Stupid Pink Rollers

It might have been the lousy post-haircut blow out.  Or maybe the threat of another N’Oreaster.  It could also have been the fact that I shut the tail of my light-colored sweater/jacket in the door of the car and did not notice it until twenty filthy miles later.  Perhaps it was the discovery of a crack in the bumper of my car (which I swear I did not cause).  Most likely it was the hot curlers.  Yep, I am pretty sure it was the curlers that sent me spiraling down.

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When Jessie and her friend Sarah were, with my knowledge (my encouragement, even), coiffing one another, the curlers bothered me not a whit.  The visual of Jessie’s overly curled tresses didn’t do it, either.  It was when, after Sarah had left, (generously leaving the curlers here for Jessie’s pleasure) and I was invited (without the option of graciously refusing the request) to the bathroom to watch Jessie transform her hair from straight to curly that I felt it wash over me.  Anguish. Distress.  Sadness.

I am not proud.  I feel guilty even acknowledging that the visual of my male born daughter joyfully working with hot pink curlers shook me to my core.  Her obvious glee upon removal of each clip freeing the curl should have made me happy for her.  It did not.  It felt like a crushing blow to my chest.  And I feel horrible for my reaction.

It was so utterly girly, so unabashedly female and so hard for me to watch.  A (fairly significant) part of me wanted to slide my arm across the bathroom counter, knocking the pink tubes to the ground in a flourish.  I fought the urge to pull the plug out of the wall and disallow their use at all.  And, after serving as a model with half my head rolled into clips, I consciously rammed my shoulders down from my ears attempting to put them back in their proper spot.  Oblivious to my inner turmoil, Jess commented on how fabulous my hair looked curly (not to readers: I have naturally curly hair) as she circled around me in a (vain) attempt to curl the other side.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I needed to be out of the bathroom, away from the insanity and, ideally, in a corner somewhere sucking my thumb.  But, alas, that was not to be.  I took a deep, cleansing breathe (the one thing I learned in childbirth classes) and announced that this model was officially off the clock as I made my way out of the confines of the bathroom, seeking breathable air.

Interestingly, my departure coincided with Jessie’s boredom with the project.  Within moments of my descent to the safety of the family room she was at my heels, having combed out the curls of only moments before.  Her mood was just as I had left her, and she was none the wiser to my mini breakdown.  Happily watching television, munching on a Creamsicle with hardly a trace of curls remaining, Jessie remains oblivious to my personal crumbling.  For that, I am grateful.

I never know what it going to trip me up or send me looking for the nearest sedative.  Who would think that something as benign as stupid pink hot rollers would be my undoing?  Lesson learned…the hard way.

Note to self: I can do this.

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40 thoughts on “Stupid Pink Rollers

  1. That was difficult to read so it must have been much more so to experience it. Hope you are doing better.
    Oh and I see the Creamsicles are still kicking around!
    😋

  2. Julie, I feel for you… deeply. My (grown) son is bisexual and gender fluid, and there are days when I can gracefully handle anything he expresses, and other days when it is much harder. (Not that he’s all that outrageous, but there are times…) I wrestle with my own feelings on it, and it’s not an easy fight in there.

    I honestly do not know if I could have handled knowing it when he was Jessie’s age. Certainly I couldn’t have with your grace. He came out to me when he was 15, and it was soon enough. Much tougher to deal with inside than I ever thought it would be.

    Don’t beat yourself up for this reaction. I think it comes from our deepest psyche, because everything we were brought up with around gender is being upended. Small wonder we have trouble with it all once in a while.

