By Traci Foust
When I was a kid, my mother tried to cover my great big grapefruit shaped forehead with bangs and lies: “If this was 17th century France,” she’d say, “you’d be considered a regal woman of status.” Which of course meant nothing to me because I grew up in the eighties in the San Francisco Bay Area where status was defined by how many pairs of fluorescent socks you had to go with your fluorescent Jellies.
Socks you can change.
Foreheads last a lifetime.
To make matters worse, not only was zero progress being made on the everyone-grows-into-their-head myth, but it seemed my forehead was actually pushing my hairline toward the back of my ears. By age eleven I was rocking the style of a sixty-year-old Cockney fish monger—and apparently using his dentist. When my grandmother’s eyes hazed over in a film of cataracts my mother banned her from cutting my bangs, yet the only advantage to this was I no longer had to walk with my head tilted sideways to make everything look even. (See Also: Scissors in the Dark : One Sight-impaired Woman’s Quest to Become a Hair Stylist) But it wasn’t just my big head and teeth that kept me from truly immersing myself into 1983. Washing and taking care of my hair was a huge problem for me as a kid. I just wasn’t what you’d call a big shower taker. At eleven it was my OCD and fear of fainting in a steamy bathroom that stopped me from adopting good hygiene habits. At thirty-nine it’s kind of the same thing but with Netflix and Funyuns.
They say people with big heads have big brains. Sadly there is no real evidence to back this up (My boyfriend has a PhD in astrophysics—his head is totally smaller than mine.) But just like my mother used the Distinguished Heads of Europe tale to ease my self consciousness, I too believe any story to help someone feel good about themselves is a story worth sharing.
Last week my nine-year-old son stood in front of the bathroom mirror getting ready for our trip to the library. While I helped him gel up his hair into his favorite faux-hawk he asked me whether I thought he should check out a book on tank bombers or fighter jets. I squished and plied and did as much as I could against the limits of his Phil Collins hairline. “They both sound good to me,” I said. “And just for fun, why don’t read some stories of what life was like in 17th century France?”
Traci Foust is the Author of the newly released book Nowhere Near Normal- a Memoir of OCD (Simon and Schuster/Gallery) acclaimed by National Public Radio, the San Diego Union Tribune and Marie Claire. Her work has appeared in several journals including The Nervous Breakdown and the Southern Review. She is currently working on her second book We’re Taking you to a Place Where you can Get Some Rest, A cautionary collection of essays on mixing Vicodin with Vodka and why dating your psychiatrist isn’t always the best way to get your own prescription pad. She lives in a place where her love of cigarettes and bacon is frowned upon.