When I was young, I used to have anxiety about scary monsters with voracious appetites for little girls with Southern accents. Lying in my bed in the dark, I imagined they were there lurking, waiting for me to close my eyes. Until I left home for college, I slept with the bathroom light on because everyone knows scary monsters are petrified of those all-powerful bathroom lights.
As an adult, I have other fears that are just as irrational as my childhood ones, and no amount of positive self-talk or even an all-powerful bathroom light will make them go away. One of my regular ones is that I have left the house for the day and failed to turn off the iron, coffee pot, curling iron, bathroom heater or the toaster oven. When I return home at the end of the day, I am greeted by the fire marshal in front of my home’s foundation, holding the charred remains of my curling iron. “Yep, that’s what did it. You forgot to unplug your curling iron. See it all the time.”
Personal inadequacies are fodder for anxiety. No one has to tell you that you have ugly feet, 739 liver spots, a hook nose or thighs the size of tree stumps. You know that. Every day of your life you get out of bed and look in the mirror and say, yep, I’ve still got those thighs. Everyone has imperfections. No one is perfect, except maybe Cindy Crawford, but you do not have to stand next to her so observers can say, “Now that’s what thighs should look like.” But that’s exactly what happened to me when I spent the weekend with Andie MacDowell’s hair.
Most people know that Andie MacDowell is a beautiful actress and spokesmodel who has the most gorgeous hair in the entire world. It is jet black and wavy, framing her face in a halo of curls. It cascades down over her shoulders and is so shiny that you are certain you would go blind you if you got too close.
Other actresses who appear in movies with her have special clauses in their contracts stating that they will not appear in scenes with Andie’s hair unless they can have hair extensions and a stylist on call. We are talking intimidating hair — hair that makes Christy Brinkley want to invest in turbans.
I have not mentioned my hair before because frankly it is a sensitive subject and a great source of personal anxiety. It’s not fine hair, it is skinny hair. It is not as if it has a mind of its own, it’s as if it has no mind. No matter how you ply it with mousses and gels, it stands up briefly, gets a good look at itself and lays right back down. You can see why on the intimidation scale; anyone with really great hair causes me to immediately hyperventilate and break into a cold sweat. This is exactly what happened one day when I attended a conference in Austin where my pre-assigned roommate turned out to be Andie MacDowell. Well, not really Andie, but her separated-at-birth twin sister, Vickie.
From the moment we met, Vickie and her magnificent mane of ebony curls clung to me like lint. Everywhere I went, she and her hair followed. We often drew a crowd. People wanted to touch her hair, fluff it and run their fingers through it. I got only sympathetic stares and recommendations for hairdressers, Rogaine and the Hair Club for Men.
I kept watching her hair, hoping it would take a turn for the worse and frizz up tight on her scalp or develop a really hideous case of dandruff. It never happened. I imagined that after sleeping on hair like that, it might be flat and tangled into a knot. It never was. In the mornings I had to listen to her complain that it was so thick it just took forever to dry and how on windy days she had to put it up in a ponytail because it was just … just everywhere. Meanwhile, I curled, teased, lifted and prayed for a good hair day.
I wish I could say that Vickie was petty, self-centered and a generally wretched human being, but she was absolutely adorable. If it weren’t for her hair, I know that we could have become really great friends. For now, I think we will just stay in touch by phone and email. Unless, of course, she ever develops one of those really nasty scalp disorders, the kind where your hair falls out in great big clumps. If that ever happens, I’ll be right there for her. After all, what are friends for?