Aged nine and able to converse like an adult in complete, coherent sentences — thereby becoming the only child of that age I could ever stand to be around — she did dance routines to Pink tracks, bowing at the end with a Josephine Baker’s confidence and flourish.
When she got her own kitten — now a whopping yellow tom — she wanted to be a vet for a while. Then I think the idea of studying psychology took hold briefly; politics interested her, and in junior high she lied about her age trying to get a fundraising job at the Human Rights Campaign. She actually enjoyed math class — something I never could — and one year her science teacher was her crush, a woman with a no-nonsense butch personality.
She dyed her hair purple or red, I forget which, as soon as she was allowed, and got interested in body art. Not news that thrilled me, but she seemed to have a plan in mind; she mused about opening a tattoo parlor that would support an avant-garde art gallery. She signed up for AP art history, and surfed the state university sites all last fall, putting together a course schedule for a business major with an art minor. A well-off relative committed to closing the funding gap if she applied for grants. “Do I need to take French III over again?” she debated, that being a class where her grade wasn’t going to look impressive on a college application.
The hair dye changed every two weeks. I told myself teenagers are teenagers; after all, she could still deliver a rousing speech about the evils of rape culture, and was already dating both girls and boys — not someone you expect to succumb to the Barbie mentality of coiffures and outfits. Still, I wished she would spend more time surfing Wikipedia and less deciding on a pair of earrings at Etsy. Occasionally she wanted to come along as a guest to my gym, but seemed mainly interested in the tanning booth. I started hearing things like “salon” instead of “art gallery.”
This summer, headed into her junior year, she blew off summer school classes that turned out to be necessary for advancing to college. “I’m going to beauty school. You don’t need college for that,” she shrugged.
What the f&^! happens to women??
Beauty school? Hair, nails and toxic fumes, shortening other people’s lives and her own in the name of a fake standard of appearance — a career (if you can call it that) for gum-chewing trailer trash.
I wouldn’t have ever known about that Pink song, if it wasn’t for her. I’d lock her in a room and play it nonstop for a week, but I think there are laws about that.
But then I’m stupid too. I let myself imagine that this high-sounding blah you hear about making a difference in a child’s life actually had something to it.
I’m going to be in a pretty crappy mood for a few weeks, I’m afraid.