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Color Me What? (#199)

My mother was blonde when I was a little girl – courtesy of Clairol. She had been white-blonde as a child, but her hair darkened as she aged. I don’t know whether she was dirty blonde or chestnut, though, underneath her cheap, brassy dye. Everyone assumed blonde was her natural color, however, since she was always surrounded by a horde of screaming towheaded children. We were the perfect camouflage for her unnatural hair.

I hated her dye job. I harangued her about being a natural brunette incessantly. She ignored me. I swore I would never, ever color my own hair, even though my own locks were brown by Junior High.

You know what’s coming, right?

Hellloooo, irony.

When I was sixteen, a friend French-braiding my hair stopped mid-plait. “No way,” she breathed. “Autumn, you’re not going to believe this.”

“It’s not lice, is it?!” I shrieked. “Tell me it’s not lice!” Lice in a household with five daughters and ten feet of hair is a goddamned nightmare, and one my family went through at least four times. If I brought home lice, I was toast.

“No, no, nothing like that. It’s just…I think you have a grey hair.”

“What? No. Can’t be. It’s a leftover blonde one from my childhood.”

“Nope, it’s definitely not blonde. It’s kinda silvery, actually. Catches the light—”

“PULL IT OUT!”

She did, handing it to me immediately. Sure enough, it was a silvery grey hair.

I shared my news at the dinner table that night. “Can you believe this? Who gets grey hair at sixteen?”

Future Doctor Sister snickered. “Too bad. Grey will really show up with your hair being so dark.” She smugly patted her own golden locks.

Stepmother #1 tried to be comforting, saying, “I’m sure it’s just an aberration. You probably won’t get anymore until you’re forty.”

My dad cleared his throat. “Well, actually, she will. It’s genetic.”

“Is this why Mom dyed her hair?” Mom had died two years earlier, or I’d have run howling to her first.

Dad shook his head. “Much as I’d like to blame your mother for this,” which was true, Dad blamed his first ex-wife for everything from crap contraception to crap car selection, “it’s not her genes. My mom was completely grey by the time she was forty.” And then Dad smiled, like he was all proud of those prematurely old genes.

For the next several years, my mischievous baby siblings taunted me mercilessly about going grey.

When I turned twenty-one, my OCD boyfriend pulled out fifty silvery hairs before I insisted he stop.

When I was twenty-five, guys I met on the dance floor were guessing I was at least thirty.

After a particularly bad breakup, I decided to dye my hair. The stylist said, “What color? You’ve got some red highlights naturally, but blonde would be perfect– ”

I said, “Not blonde!”

Courtesy of Maryah Lily’s amazing updos/ before & after Instagram — SweetnDandyHair. (Yes, this is a “before” picture!)

“Then red,” the stylist told me. “It’ll be stunning with your green eyes.”

I became a redhead, which turned out to trickier than the stylist thought. Grey hair likes to grab the orange in most dyes, but orange highlights are only attractive on clowns (and even that’s kind of dubious). My original stylist had to hand me and my orange hair over to a master colorist. It took the master colorist several attempts to turn the orange into a more sedate auburn.

My red hair must have been a pretty good fit, because everyone I met as a redhead assumed it was my natural color.

As my hair got greyer, though, it got harder to keep the orange out. So I went brunette. My grey hair still tried to grab the orange, but my long-suffering stylist eventually tamed my hair to a nice light brown.

But as the grey won the scalp domination war, I wound up with stripe of silver roots between colorings — expensive colorings.

So I gritted my teeth and took the stylist’s suggestion.

I went blonde, which hides my silvery roots better, longer, and cheaper.

I’m an atheist, but you know what?

I still think Mom is laughing her brassy blonde head off somewhere.

Cooking & Competition (#198)

My neighborhood has an annual Labor Day cooking contest. The hostess decides on the type of food, the neighbors cook up their best dishes, and everyone at the party votes for their favorite. The year we moved in, the competition was for the best homemade salsa.

