Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vogue Response

Wed, 19 Jul 2006 14:54:58 -0400
Your letter/resume
"Talkingback, Vogue" Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert

Anna Wintour's office has forwarded your letter and resume to me as I handleall reader letters. It is company procedure that all applications foremployment are handled first by the Human Resources Department and so I havesent your resume to them. They will be in touch with you. You might be interested to look at the HR Department's new website whichgives employment information; it is www.condenastcareers.com.

Thank you for your interest in Vogue.

Letter to Anna Wintour

Dear Ms. Wintour,

My goodness! In the Devil Wears Prada, Ms. Weisberger refers to southerners with such disdain, it's as if she would have one believe that in-breeding in the south was as prevalent as the alligators in the sewers of New York City.

As I understand you currently keep company with a triple threat Texas Telecommunications Tycoon, perhaps you do not require a tutorial into the intricacies of southern culture. If so, please forgive me. I did not, however, want to leave it to chance.

While I DO happen to reside in the South, I like to think of myself as a rather cosmopolitan sort of girl, even though I do not happen to subscribe to that particular publication, mind you.

My family is all very well-educated and well-traveled. I can assure you that in-breeding in the family was phased out several generations ago with striking results. We all boast IQs of AT LEAST three times the latitudinal boundary of the Mason-Dixon line (which runs between 39'43'26.3 N and 39'43'17.6 N). Furthermore, we have all blessed the world with the correct number of fingers, toes, and various other appendages.

Having accomplished all this, I was hoping you would not mind taking a mere moment of your valuable time to review my resume and give me any pointers, as you see fit. I am always on the lookout for the next exciting growth opportunity and do so want to put my best foot forward - five toes only, I promise!

In closing, thank you so much for your time! Keep that chin up and keep looking the world in the face from behind the frames of those fabulous Chanel shades! Darling, the devil MAY wear Prada, but we ALL know God does too, only she looks ten times better in it!

All my best,
Lucy Diamond

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bad Hair Nightmares

Every girl has something about her appearance that inspires intense anxiety. For me, it is my hair. It’s not that I have bad hair. Quite the contrary, women have been known to dole out hundreds of dollars in one sitting to have their mane teased into the chemically-induced altered state that my own mop occupies naturally. I wash and condition my hair, and wet ringlets dry in perfect, frizzles formation. Sorry ladies, but it’s true.

I don’t know if there is an official, psychiatrically-sanctioned Greek term for the terror that plagues me. What is the name of that thing that brings the cutting nightmares that wake me amid a tangle of wet sheets, clutching chestnut locks between clammy fingers? I call it Short Hair-O-Phobia. I have had it ever since I can remember.

One summer morning when I was only five, I was kneeling on a stool in front of the bathroom mirror. Mama pulled my hair back into a snug ponytail, which she secured with a band in the middle-back of my head. I lamented the fact that I could not see the pony tail. I was sure I looked like a boy. Looking at myself head-on, it looked like one of those old-fashioned really short boy cuts. Almost a buzz cut, but not quite.

I looked in the mirror and made faces at myself and Mama. “Mama, I look like a boy!”, I said in the most pitiful voice I could muster.

“Oh, Lucy, stop it. You could never look like a boy. Not with those delicate features.”

“Yes, I do! I look like Leave It To Beaver!” It was the only way I could think of to describe what I was seeing in the mirror. Standing behind where I was kneeling, Mama just wasn’t seeing things my way. She was looking at me through perfectly good eyes, but they were eyes attached to a body that was trying to get to work on time. This was one showdown I was not destined to win.

That morning, I cried and complained all the way to Sutton’s Daycare, a little red house on the southeast side of town with a stellar reputation, two playgrounds, a pool, and the best people Mama could have hoped to leave me and Biz with while she went to work. Miss Lulu was waiting for us at the atop the hot, asphalt drive. She was a dead ringer for Angelina Jolie, with an equally beautiful heart. She opened the passenger door of Mama’s white Mazda and disengaged the seatbelt that had left angry marks across two halter top-sporting, baby tummies. It was the 1970s, long before seatbelt safety laws. Biz and I were pint-sized outlaws riding shotgun into the sunrise with Mama.

