Thursday, May 21, 2015

Planting Gardenias.

Y'all, I'm growing my first gardenia plants ever. See below.

It's already blooming! I'm trying not to eat it. Just kidding -- I'm way too proud to eat the fruits of my gardening labor!

Mountain Jam.

Sunday night I got back from an important solo trip to the mountains of North Carolina, where I spent a long weekend at a writing conference hosted by The Sun, one of my favorite magazines that Anna introduced me to. It was an epic experience.

The workshops I took on poetry and nonfiction opened my eyes to some things I needed to know about myself as a writer. My writing isn't emotional enough! Who knew, right? But hear this: I was sitting in the workshops, feeling all proud and junk of what I'd written (and it was good; don't get me wrong) but I realized that my fellow writers and my instructors were moving each other with their words, even shocking each other, in a way that I wasn't. Their stuff was raw; mine was magazine ready. 

I'm not saying that my job has everything to do with it, either. I think I've put up a wall around myself  and my writing when it comes to emotional intimacy for a long time. I can be real in my tiny purse journal or my regular journal at home, but I knew I was getting ready to read the fruits of our workshop prompts to everyone in those conference rooms. Thus, I'd groomed my stuff for consumption. There was even a point when I realized I'd written in the 3rd person while everyone else wrote in the 1st! The prompt was to talk about a moment in my life that hurt me deeply -- clearly I was protecting myself from it. 

Anyhoo, despite learning that my writing has a long way to go, this trip empowered me. I drove down the dark, scary, winding mountain roads and stayed on the side of a cliff all by myself. I mingled with strangers and navigated through Maggie Valley, Little Switzerland and Black Mountain without friends. Every time I go on one of my little adventures with just me, myself and I, I get a little more used to the fact that I might be alone forever. And it might be all right. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Business in the Front?

Yesterday I got a keratin treatment on my hair, which consisted of three hours in a salon chair so my expert hairdresser could slather my frizzy, unruly mane with keratin protein, sit me beneath a scorching dryer and flat iron each strand. It took a while. During that time I read a chapter or so of Great Expectations, took really awkward selfies of myself in my salon cape (and deleted them) and thought about how people were going to react to my hair -- and how I was going to hate it.

My whole life -- well, since puberty -- I have had naturally curly, frizzy, ridiculous hair. Since my personality is ridiculous, it always made sense in a way. I got ridiculed relentlessly in middle school and high school; now I'm repeatedly asked why I don't straighten it as an adult.

But here's the thing: I don't even like my hair straight. I've worn it straight numerous times, even bought a flat iron, but each time I do it, I feel let down. I do like my hair after I hot roll it, which is why I did the keratin treatment. My stylist promised me more manageable locks.

The keratin treatment from yesterday will not keep my hair poker straight for the coming months. On Sunday I'll be able to wash it and retain my natural texture -- just tamer and less frizzy. But meanwhile I have to deal with the compliments. I admit I deserve this because I put up a photo of myself with stick straight locks yesterday. Now, i have about 70 likes on the picture, about 30 comments, plus text messages telling me "i look great." Not to mention the people who see me in person. One person even called me on the phone.

Here's a short list of the things I've heard:

You should keep it that way! 

You look SO pretty! Your smile really pops now! 

Wow! Looks fabulous! 

Woah!!!!! Looks great! 

So pretty! 

You look like a different person! 

Please understand that if you recognize your remark on this list, I'm not complaining about your compliment. It's just that, well, a girl has to be somewhat courageous to wear her hair naturally curly in this world. She has to understand that most people don't like unruly, uncontrolled hair. Just look at the media, where everyone has well-crafted waves.

Knowing all this, it's still a tough pill to swallow after your flattened hair gets rave reviews and you realize people think you look like a disheveled hippie on a regular basis. And it makes me question why my identity is so closely related to my hair. Not just because y'all think it is, but even because I make it that way.

After all, i'm still the same dorky Denise with these shiny, smooth tresses. I still wear my heart on my sleeve to an absurd extent. I still take photographs of moths outside the office, then catch them on my hand.

I'm still a weirdo, whether my hair is normal or not. So y'all don't get too excited.