassy red that has plagued me since Mexico. I am too cheap to go to a hairdresser, so she limits damage at the back while I hack at the front with a nail scissors like a teenage girl in an asylum. Then I play with her makeup box, a candystore of blushers and glow powders and fancy lipsticks. Brow gel! Benetint! Cheek Dew! Oh my.

We go and play in her wardrobe. I am reduced to fashion by proxy these days, and am thrilled to get to try new miniskirts and mod tops. I curse at the old Seven jeans I lent her when I left New York: not only can I not fit into them, I can’t imagine what shadow of my former self could. Did I steal them from the Hilton sisters? I know these jeans are So Over anyway, but I don’t enjoy the evidence that the over-thirty sag ‘n’ spread has begun. I curse again at Claire’s shoes, which are two sizes larger than mine so that I clomp around in them like her step-kids.

Finally I pick out a highly glamorous outfit for our big night in. I am leaning on the kitchen counter, reading a magazine and waiting for Claire to heat up the Vietnamese takeout, when Glen passes through.
   “Whoops, I nearly swatted ya on the ass just there,” he says, “You look just like Claire.”
That makes me very happy. Though the truth is I feel like a drag queen.

2 thoughts on “Hairspray”

  1. Holy smokes.. You had me totally confused there for a minute.. I never even gave a thought to the fact that you might not be a guy.. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything indicating one way or another — I just assumed.. Lesson learned — never assume! For that, I give you even more kudos for living the challenge of the outdoors.. Keep up the great writing!


  2. Yes, definitely female, last time I checked–though gender is in doubt today as I spent most of it in a brown boiler suit, safety boots and watch cap, moving a woodpile and dismantling an outbuilding. I’m a long way from my former Manhattan gloss.


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