I was teenager during the 1980's. Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Prince, acid washed jeans, palettes of eye shadow and bangs to the sky. I was a pretty typical teenager. I loved music and saved babysitting money to buy the latest albums (shut up, I'm old). I stretched our home telephone cord within and inch of its life so I could retreat to the privacy of our pantry to talk on the phone. I had friends and good grades and lots of extra curricular interests. But I was a chubby teen and I was terribly self conscious. There were no two words I feared more than "pool party". I am certainly not the first teen with body issues, I won't be the last. One particular feature I hated was my "high forehead". I had been wearing bangs my whole life to reduce its ginormity. I was so jealous of girls with normal heads that could wear their hair off of their faces with confidence. One day... during my Sophomore year of high school (referred to as my Suckmore Year, but that's another blog for another day), encouraged and bolstered by the gigantic and fully exposed bangless forehead of 80's singing star Jody Watley, I styled my hair with my bangs off of my face. I walked out of the house that morning, newly confident and feeling for the first time the sun and wind on my forehead.
I walked into school, went to my locker and started the dreaded walk through the "Senior Locker Area" on my way to homeroom. I passed a group of jocks that were gathered in an informal huddle and quickly walked by, avoiding eye contact. Then... I heard it. Clear as day. One of the boys said "Nice forehead" and the whole team laughed. Even typing those words gives me a teenage pit in my stomach. I was so horrified. I walk/ran to the nearest bathroom, locked myself in the stall and furiously started breaking through the layers of Rave Mega Hold hairspray in an effort to return my bangs to their rightful place - covering my perceived deformity. I was late for first period that day. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated.. that I didn't ever tell a soul. Not even my best girlfriends.
That was 1984. I haven't worn my bangs off of my forehead since.
It's so stupid isn't it? Every time I pull my hair back to wash my face or lay in the sun, I look in the mirror and hear it: "Nice forehead". Who cares what some dumb jock said in 1984? I do, I guess. Because even as I type this, I feel vulnerable. Why? Because words hurt. They resonate deep within and they are recorded in our brains. One guy, a faceless voice from a pack of idiots, has governed my hair style for 27 years. Isn't that something?
The other day, I picked my kids up from school. There were some older boys hanging out waiting for their ride I guess. I don't know how old they were, maybe 12. I was talking to one of the other moms and my kids were running around a tree acting silly. The older boys were in the tree, sitting on branches, rolling their eyes and cracking wise - which is the chief job of the 12 year old boy.
Now my son can come off a little odd to other kids. He is nasally and a little stiff. Also, he has the vocabulary of a 40 year old chemistry professor. I yelled to my kids to head to the car and they took off running. As I walked from the tree, one of the boys yelled to my son "Run Forrest Run". I don't know if my son even heard it, and frankly he wouldn't get the reference. But I heard it. And my face got instantly hot and my hands started to shake a little and it was 1984 all over again. But I wasn't 15. I was 42. And I wasn't the victim, I was the protector. And he wasn't Forrest Gump, he was my son. My life.
Without thinking, I spun around and marched my high forehead right over to the tree. I looked up to the two boys and said "Did you just say "Run Forrest Run" to my son?". I was using a very quiet voice, but I must have looked mad, because they looked scared. One kid confessed and sheepishly said "Yes, it was me. I didn't mean it." I said "Then why did you say it? In case no one ever teaches you this, boys, let me teach you today that words hurt. Now, don't say mean things ever again, you hear me." And I flipped my hair and walked to my car. (A hair flip is my signature move during any confrontational situation).
OK, so I am sure they didn't listen to me and I am really sure that they likely said a mean thing the very second I was out of ear shot. But I felt better. Maybe my words will resonate with them someday and make them nicer people. I can dream, right?
I didn't graduate from the high school I attended my Suckmore Year. I transferred to a high school of performing arts the following year and graduated with honors. And even though it was the best decision of my life, it killed my fantasy of returning to my old high school for my 30 year class reunion and finding Mr. Jock, eyeballing his receding hairline and muttering... "Nice forehead". ;)