©2020 by Lisa Alex Gray

Updated: Aug 7, 2019


Illustration by Lisa Alex Gray

You know how they say, puberty can be an awkward time?


Well, at age twelve, I decided my life wasn’t hard enough, so I took it up a notch.


I was staring at my face in the mirror one morning, when I came to the conclusion, that all my current problems could be blamed on my hair.


It used to be a pretty shade of blonde, but in a cruel twist of fate, the closer I got to becoming a teenager, the darker and more mousy brown my hair got.


I was certain entering my teen years in such a state, would be hair suicide.



From Lonely to the Life of the Party


The next morning over a bowl of King Vitamin cereal (like he was really a king) I addressed the problem with my mom.


She responded to my dilemma the same way she always did, by smiling and saying, “You’ll be fine. It’s all a part of growing up.”


Well, that thought made for sweet sentiment, but it never really solved any of my problems.


Then the answer to my problem came to me, one Saturday morning, while watching an episode of American Bandstand.


I saw a commercial about a sad looking girl all alone at the beach. Then she sprayed Sun-In Hair Lightener on her hair and became the life of the party.


It was just the answer I had been looking for.


Let the parental manipulation begin.


I admit, this was going to be one of my more challenging arguments. Hair lightening at age twelve was not standard issue.


However, there was always an angle that I could exploit, usually involving statements like, “nobody likes me and I have no friends”, accompanied with ongoing sobbing.


In no time mom and I were off to Walgreen’s Drug Store on our very own little mother daughter Hallmark moment to buy me my a bottle of my life changing tonic.



On my return home I rushed to the bathroom with my bag in hand, flicked on the light, slammed the door, and locked it.


Before I could get the product out of the bag, my mom had caught up with me and was attempting to open the door. “Lisa, why don’t you let me help you with that honey?“.


“I’ve got it mom.” I replied annoyingly thinking, do they ever cut the cord?


I hate to break the news to you mom, but this is going to be a solo mission. I could see her feet under the door, and hear her breathing as she determined what her next cause of action would be.


Then she called out, “Well, just call me if you need any help.” and stepped away from the door.


Success, I was on my own, and by the way, it’s about time people.



Sun In Commercials Here I Come


I turned to focus on the mission at hand and decided the best course of action was to read the directions on the box.


I pulled the product from the bag, tossed the bag in the olive green waste bin on the floor and sat down on the matching shag covered toilet lid, preceding to read the directions.


Once I finished, I stood up and began to set up shop.


I grabbed the hair dryer from under the sink in the cabinet, a brown wooden hair brush from out of a cabinet on the wall, and yanked the olive green towel suspended from the towel bar.


Then I piled everything on the toilet lid.


It was officially time to begin.


Without hesitation, I pulled the plastic bottle from its box, popped off the clear plastic lid and began spraying the wet smelly liquid all over my hair until it was dripping down my forehead and running down the inside of my shirt.


I was halfway there.


I smiled at my reflection in the mirror.


“This was easy.” I thought, “like I needed my mom’s help”.


“I really should be doing more stuff on my own now anyway. I mean I’m practically an adult”, I thought to myself as I picked up the dryer, plugged it in and turned it on.


Then I flipped my head upside down, for added body, and let the drying begin.


I was sure I could feel my personality change with each pass of the dryer over my hair.


As the air blew across my face I closed my eyes and visualized myself on the beach with the wind blowing through my hair.


I could see myself surrounded by crowds of boys and girls all wanting to be my friend.


Then I was sitting at a cafeteria table at school surrounded by the popular kids laughing and having fun.


I would really owe the Sun-In company a thank you after this.


Maybe I would write them a letter and send a picture of how I look with my new blonde highlights.


I would probably become their new Sun-In girl and they would put me in all of their commercials.


I would have to quit school, but it would be okay because I would be making a lot of money so I wouldn’t need school.


My mind ran wild with scenarios as I moved the dryer back and forth.


Then, as I raked my hands through my hair I realized it was finally dry.


The moment of truth had arrived.


I couldn’t wait. I opened my eyes as I flipped my hair back, and excitedly looked in the mirror.



What Big Bird and I Have in Common


Suddenly, the wind was knocked out of me by stared back at me in the mirror.


This wasn’t what I saw in the Sun-In commercial.


This was what I saw on Sesame Street and its name was big bird!


