this is a post about hidden baggage. and how you never know what baggage someone is carrying around. They might tell you, they might not, they might not even know it’s there. What can you do about this? what you can do, is not freak out if someone reacts in a surprising way to something you say to them.
I love my long curly red hair, and yes, it’s natural. There was a “mermaid stuff” trend around the time I was starting to grow my hair long, and my secret vain dream was to have someone say “You’ve got mermaid hair!”. “Mermaid hair” became my secret, never spoken, name for myself.
When I was around 20 years old, i got a part time job at a furniture store. This was my first “grown up job”, where I was expected to have a professional appearance every day, be on time, know what the hell I was doing. I was the only kid who worked on the sales floor. I was TERRIBLE at this job, my friends, TERRIBLE. But, it was a great experience, everyone who worked there was very kind to me, and even better, everyone there treated me like an adult. I loved being there, because i felt like a real grown up when I was there. I only worked there for about a year.
There was a guy I didn’t usually get shifts with, i don’t even remember his first name. He was kinda cute in a distant sort of way, rather quiet, didn’t have the ego that salespeople usually have, and was just a very kind person. I think he was younger than I thought he was, so maybe he was 25? I don’t even remember his name, which makes me a horrible person.
About a week after we met, he gave me a funny look and said “that’s what your hair looks like! You have mermaid hair!!” .
This guy had guessed my secret name for myself. Once he said it, other people at the store said it too, and weather they knew it or not, this was a huge ego boost for me. I have always had a soft spot in my heard, for my co-worker whose name I can’t remember, who first said “mermaid hair” out loud to me.
about 6 months after we met, he committed suicide.
1. this was the first person i’d known who had ever committed suicide
2. this was the funeral I’d ever been to as an adult
i feel like the worst human being ever, because i don’t remember his name. What I do remember is wanting to bury the phrase “mermaid hair” so deep inside that it would leak out the heels of my feet. That phrase would be forever linked to someone who saw something beautiful in me, who gave me an ego boost, but who couldn’t go on living for reasons unknown to me. I felt guilty everytime I looked in the mirror and admired my own mermaid hair.
I’ll be 40 this summer, so it’s been nearly 20 years since that year at the furniture store.
On occasion, a well meaning person will give me the compliment of “you’ve got mermaid hair!”. I want to smile, because way deep down that is still my secret nickname for myself. But outwardly, I can’t help but flinch.
there’s some baggage that we should let go of. I’m not ready to let go of this one.