My 5 year-old has always had some type of color-identity crisis when it comes to his hair. During the greater part of the year, his hair is brown. Not the rich, dark brown color that is his older brother’s shade, but a lighter brown, almost dirty blonde. If his hair color were a pair of Gap khakis, it would be “chino cedar.”
However, in the summer, as his complexion tans and his hair lightens, he becomes a three-month blonde. While most of the photos around the house are from summers at the beach, the situation is further compounded by the fact that school pictures are taken during the first few weeks of September - it is no wonder that my little guy thinks he’s blonde (as shown in his self-portrait on the left), because those are really all of the images he sees of himself.
I never realized that his fair skin and light brown hair ever bothered him. From time to time, however, he would ask me about his eyebrows - they are very light and at first glance almost non-existent. His eyebrow issues cropped up again yesterday at pre-school. A number of the little girls had sat him down in the “block area” to examine his eyebrows and see if they were actually there. Some genius parent had thought it was a great idea for one of the girls to bring a small bag of make-up to school – a small collection of Hello Kitty eye shadow, blush and lip balm – it may have looked like a toy, but it was in fact make-up.
He said the little girls kept asking him questions like “Why don’t you have eyebrows?” and “My mom shaves her eyebrows all off, is that what you do?” and “You’re eyes look funny, they look like they are naked.” However, when one of the teachers heard, “You need to draw them on like my Nana,” she swooped in and confiscated the contraband Bonne Belle, Jr. stripper glitter before an eyebrow intervention occurred.
He was telling me all this later in the day, as he polished off a snack and I unpacked his backpack. I hadn’t noticed anything funny about his appearance at school, but now at home, sitting under the lights in the kitchen, he looked different. There was a slight pinkish tint to the top of his head. Thinking he might be bleeding, I began to look him over ear to ear. But no blood, no sign of a cut or scrape. “Buddy what happened?” I asked.
“N-o-t-h-i-n-g,” he said slowly and deliberately, with a look that said “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis!” “Did you paint at school today?” I asked as I began a second head check, this time looking for any traces of poster paint. “Yeah,” he said, trying to shake his head away from me. I sniffed the pink spot. It didn’t smell like paint. It didn’t smell like poop, either, that was a good start. It was faintly sweet, almost like a candle and smelled VERY familiar.
“I think Ruby’s hair rubbed off on me,” he said. “What?” I said aloud and wondered if Ruby had dyed her hair again? At a local fall fair, the little girl in question had her platinum blonde hair sprayed with hot pink hair paint. The dye did not shampoo out easily and needless to say, for school pictures, Halloween and well into Thanksgiving the little girl’s hair was various shades of pink as if faded and grew out.
I remembered a little blonde Ruby waving goodbye as we left the classroom and crealized that my 5 year-old was fabricating his story as he sat at the table, hunched over with his left hand pressed to the left side of his fore head. “Buddy, what’s the matter?” I asked. “Don’t look at me!” he cried. “Don’t mommy! Don’t look at me.” I had backed him into a corner and was trying to pry his hand off his forehead. “Are you hurt?” I asked and then I saw a small dark pink spot. “What the hell is that?” I thought. “Sorry mommy,” he said. “I used your lips stuff.”
Used my what? Then it dawned on me. Damn it! I ran up to the bathroom were I had inadvertently left a tube of “Baby Doll,” my favorite shade of Lorac lipstick. I surveyed the counter, waste basket, toilet, and inside the three vanity drawers – nothing. Then, in the corner of the tub, an oddly placed towel with pink smudges caught my eye. I picked it up to find the lipstick, broken into pieces and rolled into little pink balls, as if it was play-doh.
“Why did you do that, bud?” I looked down at him. He had followed me up the steps, screaming, “Don’t go in there!” the entire time I searched for the missing tube. In the glare of the bathroom lights, he looked up at me and said, “But I can’t see them mommy! I want them to stand out.” He was pulling at the skin over his eyes and I finally saw the result of his handiwork - his eyebrows were covered in shiny pink salmon “Baby Doll” lipstick.
“Oh buddy,” I laughed and picked him up in a huge hug while frantically motioning to his 10 year-old sister, who couldn’t contain her laughter, to go to her room. “Buddy, you are perfect. You have wonderful, perfect eyebrows. I can see them.” I said. “You don’t need to make them stand out. You and your eyebrows are perfect just the way you are.” Then I said, “Look at me, who is the best little guy?” “I am,” he said. “And who has the best little eyebrows?” I asked. “I do,” he said.
I hugged him tightly once more. “Just because you can’t see your eyebrows, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. You’re a special little guy. There will be times when other’s might not see that, but just like your eyebrows, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there.” He walked off happy, eyebrows glittering in the sunlight. I thought, damn it, where was my camera when I needed it! I was out $19 for the lipstick and if couldn’t salvage the rest of the tube, at least I could’ve snapped a quick blackmail photo for his future engagement party, rehearsal dinner or 40th birthday…but when he hits 40, I’ll be pushing 70 and will probably be in the same eyebrow boat.