Recently my sister-in-law emailed me a photo of me sitting next to my husband at a family gathering in her living room, about thirty years ago. What immediately struck me was that I had curly hair that day. At no time in my life do I ever remember having such hair. At first I thought after years of blow drying and flattening it, I convinced myself, and my hair, that I’m someone else. But, no, something had definitely gone awry.
I stared at the photo a little longer, trying to get a handle on what was beginning to look more and more like I was wearing a shower cap, when I suddenly remembered when that photo was taken. I was new to the family and no one was talking to me. It wasn’t their fault. They’re wonderful people. It’s just that not having anyone to talk to, even for a minute or two, has been a reoccurring fear of mine for most of my life and that photo documented one of the worst experiences of my life. As I recall my head was soaking wet from nerves.
Not only was nobody talking to me, but when I looked more closely at the photo I remembered that my husband, sensing how badly things were going, fell asleep. In the photo, I’m leaning forward looking at him like, Please don’t die. You’re my only friend here. From that point on I sat as stiff as a board unable to function.
I remember compensating for my fear by talking incessantly. I covered my parent’s divorce, my childhood eating disorder and the time I fell off my bike. I told them about our dog, Heidi, a miniature schnauzer, I described how I’d like to decorate my apartment, and gave everyone my mom’s chicken recipe. I was mostly talking to myself, but I persevered. At one point my husband picked his head up and I thought oh thank God, but then he proceeded to get up and walk into the other room so he could nap in peace.
On the way home he apologized every thirty seconds.
“I don’t know why I got so tired all of a sudden. I never meant to fall asleep. How’d it go?”
“Really well. Thanks for asking.”
“Great, so what happened to your hair? It looks shorter.”
“Humidity, I guess.”
I flipped my visor mirror down and admired my full-blown Afro from every angle before running a brush through my hair.
“I lied, by the way. It didn’t go well. I talked the entire time you were sleeping. Literally no breaks at all.”
“Yeah, I heard, but don’t worry. It’ll all be forgotten. It’s not like anybody got it on film.”