Chapter 1: Mom as Me and Me as Mom
I remember being old enough to decide I didn’t want bangs anymore.
My mom has had the same hairdo for over 40 years, with a few minor changes and a couple of experiments in between. The only time she didn’t have bangs was in high school, in the seventies, when she wore her hair long and parted straight down the middle. In the eighties, she got a perm because she wanted big hair like everyone else. I found some old pictures where she has a very short bob, but it is still the hair cut.
For as long as I can remember, she has dyed her hair light blonde. She started bleaching her hair in an attempt to look “natural.” It got lighter and lighter until the color matched her hair in middle school or younger. Now it’s too light to match mine. She says she feels more like herself when her hair is a light blonde. I resemble my mom the most out of my family. She has always told me how much she loves my natural hair color and insists on me having bangs, just like her. I guess she wanted a mini-me.
I was born with ringlets, but when we moved from Arkansas to Arizona the dry climate made my hair a tangled mess so my mom cut it and the ringlets never grew back. I miss my curls.
When I started dying my hair, I wanted red hair, just like my older sister. Then I wanted to dye my hair black to be subversive, but was too scared to do it because my mom said it would look terrible. She would say “People pay tons of money to dye their hair your natural color. How could you do that?” Eventually a high school boyfriend convinced me to dye our hair black together. We bought 3 dollar hair dye from Walgreens and did it at my best friend’s house. My senior year of high school I decided it was more subversive to have natural hair and went back to being blonde. In college I got bangs again, having bangs was trendy and it felt like my choice.
In Mom as Me and Me as Mom and “Natural” Hair, my mom dyed her hair to match my color and I cut mine to match hers.
Chapter 2: Sadie’s Makeup
We used to joke that Sadie was 3 going on 30. My mom had her when she was 43, I was 10, and my oldest sister, Stacie, was 16. Sadie grew up with women who watched makeover shows. We talked about fashion, dyed our hair on a regular basis, and wore makeup religiously. When we used to get our nails done, Sadie would get hers done too, because it was cute to see a three year old with painted nails. The nail technicians would always offer to wax her unibrow, and when she was 5 she got her eyebrows waxed for the first time. She recently told me that she doesn’t wax them anymore because the hair just doesn’t grow. In middle school, she became obsessed with having clear skin. One summer she wouldn’t leave the house if she had one pimple.
In Sadie’s Makeup, Sadie applies makeup to my face the way she wears it.
Chapter 3: Me as Stacie with Stacie
Stacie is a natural brunette, but most of her life she has dyed her hair a dark red. She is five years older than me and growing up, I admired her a lot. I remember being interested in the things she liked and worrying that I couldn’t like them too because they were Stacie’s thing. One time, Stacie and her best friend offered to give me a makeover. When I finally looked in the mirror I saw they had given me a giant unibrow and was mortified to realize they were pulling a prank on me. Around the same time Stacie was curious what she would look like with blonde hair. She cut my face out of a picture and replaced it with hers.
A few years ago I became obsessed with drag culture. So much that I wanted to participate in the way drag comically critiques the performance of gender. When I started asking myself what my wig of choice would be, the answer was Stacie’s hair. I have always wanted thick, dark, curly hair. I have also always wondered how she does her exuberant but somehow perfect makeup. She draws her brown eyeliner on in a thick line, but it never looks too heavy.
In Me as Stacie with Stacie, I perform my sister’s performance of her gender. I pretend to be her.