My sisters and I spent all our childhood summer vacations with my grandparents in Baltimore, Maryland and my Grandmother had three consistent messages for us:
1. You have to suffer to be beautiful
2. Sit up straight or you’ll get a hump in your back
3. You need to curl the ends of your hair because your Grandfather likes it like that (guilt is a very Catholic thing – we loved our Grandfather)
The suffer part related to having to pluck our eyebrows and other facial hair that sprouts up easily on Italian women. Later it evolved to sitting still while receiving electrolysis to permanently remove the pesky facial hair.
My grandmother had the hardest time with me because I didn’t really care much about looking beautiful because I was a tomboy and only cared about tomboy things. They tried everything to get me to walk, act, and sit like a lady. I made that stupid little ball over my head during ballet lessons until I threw a tantrum and refused to go anymore. I seriously suffered through modeling school including, walking with a book on your head, and measuring my waist (at thirteen) to make sure it was twenty four inches or less – it wasn’t. My dad took pity on me and answered my pleas to please not make me continue. I slump in my chair to this day and don’t have a hump in my back yet.
The last one was truly the worst because the Tony home permanents started at the age of three. Shirley Temple was all the rage, but Shirley Temple was blond, blue eyed and I was not – enough said.
On picture day in first grade as the teacher went from student to student handing out the combs and gently combing her student’s hair, she looked at me in horror and simply placed the comb on the desk. I’m sure she was afraid it would get stuck. I was afraid it would get lost in my nest of hair.
Later on in life I subjected myself voluntarily to perms. Don’t snicker because they were totally hip in the 80’s. Isn’t my kitten adorable.
When I was forty, my workplace was having a guess the baby or grade school picture contest (see picture above at age three). At the time I had moved to a less diverse community that was 99% white in eastern Washington. Needless to say, no-one could guess that I was the little girl with the very curly hair. Everyone wanted to know who that little African American girl was. I was wearing my hair short and completely devoid of curls.
I am grateful for the advice on plucking facial hair because maybe I’m not beautiful, but I don’t think I have the face for a mustache. So grandma if you’re reading this – one of your pearls of wisdom got through because I religiously pluck my eyebrows, upper lip, and chiny chin chin (the result of menopause).
And now a shameless plug for my debut novel Love Forever, Live Forever coming out on April 1st – no joke! It will be available everywhere: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Bella Books and last but certainly not least Affinity E-book Press