Young Lady, You Look Like a Brick Poopyhouse

Filed under: Opinions

Illustration by Dori Hartley

What do you do when you realize your children are acting just like you did as a kid? Illustration by Dori Hartley

Recently, Daughter #1 (age 10) asked for a blue streak in her hair. Not the Halloween variety that washes out in a week, either. She'd done her homework, too.

"Because my hair's dark, we'd have to bleach it for the streak," she said, regarding me hopefully. "I could pay for it with Tooth Fairy money."

"Holy crap," said I, who nearly wept the day she had her ears pierced.

"You said CRAP," Daughter #2 (age 7) helpfully pointed out. "You should have said 'BEEEEEEEP.' " She paused, then added, "I think I want a pink streak."

"HOLY BEEP," I said.

My mother was not a cusser. But even she had a breaking point.

When I was 16, I thought it would be an absolutely groundbreaking idea to walk around for a entire day with a thick lock of my permed hair submerged in a Dixie cup of hydrogen peroxide. This resulted in a shock of completely white hair fluttering by my left ear -- not at all the coy blonde streak I was hoping for. To remedy the situation, I went out and bought a box of hair dye, a glorious auburn that I figured would erase all traces of my Bride of Frankenstein hair experiment.

An hour later, I wound up with a stunning coif of fried, crunchy orange hair -- with a conspicuous cotton-candy pink swatch, as big as a tumbleweed, dangling by my left temple. I decided it was just the lighting. It would look better in the morning.

Let me assure you, it did not look better in the morning. I do believe the phrase "hot mess" originated that day -- latitude Jenny, longitude Scalp -- but I can't document it. As I attempted to rake the whole catastrophe into submission before school, my mother passed by the bathroom. She glanced idly at me, as I stood squinting at the disaster in the mirror. My visage stopped her dead in her tracks. Her mouth fell open in utter horror.

This was not going to be good. I could feel it.

"What?" I said, with practiced teenage nonchalance. "I LIKE it."

My mother's volcano rarely erupted, but now I could see lava bubbling. "YOU LOOK LIKE-" she hesitated, "-A BRICK SHITHOUSE."

Neither one of us had the slightest idea what a "brick shithouse" was, then. To this day, I don't think my mother could define "brick shithouse" for you, or use the phrase correctly in a sentence. But she had said "shit," a word I'd never heard from her lips. She had flung a bad word squarely at my tragic head.

This was, well ... kind of awesome.

I stormed out of the house to school with my flaming mess of orange hair, feeling persecuted, misunderstood, and exhilarated. I had finally managed to Cross A Line. If my mother had said, "You look like a brick poopyhouse," it wouldn't have had the same effect. "Brick shithouse" meant that she was finally putting her foot down. Though I would have denied it at the time, I was impressed.

My mother and my father were bizarrely laid-back parents. My brother and I, unlike most of our peers, had virtually no rules, no limits, no boundaries, no curfews. We could have used more limits, some lines drawn in the sand, a few good talking-tos. Our parents thought we were special. They thought we had better judgment than most teens.

We didn't. We were just lucky, for the most part.

At school, I managed to convince my classmates that, in fact, I had completely intended this particular hair aesthetic. But on the way home that afternoon, I was nervous. I'd really, truly done it this time. What would happen?

Turns out, nothing. My mother was and is a softie, after all. We didn't speak of the Brick Shithouse morning -- at least, not for years. She'd said what she needed to say, and that was that.

Even Caroline Ingalls would have lost her, uh -- poopy -- had she awakened to a pink-haired Mary or Laura.

I left my hair alone after that. The color eventually faded, and the bleached streak eventually grew out. My hair reverted to its normal state, "normal" being a debatable adjective for teen hair of the 1980s.

But I remained impressed. I liked the line my mother had drawn, that day, with one simple four-letter prefix. I respected her for her awkward, "I've finally had it" epithet.

I think I know what phrase is going to be on the tip of my tongue when Daughter #1 or Daughter #2 surprises me with a nest of hot pink hair. I might not use it, but I'll sure think it. And you can bet I'll smile.

Shh. Don't tell my mother. I've got a rep to maintain.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.