  3. Julie, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your mini-breakdown. You’re so right-you never really know what will set you off. I can deal rather well with the make-up, the dresses, even the bras. I am so proud of my beautiful daughter and all that she has accomplished and , yes, survived, but at the wedding of my best friend’s son, I had to leave the reception because I couldn’t breathe, because I would never see my son walk his bride down the aisle and I would never dance at my son’s wedding. I sat outside of that hotel, crying, and just felt numb, because you’re right, every once in a while the complete sheer lunacy that has become our norm overwhelms us. I felt like the worst mother in the world, sitting at that table alone outside of the Wyndham, crying for what was gone from my life, because the pain was so intense and the sadness so deep that there seemed to be nothing in the world that could lift that weight from my heart, but, I must tell you that the pain always lifts and the joy always returns. Our daughters have such a difficult path , but your Jessie, like my Sera, seem to carry their own inner light and feeling of rightness. They are strong, as are we. But every once in a while, we’re allowed to crumble a little. It’s really okay because we know that it’s just for a little while and then we just continue to fiercely love these wonderful, amazing children that were given to us.

  4. I’m glad you write with such honesty about the good and the bad times as your family makes this journey. It can’t be easy for any of you and your reactions are so perfectly normal and human, but you’re so amazingly supportive of your daughter. Not many have the strength to let their children be themselves.

  5. Julie, I would focus on the fact that you DIDN’T blowup! You are completely entitled to your feelings but you did a very “good mom” thing by keeping it together.

    BTW, do you guys have Breyers Creamsicle ice cream out there? Who needs a stick to get in the way! 🙂

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Debby! As for the Creamsicle ice cream…will HAVE to look for it! Thanks for the tip. (Aside: the good thing about Creamsicles is that each one is only about 100 calories…were I to have access to an entire half gallon, however, all bets would be off!)

  6. Wow. I can’t imagine how hard this is at times, and yet I am so grateful that you are willing to share so many aspects of it because I think it helps us all understand how complex the issues and emotions are. I think in some ways this is no different from any other loss–it may come back to hit you in ways you don’t expect and at times you don’t expect–even though it is much more complicated than a loss like someone dying. You are allowed to grieve the loss of your son at the same time you are learning to welcome a new daughter. There is no straight path here. It seems to me like you are totally and absolutely normal in your reaction, and it is touching to read.

  7. It has been my experience that sometimes the most accepting friends[of our “Tmindedness”] can lose it due to a small thing we do,or want to do.Jessie is growing as a girl,and enjoying all of it.I can sure think of lots worse stuff for a Mom to face!

  8. I always enjoy your perspective. Anyone in mid transition gets far more attention for those sort of moments – dysphoria inducing as they are. It honestly never occured to me that there would be triggers for the ones we love as well as ourselves.

  9. Enough with the beating yourself up. It isn’t doing you, Jessie, or anyone else any good. I sense the grief on the surface there and who wouldn’t feel that way?! What a normal, normal, normal, human reaction. That’s right: you’re a good mother AND something one of your your kids did was hard to wrap your head around. It’s called parenthood. And you’re doing an amazing job at it. Not get back to work and don’t forget to love yourself along the way.

      • I was struck by this line: “I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to be out of the bathroom, away from the insanity and, ideally, in a corner somewhere sucking my thumb.” I agree with another reader who focused on what you didn’t do; scream at Jessie, call her names, shame her, or try to “correct” her behavior. You’re breathing a lot of life and love into this child and countless others. Thank you so much.

        Isn’t it funny how we are caught off guard? I always try to prepare myself for something and face it but then am caught off guard by something I didn’t expect. Perhaps being caught off guard is where we do the most learning in our lives. Maybe benign pink rollers have more deep meaning than profund books and lectures.

        Here’s to more stupid pink rollers in my life!

  10. Maybe it’s the weather… I have hit a couple of rough spots this week too. Once was when a friend was laughingly bemoaning all the angst and expense of outfitting her teenage daughter for an upcoming dance. And all I could think of was I would never have that experience with my own daughter… no shopping for a bridal gown in our future either.

    And so I grieved that for a bit. A day maybe. Real pity party, though a private one. Then I tried to go back to accepting and appreciating OUR reality. Tried to find pleasures in the little things. But it is harder some weeks than others. It just seems ridiculously hard some days. And more than a little unfair.

