“Adult”ery

 

JudycurlsJudycurls - Version 2

Unfortunate hairstyles of the past

 

“Adult”ery

I don’t remember, as a child, ever really thinking about what it would be like to be an adult in terms of where I would live or what I would choose as a profession. I do remember, however, two things I worried about.

First of all, I worried about what instrument I would play in the school band. I had two sisters, one eleven years older and the other four years older, who both played saxophone. As a matter of fact, there being 7 years difference in their ages, they both played the same saxophone! When I entered the sixth grade and was old enough to play in the starter band, I knew two things. #1: I had to play in the band because both of them had done so. #2: I had to find a way to be unique in doing exactly what they had done, and so I had to find a different instrument. This resolve was strengthened by the fact that my sister Patti was still using the “family saxophone.” As long as I was being different, I decided to stretch my uniqueness as far as it would go. No one in either the starter or the regular band had ever played a flute. It was exotic and not very heavy to carry. I would play a flute!!! Or rather, I would attempt to play a flute.

I faked it for two years, blowing energetically into the little hole as we sat in the band loft at games or marched along behind the regular band, practicing for parades or football games; but I never really developed much of a tone and my memory of which note was which was limited. It was really easy, though, to carry that little case about as large as a large pencil case the two blocks to the auditorium where our band practice occurred. My band instructor could not afford to be picky as there were only 200 students in the entire school system—grade school and high school combined—so every warm body available was required to flesh out the physical body of the band. If a few were miming, so be it. As long as they could stay in step for the marching band and didn’t play any really loud false notes, who would ever know?

When my sister left for college, she left the sax behind; and when I headed out for my first band practice as a high school freshman, I left that dread flute behind as I took sax in hand to continue the family tradition. I was not a whole lot better at it, but found something held between the lips and teeth was a lot easier than something held sideways and blown across and although the sax was heavier, it was held in a much more sustainable position than the flute, which was an exercise in arm isometrics as I held it aloft!!

The second worry I had about growing up was how I would wear my hair. I would lie awake nights worrying about what hairstyle I would adopt when I could no longer sport the sausage curls my mother formed around her finger each morning. Shirley Temple, who had already grown to adulthood, needed to be replaced! My hair was too long, however, to duplicate Shirley’s bouncy little curls. It hung in fat tubes down beside my cheeks, offsetting my tight little bangs curled up each night in pink rubber curlers. For some reason, both my mom and I thought this made me look real good, and I am not exaggerating when I admit that there were nights when I’d lie in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, worrying about what I would do when I grew up and could no longer wear curls!!

So now you know why I dropped the saxophone as soon as I graduated high school and why I had to move to Mexico to escape the shame of all those years when I allowed my mother to shape my esthetic sense of hair. I haven’t owned a curler of any type for 20 years. That saxophone was handed on to the next generation of my family and its mouthpiece, at least, met its demise when it snapped in two as my niece tried to grip it with the fourth pair of teeth in three decades. With a new mouthpiece, it survived four more years—hopefully this time with someone with more talent than I. I know not where it ended up. Probably in some second hand store or donated to some child who couldn’t afford an instrument. I hope it wound up with some talented individual who could restore its pride in itself.

Now that I have been an adult for many many years, I have conquered most of its demands. I have found many hairstyles, only a few of them more ridiculous than sausage curls (see my college picture above as an illustration of this fact) and attempted only one additional instrument, the guitar. Having played only solo or in duet with a college friend who tried to mold me into Joan Baez but failed, I did learn about seven chords and learned to adapt a whole succession of seventies songs to fit into those seven chords. I played for sing-alongs with the kids I counseled at summer camp and for groups of little neighbors around the world, who would come to my house on Saturday mornings to sing silly songs. And I have that guitar to this day. But I haven’t played it for years and harbor no illusions about my prowess. It is there for visiting friends who want to play for me and as a big, cumbersome, hard-to-store reminder that I can choose my own failures as surely as my own successes.

I am an adult like other adults—growing more childish year-by-year, but in my regression toward soft food and adult diapers, I will never sink so low as to repeat some mistakes of my youth. Never ever more sausage curls or flutes held aloft like punishment. And never again will I try to be different just to be different. “The Far Side” has shown that this is nothing that really needs to be aimed for. We all grow odd enough just following the path of nature, thereby furnishing the humor for all the generations that follow us.