“Well, it sure looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” Miss Lulu lifted my chin, looking into my puffy eyes.

“Oh, Lucy thinks the way I did her hair makes her look like a boy.”

“Oh, please! She could never look like a boy. Not with those delicate features.”

They had double teamed me. But I accepted defeat and Miss Lulu’s hand as she led me to the kitchen for a clandestine meeting, complete with a butter cookie and an extra hug to get me through the day. I was constantly being snuck into the kitchen by any one of numerous teachers for extra cookies. It must have had something to do with my delicate features.

The kitchen was hallowed ground at Sutton’s. Children were not allowed in unless by express permission, or if they were helping with the lunch dishes. I didn’t know doing dishes was a chore until Mama made me start doing them when I was nine years old. At Sutton’s, doing dishes was a way of getting into the kitchen and out of naptime.

Speaking of hair and the kitchen, I got to spend a good hour in the kitchen one day, as Miss Judy, another of my favorite teachers, slathered my head in Creamy Jif, trying to loosen a discarded wad of bubble gum some kid had left on the fence. As I leaned against the fence, standing on the snack line, the gum sought the sanctuary of my hair like a blood-hungry leech. Miss Judy was on the phone with Mama, “I have spent an hour trying everything I can think of to get the gum out of her hair. Do you mind if I just cut the gum out? I can even out her hair while I’m at it. I cut my boyfriend’s hair all the time”. Oh, my. There’s that word. Cut. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

That brings me to the raw deal Mama cut with me when I was seven years old. I had asked Mama several times if I could get my ears pierced. Each time, she said no. “Maybe when you’re older,” Mama would say. Then Mama got an idea. She decided I could get my ears pierced if I would agree to a haircut, and I mean short. Uh-uh. No way. No how.

“Ok, Mama. I’ll do it.”

Now where in Sam Hill had that come from?

I attributed my momentary lapse in judgment to the round studs on the sale rack at the Ear-y Emporium, a gothic-styled kiosk set up in the JC Penney wing of the local mall. It was all blood-red velvet furniture and display cases, with an aloof-looking technician. I haven’t seen a piercing parlor in open space in years. I think merchants finally realized that the blood-curdling screams of small children on the receiving end of stainless steel bullets were just not good for surrounding businesses.

Biz was first on the bloody stool. The technician ─ who had at least one visible tattoo, but no pierced ears, I might add ─ cleansed my sister’s left ear. I saw Mama breathe a sigh of relief. The place had come highly recommended by one of Mama’s friends, but Mama was somewhat conservative, so I could tell she was put off by the place’s ambience. It still surprises me that she didn’t just take us to the doctor. Then again, maybe it was all part of her plan.

The technician aimed the piercing gun, and fired the first round into my sister’s left ear. My five-year-old sister, who had jumped into the pool at aged two while I cowered at the side, went completely ballistic. She held both ears in a death grip ─ the left ear because it hurt like Hell, and the right because it didn’t. Even at the tender age of five, somehow Biz knew that some things just aren’t better the second time around. It took Mama and the sadistic, virgin-eared technician a good half hour to get Biz to relinquish her right ear to the wrath of the gun. As for me, I did not get my ears pierced until just before my 14th birthday.

I did, however, get my hair cut because Mama eventually made me do it. I have elected twice since then to get my hair cut into a short bob so as to be in line with the fashion dictate of the time. I regretted each cut in much the same way that I regret high-waisted jeans. I will never again wear them. No matter that famed fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi says they are coming back in style. Visions of pixie cuts and the dreaded “Mom Jean” are the stuff of frequent nightmares.

But why, you may ask - or not.

More on the subject later. . .