  11. I can’t help but wonder what “Jane Doe” would have done if faced with the same sort of feeling. Guess we’ll never know. I do hope that she’s read your post, though, because it most certainly would provide her with some comfort.
    What I hear you saying is that sometimes we roll with it, sometimes we get rolled up in it, and there are other times when it can roll over us. That’s life; let it roll, let it roll, let it roll. 🙂

  12. I’m thankful for your blog which I just started following. I have a child who was born female but has asserted she is a boy since she could speak. She will be 8 next month and I have decided to embrace this as permanent and am fully willing to support her (or him) but it is very, very hard. It is nice to know I am not alone, although it definitely isn’t a challenge I would wish on any parent. But I do believe they will be better and happier people because of us, and I couldn’t love anyone more. Funny – i just started a diary and it is filled with “i can do this”! anyway, just wanted to say thank you.

  13. Dear Julie, yes you can this but you don’t have to do this: not every single second of every single day, you’re not super human after all. The difference between what is now and what you could quite logically expect and blithely assume when your younger child was born, that difference is just so present that you’re more than allowed to experience the getting caught up in it and out by it.
    There might be an element to it that when Jessie acts with abandoned glee you feel lumbered with twice the amount of being affected by her being trans, as if you’re taking some of her feeling affected by it all off her shoulders and loaded it onto hers.
    No wonder that you’d like to sweep the pink curlers out of sight, out of mind, just for a bit. It might relieve some of the pressure that piles up every once in a while.
    I reckon that you, and Rebecca above too, are the people to whom trans children were entrusted because you can cope, you can give them the best support possible – but you don’t need to expect of yourselves to do this all of the blooming time. Be happy that you can when it counts – because you are all of you doing a tremendous job.
    I’m in awe that you didn’t blow up, that you kept it from Jessie – I wouldn’t have been able to. Lots and lots of best wishes to you.

    • Thank you Giselle – I like to believe I am her mom “on purpose” because I will support her needs and eventually we’ll make the world a more accepting place, but right now i am completely winging it 🙂 And I’m pretty sure she knows i’m winging it. It’s like I’ve lost my mommy status for now – I can’t even fake this one. I’m learning things about her (him – note to self, I can do this) that astonish me. How can i have not known my kid for so long? And that makes me feel horrible as a parent. she has always been tight lipped about feelings – everyone said she was a tough kid and hard to read. but since i accepted this, she’s like a new kid. why didn’t I just listen years ago? I can’t call her “him” yet. I can buy boy clothes and allow the boy hair cut and call her by her boy name, but I cannot call her “him”. just thinking about it brings me to tears – it just feels so final. I’m having a very weepy “aha” moment: I have to say good bye to my baby girl forever and I don’t want to. I know she was never my “girl”, were the last 8 years a giant sham? and how alone she must have felt with no one to talk to. I swept it aside thinking I’ll just wait it out and let her dress boyish for now, maybe she is a tomboy like everyone said (I always knew in my heart she was not a tomboy). anyway, I will pm you tomorrow julie – thank you so much.

      • This is not easy stuff! It is multi-layered (and the layers have layers) and ever evolving. I can relate to every word you said! I’ve often said that I am not so bold as to suggest that I take this day by day, rather I attempt to take it hour by hour.

  14. Julie – would you be willing to talk to me a little? I think you have my email and if you write to me I will give you my number. it doesn’t have to be today. I just don’t know what to do now that it’s REAL. It was always real, I just wasn’t able to process it. But tomorrow will be her (I can’t bring myself to use the male pronoun just yet) first day back at school since we had our talk. Last weekend I told her “I believe you baby, I know you are a boy” and since then, she has gone from being aggressive and disrespectful to a happy, appreciative and loving kid. this is obvious proof that MY denial caused her anger and my acceptance means everything. I’ve spoken to the most wonderful people from TYFA and a few therapists who have told me acceptance and letting “him be him” is the best gift. I believe this, but just because I accept it doesn’t mean the rest of the world will & I am freaking petrified of the rest of the world. so, mama needs help. 🙂

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