If I had known then what I know now, I would have realized that I was excavating the past looking for clues to my hidden pain. Why was my life limited in certain ways? What stopped me in my tracks? What kept me stuck? What kept me from fully accepting and expressing myself? Your history, your family secrets can give you answers if you look for the patterns in the stories. The answers lie in your past if you're willing to confront it and heal it.
I was born a platinum blonde angel. It's no surprise then, that my mom named me Angela. Angel. Holy messenger. Rescuer of lost souls. Purity and modesty incarnate. My dad always said I had ingrown horns. It seems he was on to something. They were there all right, not propping up the halo, however, but there under the surface. Horny. The evil mastermind. The relisher of human suffering and fan of shanking (see blog: Fuck off, Namaste). I have come to realize that I am both; that I am this duplicitous and irreconcilable creature having a human experience. It's very fleshy. So are you. We are all, if we pause long enough to think about it, walking contradictions. I'm "green," I recycle and yet the very act of my being alive is an assault on Mother Nature. I, as a carbon being, cannot NOT have a carbon footprint. And yet, here I am in the flesh, part parasite, part symbiotic angel visiting here on earth. Soon to be personally, recycled.
Different shades of me.
When I was born, my mother was a brunette; a gorgeous dark brown with full curls. She went back to brown about a year ago, perhaps as an experiment or perhaps all the bleach and frosting had brought her hair follicles to their knees causing them to hysterically beg for a reprieve; she generously acquiesced, much to her aesthetic chagrin. For as long as I knew her though, from my birth and the birth of the two blonde brothers that followed, she had become a chameleon, either to identify with or to become a worthy purveyor of the blondes she sprung from her womb. To this day she still rocks out in blonde highlights.
Let's flash forward to the moment where I, at eight years old, sat on the floor in my home with a pair of scissors systematically cutting out one ugly dark brown hair at a time, like an Arian dictator and mass murderer of brown hairs that seemed to deny my heritage and birthright. I thought the brown hairs were ugly and I panicked at what I thought were overtaking the blonde ones. My mother had always emphasized and praised my blonde hair. This impetuous bout with scissors gained me the nickname, "Spike," for I had carved a square inch patch of hair-estate almost down to the roots that then sprouted like a new patch of beans. All the kids loved to greet me with my nickname then run their hand over the sprouts as they walked by.
Let's flash forward again to a conversation I had with my cousin, Audra, whom I used to called Audie and now lovingly call Aud. Apparently there had been a competition to have the first blonde child between my mom and my aunt. They were both pregnant at the same time and even though Audie was born a few weeks before me, she was not technically a blonde. Perhaps because she has dark blonde hair, I don't know. There was talk that we were switched at birth, this began the adoption jokes in my family. I didn't yet know why this importance on the blonde hair until we both did more digging.
What we discovered through our own investigative interviews was that the family dynamic was this: my mother’s mother had grown up watching her father violently beat the shit out of her brothers. I have come to learn that this is one of the most horrendous types of abuse because you are spared the physical abuse but you see everything; clinically this type of abuse takes the longest to recover from. So when my grandma raised her children, she really favored the boys, as if by coddling them, she could somehow rescue her own brothers from the pasts savage hand of their father. Incidentally, my Aunt Sandy, the only blonde female, nearly died as a baby, so she was welcomed into the favored group of children. My mother and my Aunt Cynthia, the two brunette females, we're not members of this elite club. What made matters worse is that there were five children and another family credo on my mother's side was, "You pick one." This meant you picked one child to abuse, to be the scapegoat, to be the repository of all shame, neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, this was my Aunt Cynthia, the youngest brunette female. And all the other children watched. It wasn't physical abuse, but that didn't matter. I recently discovered emotional and psychological abuse carries much of the same damage. It's abuse.
I had a conversation with my mother about what it was like to feel like she was competing with her brothers and Aunt Sandy for love. To this day she talks about having to "walk fast so you don't get left behind," or crying because she never really felt seen; it was as though she just got lost in all the commotion of her five children household. All these years later, my mother is severely competitive with men, in life, in sports; she has no compassion for frailty or lack of competence. She is waiting for this man who "can keep up." This man will never arrive because this man would probably like to keep his balls in tact. The other story she told was a time where she and my Aunt Sandy were both presented with jumpers, one blue and one pink. Funny, for some reason I'm thinking of the Matrix and the red pill vs. the blue pill. Aunt Sandy was given the pink one, by default my mother got the blue. My mother wanted the pink one so badly she remembered being bitter about it all these years later.
This theme reemerged when we moved to Texas and I got my own room. My mother insisted on me getting pink blinds; she was always trying to dress me up in pink to which I vehemently rebelled. What was happening? She was her transferring her identification onto me. If she could give me the pink blinds, she could give the gift to me of what she truly wanted as a child. Nice thought, but giving people what we really want is a surefire way to give terrible gifts. I'm pretty sure the majority of my friends do not want an Enya documentary for Christmas. When you give people gifts that you want instead of investigating what is that they want, you don't really see them.
I finally realized that the blonde hair was not just a preference, it meant survival. Blonde hair equated preferential treatment, loving care, and attention. It meant getting what you wanted. Brown hair was equated with neglect, poverty, and even emotional abuse. I am the only blonde female in my family and I have two brunette sisters. Who in the family do you think was the chosen one and whom do you think may have been the recipient of the old family credo? Ironically, in this situation nobody wins. That's another story for another day. Thankfully, my mother was conscious enough to really make sure that she was attentive and loving, making us all feel special and loved. In that she succeeded. But, history does repeat itself in the undercurrents of our lives. It's insidious and covert. The truth about family secrets is that there are no family secrets; we see them lived out again and again in the lives of the children. All you need to do is look for the patterns; they are there.
I spent the past oh, better half of a decade bleaching and highlighting the "dirty" out of my blonde for the "biz." You know the one. What is my actual hair color? Is it blonde? Is it brown? I'd like to think it's not easily definable, just like me. Perhaps I'm a dirty blonde after all with some streaks of redemption. I once said that my head encompassed every hair color in the world and I think this is true. I've got them all. I'm sure it would make the casting directors more comfortable if they could put me into a box. This for me is about accepting all parts of me: the light and the dark, the so-called good and the so-called evil, my ugliness and my beauty. If I cut any part of me out, I am no longer myself and I cannot survive in the world. People cannot see me and recognize me for who I am because I will have hidden my true self from the only person that really matters: me. All others simply reflect my inner world back to me. If I want others to see me and accept me fully, then I must fully love and accept all parts of myself.
Who ever said dark was bad? Oh. Right. Well, America, that is a whole other blog. In the meantime, queue up Paula Cole's tearjerker of a song, Me, grab some tissues and perhaps some Ben & Jerry's The Tonight Dough. God, is that ice cream good.
For the record, it has both chocolate AND vanilla swirls.
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