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Am A Waterhead

Grams and I are rocking on a porch swing on the screened-in back porch that runs the length of my grandparents house. My Grandfather, “Papa”, Mama, and my Aunt Belinda are painting the newly built picket fence that encircles the two-acre tract of land my grandparents’ ranch-style house is perched on. They are painting the fence white, just like Grams wanted. Papa wanted to paint it brown, but Grams usually gets what she wants, and the white picket fence is no exception. Grams is a witch, after all. She was born on Halloween in 1921. Grams says that makes me and my sister, Zalie, as well as my cousins Aimee and Josh, all one quarter witch. Really, Josh is a warlock. I know this because I watch Bewitched. It comes on every night after supper. All the boy witches on Bewitched are called warlocks.

“Grams, tell me the story about how I was born again.” I loved Grams stories. The story of how I was born was my favorite. Every year around my birthday I would beg her to tell me the story again.

“Honey, you have heard the story a million times. You should be able to tell it yourself by now.”

“I know, but I like it best when you tell it.”

“Ok, what do you want to know?” Grams had resigned herself to telling the story yet again. Even though she was a witch and usually got her way, she rarely did with me. My middle name, Lucy, was the same as Grams’. Being the first-born grandchild and Gram’s namesake held a magical power all its own that nothing could touch. Grams knew it and so did I. It was my own personal trump card, and I played it for all it was worth.

Grams and I are side by side on the swing, eating a bowl of bing cherries. Her feet can touch the ground from where she sits on the swing, but mine just hang off the end. I am only six years old, and very small for my age. “Well”, Grams begins, you were born on a Monday morning. Your Papa and I were over at the Haskins’ playing bridge late that Sunday night when your Daddy called and said he was taking your Mama to Memorial Hospital.”

“Then what happened, Grams?”

“Well, you were born that next morning. You were a tiny little thing, barely weighed six pounds, you know?”

“Was I a cute baby, Grams?” I knew the part of the story that was coming, but I liked egging Grams on.

“Well, now, I wouldn’t say cute is quite the word, Darlin’. You were a beautiful baby! Why, you had the sweetest baby-pink skin, and the most perfect, round little baby head. The first time I held you, you just gazed at me with those smoky eyes, and I just knew you were something special. The nurses knew it, too. I tell you, word spread around that place like wildfire and nurses from all over the hospital came to the maternity ward just to get a glimpse of you. Why, we should have charged admission, you were a regular feature attraction!” Grams chuckled when she said that. It made me laugh too.

“How come they thought I was so pretty, Grams?” I had seen baby pictures. I was cute enough, but I thought I looked like every other baby.

“Well, I guess what made you stand out from the other babies was the shape of your head. It was just so perfect and round. Most babies come out wrinkled and sqished looking, like a prune, but not you.”

“But, Grams, I’m not pretty anymore. Do you think Mama and Daddy are disappointed in me?”

“You mustn’t speak such things! Why, you are just as pretty as a little picture with your Mama’s curly dark hair and that ivory skin of yours. And you have the tiniest little bones. You look just like a little china doll, and smart as a whip, to boot! Of course your Mama and Daddy are proud of you. We all are, and don’t you forget it.”

“But what is wrong with my eyes? One is big and one is little.” It was true. My eyes did look different. In fact, though imperceptible to the unobservant eye, even my left arm was narrower then the right, and I cannot bend my left thumb. It was as if I was created in halves, then made into one, only to find that the two halves didn’t quite fit together.

“Well, I ‘spec you’re old enough to understand some of what happened. Your Mama took you to see Dr. Tremont when you were, oh, I guess about four weeks old. Dr. Tremont weighed you and checked you out all over. It was when she measured your head that she realized something was not quite right. See, your head was growing faster than the rest of your body, and that isn’t right.”

“You mean like when Josh was born and Papa says when he saw him, his eyes were so big he was afraid they would pop out of his head?” Josh is my three-year-old cousin. He has the biggest brown eyes you could imagine.

Grams laughed, “No, honey, not quite like that. Josh just has big eyes. This was something else entirely.”

“What was it?”

