NEWS FLASH! Our very own Hank Phillippi Ryan's novel DRIVE TIME has been nominated for an Agatha Award for best novel! We are beyond thrilled for her!! GO HANK!
HALLIE: Yesterday's discussion left me thinking about hair. One of the very first pieces of writing I ever sold was something drafted as an assignment for an essay-writing course I took at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education with the wonderful Mopsy Strange Kennedy. The assignment was: The History of My Hair.
I sold it to Only a Game, Bill Little Field's show on National Public Radio. That one success fueled me for YEARS of rejection. It's amazing how just one publisher saying YES can give you the fortitude to withstand so many NOs. And the great fun with NPR is I actually got to go into the studio and record the essay. I remember Bill telling me, "Make your voice smile!" ("Sing out, Louise!!")
So here it is -- a meditation on hair and, tangentially, all the wonderful opportunities Title IX has brought to young women.
"I want my hair cut like that," I'd beg Mr. Latour, offering up my dog-eared third grade picture. What I wanted was a shaggy, unplanned look. What I got were bangs hacked across and sides that flipped up, giving me the dreaded Bozo the Clown look.
I tried to salvage the mess by setting my hair. Each morning, I brushed and brushed to make the hair curl under. In the afternoon, I'd be standing out in right field during one of the pick-up games I'd wheedled my way into. I can still feel my socks scrunched halfway down inside my Mary Janes. If I ran my fingers through my hair, I'd realize that my perfect pageboy had erupted and just then, the fly ball with my name on it sailed past.
When I was twelve, someone invented the bubble. You had to back-comb your hair into tangled clumps, then smooth it into one massive hair ball. Waves of hairspray turned the spun confection rigid. Sometimes we added a guiche -- this is French for spit curl. But we used clear nail polish, not spit, to glue down the curl.
I got a bubble the same year I won Best Sixth Grade Girl Athlete. Only Sixth Grade Girl Athlete was more like it. That year, I spent lonely afternoons shooting hoops. I'd be aiming a tired volleyball, imagining the clean arc that would take it whooshing through the hoop, when I'd have to drop the ball to hold down the hair mats that were flapping up and down in a sudden gust of wind.
My daughter gapes at my school picture. She thinks I personally invented big hair. The French word for this, she informs me, is choucroute. And in that photo, it does look as if I've got a perfect mound of sauerkraut on my head.
My daughter keeps her hair sensibly restrained in a pony tail as she streaks up and back on the soccer field or anchors the 4X4 relay. When I tell her she gets her athletic ability from me, she does a double take. "You?" I dig out my Best Girl Athlete award. She eyes it skeptically. "So what teams were you on?"
"There were no girls' teams back then," I tell her, "unless you count cheerleading. But still, I played. A little baseball. A little basketball. And I think I could have been really good if it hadn't been for my hair."
That was it. It took a minute and a few seconds to read on the radio and my career was launched -- in my mind. Which is where it mattered.
So what are your memories of sports as a kid -- were there any, and did you play or watch fro the sidelines?