It would be easy to have an identity crisis these days. That’s not happening but I have been acutely aware of how others view me. I look different than I’ve ever looked in my life and you’d think that wouldn’t matter too much, but it does. I wonder how those women who are constantly changing their hair color and style can do it. Do they just get new lives each time? Oh, wait…maybe that’s why they do it! At any rate, it’s not just what one looks like, but I suppose we all get to know each other as a specific type or for certain reasons– a friend from work, a writer friend, a fellow breast cancer survivor, a dog person–all sorts of labels and categories. Maybe that helps our brain remember people. At any rate, I think I’ve messed up people’s categories. So here’s what’s been going on–in no particular order.
Situation 1: I ran into a female attorney that I used to work with. We actually started work at the same firm on the same day long ago (April 1, 1987). It was my very first day as a lawyer. We worked together for 4 years and since we were both tall, both blonde and both working in the same department, we were constantly confused for each other, even though she is 10 years older than me and we looked absolutely nothing alike. (After a year, a third tall, blonde female lawyer joined our ranks, just to add to the confusion–but that’s not actually relevant here.) I haven’t seen her in probably 2 or 3 years. Then last Wednesday night Chris and I were at a wine dinner and so was this attorney. I was actually talking with her husband (not the one she was married to when I knew her previously; she had traded up) and eventually figured out that his wife was someone I knew. So he taps her on the shoulder, she turns around, I say hello, how are you, all that and it becomes very obvious she doesn’t recognize me. Even though her husband is saying “so you two used to work together at Best, Best & Krieger.” She’s nodding and politely smiling but obviously hasn’t a clue who I am. Then her husband says “And I thought they only hired blondes there.” And now I’m confused, because of course, in my head (but not on my head) I am still a blonde. So now we’re all confused. Eventually I snap out of it and say “Oh, right, well, I used to be a blonde….” And instantly she gets it. “OH!! Teresa!! OH my gosh! You’re a brunette!!”
Situation 2: I’m in a meeting at City Hall (and no, you can’t fight it but that doesn’t stop me) with about 15 people, only some of whom know each other. I’m seated next to a woman with a perky blond bob. A woman at the other end of the table says, “I don’t know people’s names, but I take issue with something someone said about the property taxes.” And she points down to my end of the table and very disdainfully says, “I think it was that blonde woman.” And of course, I get my hackles up because I didn’t say what she was quoting. Then, slowly, slowly….it dawns on me. She doesn’t mean me. She has no idea and nor is it remotely relevant that I used to be blonde. She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to blondie next to me. Thank god I didn’t respond. She would have just looked at me like the crazy person I am.
Situation 3: I got to meet one of my blog buddies. Sara in Vermont left Vermont long enough to visit the LA Times Festival of Books two weekends ago. Since Chris and I were going too, Sara and I decided to meet in person. I thought it would be so easy to recognize the “live” versions of each other from all the blog posts and pictures. Nope. Not so easy. If it weren’t for Sara’s friend (and mystery author extraordinare) Reed Farrel Coleman pointing me out to her (based solely on her description of me–he was not matching it to a photo) we may have missed each other. Sara was expecting my hair to be really short. I guess I haven’t posted a picture lately (see above wherein I rectify that), and I was expecting Sara to be alone so wasn’t looking our for 2 people. Categories. My brain needs categories. At any rate we found each other and a good time (and a drink or two) was had by all (see photo; Sara on left, me on right—in case you are confused). Later Sara mentioned that she hadn’t really realized that Chris and I were writers. Well, we’re not writers like Sara and Reed are (meaning the published, hard-working, people who keep their butts in the chairs and actually write daily type writers), but yeah, we write. She knows me through my blog–so most of what she knows of me is “breast cancer survivor/ chronicler/ with a snarky attitude.” Oh, right. Yep. I’m that too.
So it occurs to me…I now know people who only know me as a brunette cancer survivor. They never knew me when, a mere 18 months ago, I was neither of those things. Meanwhile, I personally have a hard time remembering that I’m either of those things. I’m still “blonde” in the way I’m still “Catholic” (if you asked me what religion I was that’s what I would answer….but um…yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in church and I don’t have any of the beliefs of Catholics, but it’s like being Caucasian…you just are). And the cancer survivor part? Um, what? Who, me? Oh, right. But see, April 30th was the one-year anniversary of my last chemo treatment. So that cancer thing? It’s so last year.
I suppose I’ll adjust to this new me. I’ll remember that “cancer survivor” is part of me now, just like “lawyer” and “wanna-be writer” and eventually I’ll remember that I’m not a blonde and I no longer have to be offended at blonde jokes.
Yep, I’ll eventually realize all of that. Right about when I change my hairstyle and add blonde highlights.
PS. In the top photo, I think I look a lot like my mom. And that’s new too; I’ve never really looked much like my mom (I look like her mom…but I guess it’s all a circle isn’t it?). And by the way, Happy Birthday Mom!