“Now, don’t rush me. I’m getting to it. The doctor told your Mama that we needed to get you over to Memorial Hospital for some testing. Your Daddy was over at the Monroe Grille, where he was working at the time. I came and picked you and your Mama up at Dr. Tremont’s, then we went and got your Daddy.”

“Were you scared?”

“Honey, I didn’t have time to be scared. We were in such a rush to get you to the hospital, plus I needed to be strong for your Mama and Daddy.” Grams has always been strong, that way. She grew up in the Great Depression, when things were really rough. Sometimes she tells me stories about that, too.

As I listened, eyes wide with anticipation, Grams continued the story. “Well, we got you to the hospital for testing, and we were just beside ourselves when the doctor told us the news. See, you were a waterhead baby. You have something called ‘hydrocephalus’.”

Hydro-whata? I wasn’t sure I liked how this story was going. “What is that, Grams?” I didn’t know what to think at this point. I didn’t mind the part about all the nurses wanting to see me, but this was starting to sound a little scary.

“Well, have you ever turned on a water faucet and just left the water running?”

“No Ma’am. The only time I touch it is when I brush my teeth. Mama doesn’t let me run my own bath water yet. She’s afraid I’ll make the water too hot and burn myself.”

“Well, what do you think would happen if you did leave the faucet running?”

“It would spill onto the floor and I would be in trouble. Mama might even spank me for something like that.”

That made Grams chuckle again, so I laughed too. I have never been one to want to be left out of a joke.

“Well”, Grams said, “It’s sort of the same way with your brain. See, the brain is a very miraculous, but delicate thing. It floats in a special fluid that protects it. The thing is, the brain never stops making this fluid. When you have enough fluid on your brain, the extra fluid is supposed to go down your spinal chord.”

“What’s that?” Grams showed me.

“Oh, you mean my back.”

“Right. Well, in your case, the fluid can’t get through your spinal chord. It gets blocked up. That’s what hydrocephalus is.”

Now this sounded scary to me. “Grams, am I going to die?”, I asked.

“Well, now, Darlin’, we all have to go in due time, but it is not your time yet, so don’t you worry yourself, you hear?”

“Yes, Ma’am”, I said. “Can we fix it so I don’t have water on my head anymore?”

“Well, that’s the next part of the story. You had brain surgery that same week. Dr. Frank Davis was a young hotshot neurosurgeon, that’s a brain doctor. He was brand new in town, in fact. He put something in your brain called a shunt that drains the fluid into your stomach. Have you ever noticed the bumps on your head or the scar on your belly?”

I had noticed them. I had a small scar on the lower right side of my belly. I also had three large bumps on the right side of my head. Grams told me pressing those bumps will let me know if the shunt is working. I never press them, though. They scare me.

“Is Dr. Davis the one man who wears those big glasses like Papa?” Papa wore these big coke bottle glasses. On a little boy they would look really funny, but they made Papa look smart and very important, which he was. Papa was active in local politics and everyone knew he made the best fudge in town. At six years old, the fudge was what I was most impressed with. Sometimes Papa would let me help him make it.

“Yes, that is Dr. Davis. I tell you, when he came out of that operating room, he was a sight to see! He danced around that hospital telling everybody he put in the perfect shunt, and he had. You’ve had some eye surgeries, but that shunt hasn’t been a minute’s trouble since the day he put it in.”

“Can Dr. Davis fix my eyes so they don’t look different?”

“No, Dr. Davis doesn’t fix eyes, only heads. I know your eyes look different, but you know, there are some things in life that just can’t be helped. You just hold your head high and be glad you are different.”

But I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t tell Grams that, though.

Thirty years later, my eyes have been fixed. I still look different. I am different, and I am glad. Last Friday, I had a routine appointment with a neurosurgeon. The nurse asked me to speak to a grandmother that had brought her five-week-old grandson in to have stitches removed from his head. He was also born with hydrocephalus, and had just had a shunt put in.

The baby slept through the entire stitch removal process. Bless you, Baby Zachary!