All Set

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Contributor: Theresa Milstein

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You remove the first roller from my hair.
All night, while I tossed and turned from the
Hard plastic lumps surrounding my head,
I dreamed of waking up as Farah Fawcett
From the TV show Charlie’s Angels.
When I was little, my friend Devra and I
Wore yellow cardigans over our cropped curls,
Imagining we possessed flowing locks.
Now I’m older and can’t pretend.

You promised me straight hair,
Like the kind you used to iron flat in the 1960s.
From those the photos of you, I would never know
You were cursed with the same frizz as me.
I wanted you to iron my hair too.
I worried the rollers were too tiny.
But you said irons are “damaging”,
And my hair is too short for beer-can rollers.

You have plucked half the rollers now.
I swallow the lump of worry.
If it didn’t work, I have to face school this way.
I know my hue is more Jaclyn Smith than Farah Fawcett,
But I can live with that.
Just please let the other kids admire me.

You unravel the last roller.
My hair looks “set,”
Like those frosty-haired grannies after a trip to the “beauty parlor”—
The kind who don’t wash their helmet hair between visits.

You smile.
“It will look different when I brush it out.”
Reality hits me. My hair isn’t long enough to
Resemble Fawcett or Smith, but I’ll take Kate Jackson.
Anything but me.
You brush my hair gingerly. As you face me,
You block my view of the progress.
When you step away, I’m transformed.
I resemble a brunette Pinky, the beauty school dropout,
From the movie Grease. Tears prick my eyes.
I’m going to school in the 1970s with a 1950s bouffant.
What will Buffy, the girl who flips her golden, feathered tresses, say?
If Keith notices me, it won’t be because I’ve transformed into an Angel.

You gaze at me in the mirror, responding to my reflection with pride.
How did I fail to express what I expected?
Why did you think this is what I wanted?
Can’t you see how crushed I feel inside?
What do you see when you see me?

You clip a tiny plastic pink bow barrette just above my bangs.

“All set.”

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Theresa Milstein has several short pieces published in anthologies and journals. While her published works are for adults, she primarily writes for children and is active in the New England chapter of SCBWI (Society for Book Writers and Illustrators). She lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog.


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