When I was growing up I wanted to be Cindi Lauper. I loved her music, but even more, her style. She was so unique, with her vintage, punk-rock outfits, and ever changing hair colors. I tried dressing like her every chance I got and would go around the house dancing and singing all her songs. I loved “time after time,” “girls just wanna have fun,” and especially “true colors.”
Do you remember perms? If I try hard enough, I can still smell perm solution just thinking about them. Usually the stylist uses long cylinder shaped rods and wrap the hair around them and they make your hair curly for months. Well back in the 80’s they came out with triangle ones that were supposed to permanently make your hair crimped, or zigzagged. So on my 8th birthday, I begged my mom to let me get my beautiful, blonde, straight hair crimped so I could have cool hair like Cindi.
Now you have to understand my mom. Most days, she looks like she stepped right off the country club golf course. She has a pressed white blouse, collar popped, with a Ralph Lauren sweater tied around her shoulders. She liked the music of the 80’s, but definitely leans more toward the classic than the trendy. I love that about her. She’s always so put together. So me wanting to ditch my polo dresses and rat my hair had to be difficult. Maybe she had a different idea of who I should be.
Back to those awesome perms.
Wouldn’t you know, my mom actually said yes! I could get the crimpy one!
That next morning was picture day. I was proud as punch getting ready for my big debut in front of the camera. I imagined paparazzi lining the halls as I made my way to the gym and all the cool kids telling me how awesome I looked, maybe even mistaking me for Cindi herself.
The gym was dark and I remember watching other kids sitting on the stool in front of the splatter paint backdrop. It was almost my turn when the lady gave me an interesting look. “She thinks I look awesome,” I thought.
Actually, in the best way she could, she tried to tell me my hair was a hot mess. She pointed to the black toothed combs floating in a cylinder of blue liquid and encouraged me to use one. My heart sank a bit. It wasn’t what I was expecting…my first sting of rejection. But I channeled my inner Cindi and told her I loved my hair just the way it was. In that moment, I imagined Cindi for the back of the dark gym, raising her fist, proud of me. The lady must have thought I was nuts but took my picture, anyway.
Fast forward to this morning. I was getting Ellie dressed for preschool and grabbed some hand-me-downs from the box. Pink sparkly high tops and a pair of bootcut jeans. She’s outgrown the 3t stuff but the 4t stuff is still a bit big, so the jeans were a bit baggy. I put on tall pink socks thinking it would keep the high tops from rubbing and no one would see how silly it looked because the jeans would go right over it. I think she watches me roll up my boyfriend jeans and wear them with ankle boots, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when she asked to roll her jeans, putting her bright pink socks and bright pink shoes on full display.
And I imagine I had the same reaction that my mother had after that crazy perm. On the one hand, terrified that she would be made fun of at school, but on the other hand, so proud of her for making a statement of who she wanted to be. So I complied and rolled up her jeans. She smiled. I took her picture. I told her that she looked beautiful and I was so proud of her.
She had a bigger skip to school that day, and as her mom, I raised my fist, and my inner Cindi Lauper smiled.
“But I see your true colors
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid
to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow”