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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Surviving Childhood, Off The Top Of My Head

afrodivaz.blogspot.com
Rick and I were out driving one late afternoon, and I was taking some time to enjoy the last of the Fall Foliage. Ohio is having a gorgeous Autumn this year, the finale being a particularly vivid display from the red maples, orange sweet gums, and some rich chestnut and mahogany oaks. Even the rather pedestrian yellow leaves appear more golden than usual. And before this spate of summery November temperatures, October ended with some chilly days, but the colours made it tolerable, even for me.

Anyway, as we were detoured through the neighborhoods of a little town, I was shocked to see a couple of children out playing in fifty-degree weather wearing what I thought was inadequate outerwear. "Is that girl barefoot?" I asked, my voice rising higher on each word as I stared out the car window, incredulous and horrified. "And where is her jacket? Better still, where is her mother? And neither one of those girls has on a hat or a headscarf or anything."

Rick turned to look at the two girls--ages probably seven and ten--playing on the sidewalk. One was attempting to ride a skateboard; the other was sitting on a step near the sidewalk talking to her. Both, to me, looked cold. The skateboarder had on a teeshirt and appeared barefoot; the older girl on the step at least had on long sleeves, but her face looked pink to me, and her arms were held close to her, hands dug into pockets.

"No, she's not barefoot. She has on pink slip-on shoes. They're fine. No one is cold but you, Nance. Pretty much ever." He made the right-hand turn away from the girls and we continued on our way.

There was no use arguing. He was right. Even during menopause, looking forward to Hot Flashes for their warmth (which never came), I was always cold when everyone else was warm. Even though I've put on some weight and am no longer brittle and teeny-tiny, I'm almost always cold. And trust me, no one is more annoyed by it than I am.

Beyond that, though, is the now Archaic idea of bundling up your children to go outside, or at the very least, covering their heads and ears. Let me tell you, this is one child who Never, Ever went outside in temperatures under seventy degrees Fahrenheit without a sweatshirt, jacket, or sweater, and The Headscarf. Oh My God. Patsy June was a firm believer in The Headscarf, especially when it came to me, though for the life of me, I cannot tell you why. In spite of The Headscarf (also known as The Babushka), which I was forced to wear, I had, in my childhood, approximately eleventy thousand ear infections. And this number could definitely be on the low side. And was I allowed to wear The Headscarf in The Cute Way, i.e. tied behind my head? Oh, ha ha. It is to laugh. NO! It had to be tied firmly and chokingly in the front, right in front of my throat.

"I bet you looked cute," approximately No One is saying right now. And they would be correct. Imagine a short, chubby dark-haired girl in braids with fat cheeks, thick bangs, and...wait for it!...as of fourth grade, cat-eye glasses, sporting a headscarf to boot. Here is a rough illustration for you of what I looked like for most of my childhood while playing outdoors:




And here is a Photographic Approximation of how I felt I looked as a child, playing outdoors:

(I know it's the queen, but keep the royal thing out of it.)

How on earth did I ever, ever make it to Adulthood?

I did, dear Readers; I did. And it has been an Adulthood singularly absent of headscarves.


queen image

19 comments:

  1. My mother was a BIG fan of head scaves, she must have had a million! And we could never get out of the house without something on our heads unless it was 90 degrees!

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    1. Bridget--Head scarves for you or for her? I don't know if I'm annoyed that girls today have escaped the head scarf because I think it is bad for their health, unfair because I had to wear them, or simply my Hormones Making Me Cranky. You'd think I would be thrilled that the current generation of girls is Spared the Head Scarf Indignity. I'm a terrible person. Or parents today are. I'm so confused! Help.

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  2. As a child I was forced outside to play with all manner of headscarves and knit hats. As an adult the last time I had a scarf on my head was last year in mid-town Manhattan at Christmastime when the cold wind was blowing down Park Ave. I'm sure that I looked chic even if my husband said I looked like a dork!

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    1. Ally Bean--Thank goodness I am not alone in my miserable memories. And to make yourself feel even more vindicated, go ahead and Google or Bing "head scarf" or "girl in head scarf" and see how difficult it is to find a picture of anyone wearing a head scarf in the way you and I were forced to.

      Let's start a support group. We will show up in inclement weather without proper head coverings.

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  3. I am dying over that illustration! Is that a Nance original?

    My mother either didn't care about me or it was a California thing, but there were no hats, scarves, or head coverings of any sort. Ever. Maybe when it was raining I would put the hood of my jacket up, but that was about it!

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    1. Gina--Of course it is. I am a Tortured Artiste.

      You YOUNG Californians are unable to relate to this, I would imagine. Those of us in less hospitable climates and Of A Certain Age are all nodding our heads and reaching for alcoholic beverages.

      If you would like the paper and Sharpie original (complete with smudge), I'm happy to send it to you. You may choose your own frame depending upon its place of honor in your home. ;-)

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    2. Oh my goodness, I think I do want it!

      Reading all the comments brings back all the feelings of being jealous of all the people who get to wear beautiful wool coats and knitted hats and boots and such. I LOVE outerwear, and the weather here just cannot justify the purchase of a heavy wool coat. I suppose there a few days a year I could wear a knitted hat and not look like a complete idiot, but not many. Actually, I just bought a beret type of hat at Disneyland earlier this week, I need to get that out of the car!

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    3. Gina--Email me your address and it's yours.

      And anytime you want to wear Winter Stuff, come on over to NEO. You can stay with me and we can do whatever Clevelandy stuff you want while you look stylish and Wintry.

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  4. Me too. I am sure I have a terrible example photo somewhere. In fact, even in my late forties I kept a scarf in the car and would put it on just before I turned into the street where my parents lived, because if I didn't, my mother would chew my ears off. Or a tuque if it were really cold. was? brain rot!

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    1. Mary G--Was, were...potato, potahto. I am far more interested in whether it is TUQUE OR TOQUE. Is either one acceptable? Is one more "slangy" than the other? Here in NEO we call them "beanies" if we're Hipsters, "stocking caps" if we're Old, and A Hat if it's Wintertime, when everyone knows what you mean when you holler, "Hey! If you're going outside in this weather, put on A Hat!"

      Bless you for still heeding your mother at forty. These days, I revel in disobeying and trying to shock poor St. Patsy at every turn. This post alone prompted a swift message from her iPad, apologizing for "causing [me] so much stress, just because [she] had [me] wear a head scarf!" (She offered me the earaches excuse again, for the record.)

      I would love to see your example photos. Mine are in boxes someplace in Mom's crawlspaces, but if you show me yours, I'll unearth mine. On second thought, let's don't.

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  5. The only time I ever wore a scarf as a child was on Halloween. Of course, that was in NC... My grandmother on the other hand wore once regularly. And did you ever think that you're always cold because you don't wear scarves now? Hmmm???

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    1. Bug--You Southerners and Youngsters can't relate, I guess. And I am in High Dudgeon at being cast in the same group as your Grandmother. That was...less than Chivalrous.

      I do wear scarves regularly now, but as a Normal Fashionable Person--around my neck area. Not a headscarf. A former commenter here, V-grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl (never know how many Rs she preferred, so I give her extras) recommended to me ages ago that the Europeans wore them always during cooler months for warmth. It's amazing how much warmer I feel with that little accoutrement.

      Pssst...don't tell St. Patsy. She always advised me to wear something up around my neck; that it would keep me warmer. I laughed her off. We never listen to our moms when we're young.

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    2. I KNEW when I mentioned Mamaw you would think I was talking about you - ha! But, you know, you are NOT very much older than I am young lady. I'll be 52 in March :)

      And, yes, about listening to moms - and dads. My dad was always telling me the story about losing whatever percentage of our body head through the tops of our heads. Yeah, dad, whatever - I am NOT putting a hat on this hair!

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  6. I love your picture. It's adorable.

    I never had to wear a head scarf, thank goodness. My mom was basically a free range parent, and if I went out and got cold, then hopefully I would Learn From the Experience, and next time remember a hat.

    I remember the first year we were in California after leaving Alaska. We moved in August, which is when it begins to get colder there and the leaves change on whatever leave changing trees there are, and it's hot as hell in California. It was horrible. That winter, however, was a pretty cold one, and to this day the only time it has snowed lower than a certain elevation (I have to say that, because it has snowed pretty close to here a couple of times, but never gotten all the way down to where we are.) Anyway, as I danced through the streets to school in the falling snow, about 3/4 of a mile, I'm sure people thought I was insane. No hat, no gloves, my jacket unzipped. It made my teachers cold to look at me, I'm sure.

    Speaking of 'how did I ever manage to grow up', I had the cat eye glasses, braces, and corrective shoes. AND my mother cut my hair, which she was NOT QUALIFIED TO DO. I had no choice but to be a tom boy.

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    1. J@jj--You are a True Appreciator Of Art.

      Bless your dear Alaska Native Bohemian heart. What a treasure you are, and I mean that. I will ghost-write or collaborate with you on your book anytime you want.

      As the documentarian Ken Burns said (my favourite quote ever), "There are no ordinary lives." This simple story has brought out so many memories and related stories. I love it.