The Prompt: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

P.S. Thirty years after high school, when I was doing an art show in Oregon, a man walked by my display and then did an about-face and came back and said, “You’re Judy Dykstra, aren’t you?”  I admitted the fact and asked him how he knew me.  He said he was 5 years behind me in school in the small South Dakota town where I grew up.  He was a country boy and since we’d never been in school together, I didn’t recognize him but did recognize the family name.

“How in the world did you even know what I looked like, let alone recognize me thirty years later?” I asked.

“Well, a bunch of us used to collect in the the school library and look at old annuals,” he said.  “I recognize you from your high school picture.”  Suddenly, it all came clear.

“You used to look at them to laugh at all the funny hairstyles, didn’t you?”   Sheepishly, he laughed and admitted it.  I had hit the nail (or the girl?) right on the head!!!!

21 thoughts on ““Adult”ery

  1. Laura M.

    My family begged for me to choose the flute but I went for the alto sax instead. The compromise: my brother’s balled up socks shoved in the bell. PS: You’re still stunning in that photo, helmet notwithstanding 😉

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  2. grieflessons Post author

    Ha… One wonderful thing about being the age we are is that we can be who we are and admit what we admit without worrying about the consequences. Those younger than us are too worried about their own lives to even consider ours and those our age are going through much the same as we are, so why not let it all hang out? But no, no more sausage curls or helmet dos. I can be funny without being so in retrospect!!!!

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  3. Brian_87!

    I can understand your first worry! It happens with the younger kids in a family 😀 I being the youngest, was always pushed with tradition concept and idea to carry the legacy. My sister was free to choose but then her decision were like ‘trend setting tradition’ to be followed by me. Ha!ha! well thanks for sharing this
    P.S: TRUST me I like that hairdo!

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    1. grieflessons Post author

      Yet I think it was really me setting those expectations for myself, partially because I admired my sisters and partially because there were no other choices to make in my small town. I thought I was expected to do what my sisters did, but once I left home and branched out and started doing my own thing, everyone approved. I dreaded what my mom and dad would say the first time I traveled around the world. Instead, she bought a map and put it on the wall and put a pin in each country I visited and he told exaggerated stories to all his cronies in Macks Cafe about what I was doing. When I emigrated to Australia after college graduation, she and my dad and sister came to visit and as I traveled once more around the world, they never objected–at least to me. My sister even came to visit me in Africa. When I quit my job and sold my house and took off to CA to write after ten years of teaching, again I feared what my mom would say,(my Dad had died by then) but what she said to my sister was, “Well, that’s a relief. She was getting to be a bit school-teacherish!” Thanks, Mom and Dad and Patti, for always accepting the changes and going along with them as well. And thanks, Brian, for reading my blog and commenting. Please come back and do so again. Judy

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      1. grieflessons Post author

        P.S. Brian, just which of those hairdos do you like? If it is the second, I merely question your judgement. If it is the first, I worry about you!! Kind of you to say so, though.

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  4. Ann O'Neal Garcia

    totally LOVE the early photos of you. What a cute kid and what a beautiful young woman, never mind the funky hair styles. I got a kick out of “seeing” you unsuccessfully blowing warm air across the flute’s opening, hoping there’d be a pleasant note or two, and marching in h.s. band with a saxophone later. You made some good points about how, as we age, we “all grow odd enough just following the path of nature.” Yes, indeed! And how nice your whole family supported the life-changes you made. Good lady from good family. Nice to know you!

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    1. grieflessons Post author

      Hopefully, I’d straightened up my hair act by the time you got to know me, Ann. I remember one girl leaning over in English Methods class once and asking me if I put my mascara on both the tops and bottoms of my eyelashes (by this I mean tops and bottoms of my top eyelashes and tops and bottoms of my bottoms ones). I said yes!!! Wish I’d asked her why she asked, but looking at this picture, perhaps I know.

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  5. Mary Francis McNinch

    I really enjoyed reading this. I watched way too much Father knows best and Donna Reed. I thought that was how it was supposed to be. I don’t know what I was thinking..neither show represented my family. I think you look beautiful in your college picture.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Did you read the Emily Loring books in the school library? They did me in!!! When I look back through my albums, I am embarrassed to note that almost every hairdo was laughable. I have a story about that as a matter of fact! Wait. I have a story about everything! As do you.

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