I’m competitive as hell, but I’m not a good cook. Luckily, my husband is an excellent cook, and he makes an amazing homemade salsa.

“Ha-ha,” I carolled. “They may as well hand over that prize now!” Continue reading Cooking & Competition (#198)

Poop & Poison (#197)

You know what’s great about having dogs? Especially big dogs?

I can walk any time without fear. If I’m restless (or pissed at my in-laws) at 10 PM, I grab my dogs’ leashes and away we go. When I’m flanked by 70-90 pounds of dog flesh, people will cross the street to avoid me.

You know what’s not great about having two big dogs when walking 6 miles a day?

Poop. Continue reading Poop & Poison (#197)

White Silence (#196)

White Supremacists rallying in Charlottesville, courtesy of Molly Ruth

The first time I ever heard the n-word, I was in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was nine, walking with my mother and stepfather. Two kids ran past. One called the other a word I’d never heard growing up in Washington, D.C., despite having classmates and friends of multiple races.

My mother pressed her lips into a thin line, then said, “I hate that word.”

My stepfather agreed.

I asked, “What word?” Continue reading White Silence (#196)

Connect the Dots (#195)

You’d think that the most annoying thing about living by a middle school would have been kids sitting on your steps, or littering, or trampling your flowers.

It wasn’t.

It was their parents. Continue reading Connect the Dots (#195)

The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Being an Amazonian brunette sandwiched between prettier, blonder, more petite sisters sucks. More than one guy ditched me after meeting my sisters.

Take the Boy Next Door. I pined after him for the entirety of seventh grade. He finally asked me to the last dance before school ended. Then Older Sister, who lived with Dad (I lived with our Mom) came for the summer. The Boy Next Door told me we were done, because he was in love with Older Sister. Continue reading The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Sex & Injury (#193)

I’m currently sporting a splint on an avulsion fracture. No, it’s not from sex, it’s from an errant soccer ball and not worth posting about. But a month with my mangled finger has reminded me of various other injuries where difficulties about sexual expectations arose…or didn’t. (Ha! Sex pun.)

When I am injured or feel like shit, sex is the last thing on my mind. Continue reading Sex & Injury (#193)

Cracked (#192)

Like most couples, my husband and I divided up our chores based on our abilities. Since my husband was unable to see dirt, I cleaned. Since I was unable to see any problem with eating Kraft Mac & Cheese mixed with Hormel Chili several times a week, my horrified husband cooked. He grew vegetables in the backyard; I maintained planters of flowers in the front.

I walked and trained our rescue dogs. I cleaned the cat litter box. I fed/ vetted/ medicated/ washed all four animals. I did the laundry. I swept the patio and front steps. I mowed the lawn. I washed dishes. With 4 shedding animals, I vacuumed every other day.

Andy washed the cars. Continue reading Cracked (#192)

Ripped (#191)

In elementary school, I was the tallest and the strongest. In 5th grade, I was the only student awarded the Presidential Physical Fitness medal. By sixth grade, I was 5’8,” with size 10 shoes.

By high school, I had crushed all contenders in arm-wrestling. I didn’t see the need to get stronger. But my best friend needed to be able to do a single pull-up in order to make it into the Air Force Academy, and she needed a friend to support her – literally. Every morning before school, I held her up under the pull-up bar in our high school gym until she gained enough strength to manage a pull-up on her own. When it was time for her AF physical, she actually did TWO whole pull-ups and we did about fifty girly squeals together afterwards. Continue reading Ripped (#191)

Dirt (#190)

My husband is particular about his dirt.

Andy in the garden. With beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, kale, and chard.

Andy has a strawberry patch, a greenhouse, and several gardens. The dirt has to be just right for each. He tested our vegetable garden’s acidity and found it wanting. Andy added bone meal. Now our tomatoes never rot on the vine. He deemed the soil in our Southern California neighborhood too sandy and started compost piles to reduce our vegetable waste to richer, more microbe-laden dirt.

When he ordered worms (and special dirt for the worms), I protested, saying we already had TWO compost piles. Continue reading Dirt (#190)