I scared a dog today. I didn’t mean to, of course, but it happened. I didn’t understand what was making Charlie uncomfortable until I tucked my hair behind my ear and it all became clear.
I have crazy hair. It’s curly, unruly, thick and streaked with silver. OK, streaked is being kind and so is silver. Swaths of gray is probably more accurate. Think less Julianna Marguiles, more Roseanne Roseannadanna. You get the picture.
I don’t often release the Kraken and wear it down because it takes on a life of its own, expanding to double the size of my head. Most days, it’s on full lockdown, wrapped in a bun (known as the “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” or RBG for short) or a tight pony tail.
I love my brothers but they’ve had a field day making jokes about my hair since I was a little girl. There were references to Broom Hilda, Witchy, Crisco, rats’ nests, Medusa and warnings to stay away from open flames.
By far my favorite and certainly the most enduring —and endearing—hair joke in my family is the one that revolves around a Bugs Bunny cartoon called Water, Water Every Hare. It’s a classic from 1952 in which Bugs finds himself trapped in the castle of an evil scientist who needs a rabbit brain to complete his experiment. The scientist sends Rudolph, a big red-haired monster in tennis shoes to capture Bugs and bring him to the laboratory. In an effort to escape Rudolph and the castle, Bugs becomes a gabby hairdresser and herein lies the fun for kids of all ages.
“My stars! Where did you ever get that awful hairdo? It doesn’t become you at all. For goodness’ sake, let me fix it up. Look how stringy and messy it is. What a shame! Such an interesting monster, too. My stars, if an interesting monster can’t have an interesting hairdo, then I don’t know what things are coming to. In my business, you meet so many interesting people. (Bobby pins, please.) But the most interesting ones are the monsters. Oh, dear, that’ll never stay. We’ll just have to have a permanent.” Enter the dynamite curlers.
So on this morning as I entered Charlie’s house, my hair must have been, eh, quite full. I would love to know what was going through his mind as his mom, Pam, opened the door to welcome me in. He knew I was coming and had always met me with an enthusiastic greeting.
Charlie is a Rat Terrier mix, so his normal greetings include a full array of spins, leaps, jumps, barks, paws up dancing and excited sprints. Today? Shock. Complete and utter shock. He stopped mid-jump, and backed away in silent confusion. “It smells like you, but why is your fur so big? Are you mad at me? Are you going to hurt me? I’m going to go wait by my rawhide until Mom makes this better.”
Embarrassed that Charlie was afraid to come near me, I pulled the hair band off my wrist and started to corral the curls. With a few swift swipes, I wrangled my hair into a thick gray-brown bushel and secured it with my brown elastic. As I brought my hands back down from my head, I sat down in the floor and called to Charlie. He approached cautiously, looking at my face and head, amazed at the transformation. Finally, he broke out into an ornery grin and ran onto my lap.
“Whew! Don’t ever do that to your hair again. It’s scary!”
“Thanks, Charlie. I hope my brothers send you something nice.”