In May, when everything is beautiful, I turned eight and fell in love. A brain-softening crush on a stupid boy. I hated boys – all boys were unwashed, candy stealing, bug-picking yahoos who threw ice balls and who smelled.
But not this One. His teeth sparkled, his eyes shone, his hair was combed, he played cowboys with a real cap pistol and he shared his candy with me – once. That once was enough. I was brain- mushed.
I wanted to look prettier. We had two curling irons. One small one for the short hair around your ears and bangs and a bigger one for longer hair. You heated those on the open gas flame then tested the burn on newspaper to make it stop smoking and then twirled your hair around it. When I asked Maman to curl my hair, she said: “Only spoiled rich girls curl their hair when it’s not Sunday”.
Going it alone, I patiently warmed the irons, testing and curling but it just would not curl! So I used a hotter iron, taking less time on the cooling with newsprint stages.
This produced a bit of burnt frizz along with a limp curl – but it was something. I proceeded to burn my ears and forehead as, painfully, the bangs became frizzy and a bit dark.
I remembered the nuns telling us stories of ancient Christians and how the Romans used irons to torture them, and wondered if they had curled their hair, too.
Maman walked into the kitchen and saw my final effort. “So you can do it yourself ! But you smell like burnt chicken feathers” She brushed it out for me, put a salve on my burns, not saying a word about my nice pink dress which was a bit too small for me, as it was last year’s (outgrown) beloved favourite dress.
Floating on cloud Love, I went to where Roy – the perfect boy-name for a TV hero (!), was hanging out by the green fence of his yard, at the end of our lane.
Smiling, joyful, I grew closer, wishing he would just kiss my cheek but he didn’t notice my hair or my cute (outgrown) pink dress. He was looking at – another girl!
Andrée was the doctor’s daughter, age ten, his age, and far better dressed. He took her hand, opened the gate for her, stood aside to let her enter first into the shaded yard of his house where nice lawn furniture and flowers waited.
Stricken, I stood there and just as they were going through the gate, three other horrible boys arrived on the run. One stopped to look at me and got his stupid face too close and yelled: “Hey! your ma’s been plucking a chicken! Smells like burnt feathers! “ I called him stupid and he pushed me and I fell against the fence, tearing my dress.
I socked him, and one of his dirty, stinking, ugly friends threw a tomato on my dress! I screeched and attacked and beat the living crap out of tomato face, while the others cheered me on.
Finally, I turned to look at what Roy was doing, but he was escorting Renée to a chair while his mom brought out a tray of lemonade and biscuits. He had completely Not Noticed Me or my Hair!
Weeping, mortally wounded, tomatoed, muddied, curls gone, I ran up the lane while the horrible boys called and laughed and waved and threw rocks.
“ Shitheads!” I screamed. They laughed even more.
That afternoon, Maman said this was how Love teaches a girl about boys.
“Later, you will know all about that.” Mysterious advice of poor consolation. Meanwhile, she said I could curl my hair with rag strips at bedtime and make curls that don’t smell of burnt chicken feathers and be more like Andrée.