I begin every semester resolved not to let it happen again, but the changes are stealth and gradual. I always emerge transformed at the end. Not beautiful like a butterfly nor a dung beetle like Gregor Samsa, but definitely monstrous.
I groom my final projects to perfection and neglect myself to the point of disaster. Yesterday, I looked down and saw my Quasimodo toes. Then I noticed my shrubby Afro. I touched my dulled facial skin with my rough hand and furrowed my unibrow. A thick coat of leg hair buffered my skin from the denim of my jeans and my muffin top threatened to pop the waistline button.
I work alone a lot, more so as the semester progresses, and my grooming standards relax as my work intensifies. This semester, it began with a missed hair appointment in February. The woman who cuts my hair at the Dominican salon is genius, but a wash and trim can become an all-afternoon, café con leche, invite toda la familia festival. My coarse kinks need precision taming, but I do not have that kind of time.
My solution was my large collection of hats and head wraps. Fashionable toppers were declared “in” early this year. So what if the fashion “do” photos showed jaunty fedoras and exotic turbans, and my sweat-stained Mets caps and faded bandana were definite “don’t”s? The dogs I walk daily are happy to see me no matter how I look – and can’t talk to say, “We’re not going anywhere if you insist on wearing that.”
My husband B, on the other hand, is able and unafraid to speak.
“Wow, it needs its own atmosphere,” he’d quote from So I Married An Axe Murderer in reference to my hair.
“Thanks, smart ass,” I’d mumble while loosening the adjustable strap on my cap.
Mornings were busy with running, reading, writing, grading, dog walking, and household management. Morning showers got bumped first to midday, then mid-afternoon, and finally became a desperate dampening before rushing to campus or B returned home. My doggie clients were happy to smell my approach, but I didn’t think humans would share that enthusiasm.
“Are those your running clothes?” B would ask as he sniffed and considered whether to kiss me hello at the end of the day.
“Duh. They’re certainly not your running clothes.”
“You know what I mean,” he’d say needlessly. “Those are the same clothes you were wearing when I left. Have you showered?”
“Is that any way to greet your wife at the end of the day?”
“No offense babe, but smelling like Frito Lay feet, is that any way to greet your husband?”
I’m a writer. He’s an attorney. I hate it when he gets the last word.
Friends and family noticed the change. More precisely, the lack of change of clothes, and unsightly changes such as thickened cuticles, under-eye circles, and the furry layer that poked from beneath my pants hems. My dear friend D decided it was time for an intervention.
“Yay! Let’s celebrate,” she said when I announced I’d completed my course work. “Let’s have a spa day.”
“Well…” I hesitated.
“Great! I made an appointment for Tuesday. You’ll, uh, I mean, we’ll get the works. A total transformation.”
I had to agree. It was time for a transformation. D has known me for almost 30 years and knows how to get me to take action. I’m no Gregor and she’s no Samsa, so luckily no lobbed apples are involved.