My hair was bright yellow!


I began to feel lightheaded and sat down on the toilet seat to get my bearings.


I saw the Sun In box taunting me from inside the waste bin and reached forward and picked it up.


Turing over the box, I scanned the directions again, praying that I missed something.


The directions read, spray on hair and dry hair or sit in sun.


There were more directions on a shampoo bottle.


I began grasping at straws.


Maybe I should have sat in the sun?


Maybe I didn’t dry it long enough?


With no better solution in front of me I grabbed the dryer from where I had left it dangling upside-down from the wall outlet, and turned it back on.


My mind was racing with thoughts as I ran the dryer over my hair.


Where did it all go wrong?


What was everyone at school going to say?


Actually I don’t have to worry about that, because I’m never going to school again. In fact, I’m never coming out of the bathroom again.


My hair is the same color as my school bus.


Just as the last thought escaped my mind a knock came on the door. “How’s it going in there, Lisa?”



I screamed back, “It’s not dry yet!”


What I would have liked to of screamed was, “I look like big bird and it’s all your fault.”


Instead I got back to diligently running the dryer through my hair praying that when I flipped my head and looked in the mirror, the girl from the commercial would magically appear.



I’m Just a Dumb Kid


After what felt like forever, I decided to turn the dryer off. Actually, I was beginning to smell hair burning.


Then, I froze, consumed with fear. I couldn’t bring myself to look in the mirror again. So, I decided to stall and put the dryer away first.


That’s what most adults do, anyway, right?


They pick up after themselves.


So, with my hands shaking I carefully wrapped the cord around the base of the dryer, and tucked it neatly in the cabinet under the sink (for the first time ever).


Then I stood up, feeling my heart beating rapidly through my Hang Ten t-shirt, as I prayed for Big Bird to be gone.


I slowly flipped my hair back, ran my fingers through it and casually glanced at the mirror, as the theme from Sesame Street began to play in my head.


AGGGGGGGGH! What have I done?


I quickly looked away unwilling to process the latest turn of events and decided to focus instead on the dirty ring around the bathtub drain, as though cleaning the tub had suddenly become more of a priority for me.


The knocking on the door resumed. “I’m waiting Lisa. Let me see it.”


“Just a minute, MOM”. I said, with extra venom in the words.


Oh, and by the way, mom, thanks for your help. I mean, I’m just a dumb kid. It’s a parent’s job to stop us from doing ridiculous things, like jumping off a bridge, or turning our hair into a character from a TV show.


It was obvious to me now that this really was all her fault.


As I stared at my bright yellow reflection in the mirror wondering if I could sue, I started thinking that this wasn’t the first time my mother had steered me wrong.


There was the 3rd Grade picture fiasco.


She could have stopped me from wearing my navy blue turtleneck with my navy blue polyester pants for picture day.


Even though I thought I looked like a mysterious, secret agent.


She should have insisted I change, telling me what I would realize later that day, that I looked like a big blueberry.


But she didn’t and I was forced to face the humiliation when my friend Julie told me we weren’t allowed to wear just one color for our school pictures.


I was devastated.


I was a blueberry outlaw, while Julie was the cover of Teen Magazine in her peasant blouse, cream skirt, and pink flowered scarf tied around her neck.


When it came time for pictures, I waited in line for my turn, preparing to be thrown off the school property for my illegal outfit.


Of course no one said a word.


I realized much later that my “frenemy” Julie hadn’t been completely honest with the information she gave me.


She was messing with my mind in an aka “Lord of the Flies” kind of way. I was such an easy target.


Anyway, I bet her behavior has come back around and bit her in the butt since then.


Actually, who am I kidding, with killer instinct’s like that she’s probably become a huge success.



You’ll Be Fine


Anyway, as for my hair. I eventually did let my mother in the bathroom, and she was very sympathetic.


In fact, I believe the words, “You’ll be fine.” made an appearance again.


As for the color, it took a little getting used to but I kept it for a while, with the help of my mother, and a bottle of peroxide.


I did get more attention and a good deal of speculation as to how my hair suddenly became a completely different color.


Eventually I decided to let my hair grow out.


It just wasn’t me.


I guess in the end I decided I would rather be a brown mouse sitting in the corner, than a popular bird with dark roots.

#family #humor #personalgrowth #funny #essay