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Girl From Goat Pasture Road

Musings of Susan Swicegood Boswell

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beauty

$100 Dollar Hairspray

big-sexy-hair

Recent unanticipated expenditures in the Boswell household including the purchase of a new car have caused my husband and I to take a closer look at our monthly budget. We’ve cut back on eating out and begun shopping the discount bread store. I’ve value-engineered our cable and cell phone packages including a (rather ingenious) intervention on my part which involves simply cutting off my son’s data and texting privileges when he somehow exceeds the “unlimited” plan I spend too much money on anyway.

One of the areas I am most reluctant to cut is the one marked  “Health and Beauty”. A recent review of my monthly expenditures confirm the “natural” look I have boasted for so many years is costing me an unnatural amount of cash. Hair color, styling products and make-up are expensive!

Having grown up in the shadows of  Farrah Fawcett, Cindy Lauper, and the Breakfast Club, I have never relinquished my love for big hair. As a Southern woman of a “certain age” I have lived years under the honor code of “the higher the hair, the closer to God”. It’s an expression nearly every woman in the South between the ages of 50 and 60 not only believes but  lives. Therefore when I recently ran out of my favorite salon style hairspray, I was thrilled to find a huge $9.99 can of something called “Big Sexy Hair” at my local TJ Maxx. With visions of St. Peter and ’80’s angelic icons dancing in my head, I knew this was the right hairspray for me! While I was at it, I also splurged for the $6.98 “Sexy Light” shampoo, which promised manageability and control, without weighing me down, attributes that would surely help my hair, if not my social life.

The next morning as I got dressed for work, my hair was initially light, manageable and gloriously big! I congratulated myself on my purchases and began to spray “Big Sexy” on my newly styled “do”. The first spray from the aerosol can sputtered out in a glob. Giving it a good shake, the second attempt came out in a fierce narrow stream.  Undaunted, I closed my eyes tightly and began to spray, my arm doing a series of rapid and elaborate figure eight’s as I tried to dispel the stream into a spray. I opened my eyes to find disaster!

I had been “flocked”!

Dear God, I looked like a cheap Big Lots Christmas tree, my uppermost branches adorned with heavy mounds of fake snow. I slipped on my reading glasses and squinted at the fine print. “Big Sexy” was not hairspray at all, but some sort of styling mousse. I tried to brush the snow from my hair but it was useless. My “Big Sexy” hair had taken a definite turn for the worse!

Later in the day, as I was recanting my “disast-hair”, one of my friend’s who I can always count on for sound advice suggested I visit Sally’s Beauty Supply where I could purchase professional products at a discounted price. After perusing their shelves over my lunch hour, I determined their hairspray was such a bargain, I would purchase 2 cans. The sales clerk at the checkout told me that for an additional $15.00, I could save 10% on all purchases for the next year. Since I use a lot of hairspray, this seemed a no- brainer.

The next few days did not go so well. The rain and humidity that saturated Greensboro over the next few days were not my fine hair’s best friend. The hair that held such heavenly promise had taken a harrowing turn, if not towards hell, certainly the flatlands.

“What happened to you?”, asked another friend noting my sagging locks. Realizing that my newest “bargain” hairspray offered no resistance to humidity, I conceded my latest purchase was no bargain at all!

By Sunday, I didn’t care what it cost. Desperately tired of looking like an abandoned pound pup, I was willing to pay anything. I drove thirty minutes to the mall to purchase my original hairspray from the expensive salon. Perusing the shelves, I was suddenly confused. My old trusty brand now came in two selections, both offering maximum control. I asked the young sales clerk to explain the difference.

She peered out at me dramatically from dark, side-swept bangs. “Uh, this one says “Platinum”” the eye said while the mouth smacked loudly on a wad of gum.

“Yes, I can read that”, I said testily, “but is one of these better for humidity?”

“Ummm, I guess I need to familiarize myself with this product”, the eye confessed. “I don’t really use hairspray.”

Obviously…

I roll my eyes , a gesture the clerk fails to notice. This person cannot help me.

At this point, only God and Farrah Fawcett can help me. “Give me one of each,” I say, handing the eye the last of my $100 bill.

“And a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, while you are at it!”

Reduction Cooking Redux

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Even if you’re the most amateur of foodies, you are probably familiar with the term “reduction cooking”. This culinary technique involves simmering a liquid such as a stock or a sauce until its chemical composition has changed and its volume has been reduced. What is left in the bottom of the pan and does not boil away or evaporate becomes richer and more flavorful than its original composition or the sum of its parts.

In life, this process is not unlike “trial by fire.”

If my own chemical composition could be examined microscopically, I am certain it would look very different from how it appeared twenty years ago. It’s a time of stress and transition, these middle years. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with my women friends, as we have each come undone in our own ways. I have seen a friend who enjoyed nearly fifty years of a solid marriage watch it dissolve before her very eyes. Many of us have had health scares. Some have lost homes and incomes. We’ve lost parents to disease and old age and lost our children to everything from substance abuse and mental illness to simply growing up. The generation before us is thinning in numbers and we find ourselves emerging to the front of the line.