      No braces or corrective shoes here, just years and years of obesity and braininess. Glad we made it out alive.

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  7. Dying laughing because I, too, had the cat-eye glasses in 4th grade, since I, too, am Of A Certain Age. Fortunately, I was living in Asia then, and the temperatures never got low enough for anything even close to a headscarf. When we did move back to the US for a few years, we moved to Virginia, which -to my Canadian Mother and Bostonian father- must have seemed like the Deep South, so they didn't worry much about us getting cold. I don't remember even owning a hat, scarf, or anything like it - even though I distinctly remember having snow in the winter. My sturdy northern parents must have thought it wasn't cold enough to warrant that level of wrapping up - although I know I had a coat with a hood - and, I vaguely remember some mittens- so maybe they figured that was enough. By the time we moved to Germany, I was in throes of adolescence and certainly not amenable to messing up my hair with hats, scarves, or anything else, except during skiing, which only happened once or twice a year for a couple weeks. Interestingly, after a lifetime of eschewing headgear of all kinds, I have turned into an aggressive hat-and-scarf wearer after 4 brutal winters in Seoul, and continued to wear the same things regularly in here in England, to wit: knit stocking cap (aka 'beanie' as my sons call them); fleece neck gaiter to cover any part of ears/face and throat that my regular scarf might miss; scarf; down vest (aka 'gilet' here in the UK) coat, and gloves. #2 refers to this as my 'tundra suit.' On the other side of the coin, my 2 boys, who spent most of their early years in the Southwest, had to be talked into letting me buy them winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves when we moved to Seoul. They were both convinced they could make it comfortably through the winter (which, in Seoul, regularly sees days of temperatures in the teens and lower and has a layer of ice and snow on the sidewalks for weeks at a time) wearing hoodies.

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    1. MsCaroline--Oh, you Fortunate Southerners! You are all playing right into my sense of Martyrdom. Thank you so much.

      New Englanders and Canadians are hardy and sturdy, and like NEO citizens, scoff at what Southerners term "winter." (See? I even refuse to capitalize it.) The winter of 2011-12 was so mild here with temps persisting in the 40s and 50s that I only wore my winter coat a few times, sticking to my lined raincoat for the bulk of the season. It looks like we'll see that again this year if the forecasters are correct about El Nino. Hooray.

      I still eschew headgear like a teenager, being terribly vain about my hair, which will become flat and ugly if I wear a hat. My coat has a hood, and occasionally I will wear a ski band. Also, as a migraineur, anything on my head bothers me.

      How do gloves keep your hands warm? I must wear mittens. In gloves, my fingers separated, my hands remain icy. I even drive in leather-palmed mitts.

      Loving the image of you in a Tundra Suit walking your pup. If you add snowpants...just saying...! ;-)

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  8. I'm a Southern girl like Bug, but my mother was as determined as yours that I would not leave the house without a head scarf, worn exactly like you wore yours. (And it was always called a head scarf, not simply a scarf.) In my case they were not attractive and I longed for knitted hats like the other girls wore. Even ear muffs would have been better. Of course, even worse than head scarves were those horrid plastic rain bonnets that folded into little packets. She made me wear those as well.

    When my own children were younger my mother could not understand how I would allow my son to go outside without a jacket. I tried to explain that I could insist on a jacket and we would see a stand-off. Or I could let him go without and he would come inside and get it when he got chilly. We never made clothing an issue. Had enough battles otherwise.

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    1. NCmountainwoman--Oh, I also coveted Earmuffs! But, no, those were never even Up For Discussion, and were also assiduously ignored items on my Christmas List every year.

      And the plastic rain bonnets that came in cute little containers were staples in my mother's arsenal also. Whenever our local bank gave them out, or the gas station, or whomever, my mother grabbed at them like mints. Every purse had two or three. All the female family members wore them, sometimes en masse, as to church, entering like Saran-wrapped lunch objects. Sigh.

      You are so right about battling with our own children with regard to coats, jackets, etc. All during their adolescent lives, it seems! Why is that? My sons completely eschewed winter coats from about ages 13-23, I think. I bet your son did too. And how true that it was Never Worth It.

      That really hit home at the end of each school year when the janitors at our high school used to open all the lockers and leave the doors standing wide. We teachers would walk around and look for our department's textbooks. All of us were astonished at the vast numbers of perfectly pristine winter coats left there, unclaimed. Ditto for jackets, sweatshirts, etc., all of which would be dry cleaned and donated. Those of us who were parents knew exactly what kind of arguments went on behind each and every one of them and took a lesson.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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