After studying three terms of fiction at Bennington College, it was strange, yet liberating to switch to nonfiction for my thesis, The Beauty of it All. It was a story that insisted on being told.
I have Jill McCorkle to thank for allowing me to spill my guts one day during lunch in my third term. Without her incredible support and encouragement, my story would have never been unearthed.
David Gates, my thesis advisor, was kind enough to describe my story as “grimly fascinating and deeply affectionate.” So here goes…
The Beauty of it All is my tale of growing up in conservative Dallas as the daughter of a liberal Democrat hairdressing father to women in the Park Cities (the Texas version of Beverly Hills) and an opera singing, former beauty queen mother; tearing my hair out and wearing corrective shoes; blossoming as a teen with frosted Farrah Fawcett hair; attending SMU as a sorority girl; running away to New York City to pursue a career in copywriting, then returning to Dallas to confront addiction, my uncle’s mental illness and family secrets that had haunted me since childhood.
I am fleshing it out now so that it’s book-length, wringing my hands over what else to reveal. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:
Most of the male hairdressers wore loud shirts with wild patterns that looked like tornados. Or vomit. The shirts were silky and clung to their bodies; I could see their man-boobs. Some of the men wore tight pants, platform shoes and gold neck chains. One man, Bob, wore eyeliner and pancake make-up. He had a big stomach; when he walked around the salon it looked as if his stomach was leading the way. Most of the men had dainty, theatrical voices. They were always rushing here and there, escorting women from their chairs to the hair dryers, while they flew by others (Oh, hello, dear! Be just a sec!) in the waiting area, which had a church pew my dad had stained green. He’d put a flowered plastic cushion on it instead of the red velvet ones in church.
A few women did hair, too. Billie looked like Loretta Lynn, had high black hair and ungrateful children. “I replaced the radiator in my daughter’s car. Had to dip into my savings and I tell you what, I did not get one word of ‘thanks’ from her. Not one.” Joanne wore blue smocks and had a haircut like a man. She walked around with a clipboard in her hands and a More cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth. She was forever talking about “documented evidence.” At the time, people were getting attacked by sharks in Florida and she said she had “documented evidence” that people were also getting attacked up and down the Texas coast. “You’re going to Galveston to the beach? I sure as heck wouldn’t go,” she’d say. “I have documented evidence that a week ago a shark took an arm off of a toddler down there.”
All the stylists, or “operators” as my dad called them, stood and chatted as they combed and teased blonde, black, brown and red hair. However, many of the women were silver foxes and had white–even blue hair. Lots of dad’s operators complained about their feet hurting. “Damn bunions!” Dr. Scholl’s toe cushions were scattered everywhere, even all over the back counter where they washed the combs. One turned up in a big vat of egg salad that one of the operators had made and had left out for people to help themselves.
Thank you for your time and blessings to you all.