Our loss is not even limited to humans. We’ve had our pets now for fifteen or twenty years; even they are dying in droves. My Australian Schnauzer Shredder had a stroke last year and surgery this summer at age eighteen. In people years, he’s older than Rip Van Winkle. He can barely find his food in the bowl unless I shake  his aluminum doggie bowl. When I call his name, he looks in every direction except the one I am calling from. Since he has also lost the ability to alert me  when he needs to go outside to use the bathroom, I have begun laying down bath towels in his path, hoping I will fool him into thinking he is outside in the grass. My home looks and smells like it did when my son was a baby. The scent of chlorox permeates the air. Baby gates are secured in all the doorways and medicine droppers fill the kitchen windowsill.

During this time, we are often surprised to discover we lost ourselves along the way. We were just too busy to notice. I don’t have to tell you this is a scary place, but what I do want to assure you is that there is no need to be afraid.

This process of “trial by fire” has a secret and often overlooked component. In the midst of giving up so many false forms of security, we found surprising strength in places we didn’t even know we had. We have discovered an inner resilience. We still have the ability to learn and excel at new skills and have developed boundaries that let us take situations at face value without getting so personally involved. We have even found that stripped of much that we hold precious, we are still standing, only a little worse for wear. We’ve found support from all four corners of our lives because during those years we were serving on committees, dropping off food when someone was sick, babysitting a friend’s kid- we were really building relationships that have nothing to do with the business of life but everything to do with our own foundation.

Recently, I lamented to a friend my lack of feeling worthy to enter this new phase of life. I thought by now I’d have it all together. I thought my 401-K would have another digit. I thought I would have stayed a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I thought I would have learned to wash the dishes as I go rather than letting them pile up in the sink. I thought I would floss my teeth every single night.

Somehow, I thought I would have accomplished so much more by now…
My friend says maybe we’re not supposed to grow up and become those older and wiser people we thought we were supposed to. Maybe we’re not supposed to grow old, but should aim to grow young. What if the secret to remaining vital is willing ourselves to stay vulnerable, to stay silly, to continue to love and have faith in the hard parts and to simply not take life too seriously? Maybe in our ideas about growing older, we have it all wrong?

I’ve seen a new beauty emerge in my friends. Not the same type of beauty as when we were younger with unblemished skin, flat tummies and breasts that didn’t sag. I am talking about a reduction cooking type of beauty. This is an essential and deeper kind of beauty that leaves behind the extraneous and radiates outward like a tree standing tall and strong in the forest, a weathered rock, the scent of fresh cucumber and grated ginger, a sunrise.

It’s a glow that comes from within. It has nothing, and everything, to do with the temperature.

Reduction Cooking

ImageIf you’ve ever watched “The Cooking Channel”, you’ve probably heard the term “reduction cooking”. This culinary process involves heating a liquid such as a stock or a sauce on the stove, uncovered. As the mixture simmers, various ingredients will evaporate at different rates allowing the remaining flavors and ingredients to become more concentrated.

In life, this process is not unlike “trial by fire.”

All of us experience trials of some sort, some of us certainly more than others. Many of us have lost partners and seen the break-up of marriages. We’ve lost homes and incomes and insurance. We’ve had health scares. We’ve lost parents and children.

We’ve lost much of ourselves, too, but were usually too busy to notice…

I don’t have to tell you this is a scary place, but what I do want to assure you is that there is no need to be afraid. This process of “trial by fire” has a secret and often overlooked component. In the midst of having to give up so many false forms of security, we’ve found surprising strength in places we didn’t even know we had. We have discovered an inner resilience, the ability to learn and excell at new skills, the ability to take a situation at face value. We have found that even stripped of much that we hold precious, we are still standing, only a little worse for wear. We’ve found support from all four corners of our lives because during those years we were serving on committees, dropping by food when someone was sick, babysitting a friend’s kid- we were really building relationships that have nothing to do with the business of life but everything to do with our own foundation.

Still, I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t enter this new phase of my life greatly humbled and a little disappointed. I thought by now I’d have it all together. Surely, my 401-K would have another digit. Couldn’t I at have at least maintained my lifetime membership in Weight Watchers? Shouldn’t I have learned to wash the dishes as I go rather than letting them pile up in the sink? As a respectable adult, wouldn’t I floss my teeth every single night? Somehow, I thought I would have acomplished so much more by now. I thought I would be so much “better”.

I was talking with a friend the other day and she questioned the wisdom of our desire to grow up into those stereotypical versions of older age, you know- the “old and wise”-  that we thought we were supposed to. I mean, sure, we need our 401-K’s and our teeth but does some of the stuff in between really matter?

What if the secret to growing old is really growing ourselves young? Remaining vital is willing ourselves to stay vulnerable, to stay silly, to continue to love and have faith in the hard parts and to not take life too seriously? I mean it is “life” and when it’s not, it just isn’t anymore. Maybe in our ideas about growing older, we have it all wrong. 

How do we grow young?

I can tell you by what I’ve seen. We endure. We discover we can adapt. We go on. 

I’ve seen a new beauty emerge in my friends. It’s not the same type of beauty as when we were young and had unblemished skin, flat tummies and breasts that didn’t sag.  This is a reduction cooking type of beauty. An essential and deeper beauty that leaves behind the extraneous and radiates outward like a tall strong tree in the forest, a weathered rock, the scent of fresh cucumber and grated ginger, and a sunrise. It’s a glow that comes from within.

It has nothing- and everything- to do with the temperature.

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