Blue Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair

Blue Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair

By Angelique York


To most people, she is a young person with great hair. To the right person though, that hair whispers that she could be a sprite from a mystical valley, here to bring goodness and joy.


Little girls stare and smile. They wave and laugh. Their small faces fill with expressions of wonder and delight as they look and turn away, and look back again.

Perhaps they see a fairy from a faraway place, or a pixie escaped from a magical island. She could be a princess visiting from her kingdom in the mystic mountains. Or perhaps she is a mermaid from a distant ocean, somehow walking on land. It’s hard to tell who she might be, especially for the smallest of the small, but they clearly recognize that she is someone special and they are momentarily in awe.  

My 22-year-old daughter’s hair has been bright pink, deep purple, and a blue so dark and rich it was almost black. But none of the colors has attracted as much attention as the current one, a green the shade of tropical seas with highlights of turquoise and lowlights of azure. As the thick and softly waving tresses cascade across her shoulders, it reflects the sun in shimmering rays like a sparkling lagoon, yet gives the impression that there is more, like the unknown depths of the ocean.

Little boys look with wide eyes. Little girls squeal and point, telling their mommies to look too. Sometimes the mommy agrees that here is a magical being incognito, a princess out of her ball gown and crown, instead wearing cargo shorts and a tee shirt to blend in with the crowd at the amusement park. They allow that a pixie might take time away from sprinkling dust to go shopping at the mall, or an enchanted creature might grab a bite to eat with her family at a local restaurant. These mommies understand the importance of the fantasy and encourage it. Here is the image their child has seen in movies and read about in their picture books. They affirm that yes, this is what magic looks like. Here it is, in person.

A little girl, maybe three years old, looked at my daughter, smiled, and threw herself into her arms, hugging her tightly. Her mother was horrified. She apologized and was embarrassed that her daughter would simply embrace a stranger. My daughter just smiled and told her it was fine. Although caught by surprise by the uninhibited display of affection, she understands her role as ambassador for all things fantastical, all things wondrous, all things we wish we could see but never will. Unless someone is willing to be that for us.

She loves the looks and comments from the children. I tell her she should carry a wand or a bottle of fine glitter, just in case someone needs a wish made. She laughs. Other than her hair, she looks like most any recent college graduate. She is fair skinned and dark eyed, a beautiful and approachable young woman. Quiet and reserved, she allows her hair to speak for her, an expression of her creative heart and her artistic soul. To most people, she is a young person with great hair. To the right person though, that hair whispers that she could be a sprite from a mystical valley, here to bring goodness and joy.

Childhood moves quickly. The opportunity for a little one to glimpse someone who might be a figure from their favorite DVD or bedtime story is rare and unique. What pleasant dreams that child might have that night, or on nights to come. The vision might linger in their mind and become a wonderful story to tell their own children and grandchildren someday. Will they remember the mermaid they met on the train, or the gem in human form who smiled back at them in the grocery store? Maybe that will remain a wonderful memory to call on when things are difficult. Or maybe it will stir them to write their own story, or paint a beautiful picture. It might inspire them to find the cure to a disease, or solve an environmental issue, or build an incredible machine. That moment of magic could be the beginning of understanding that the impossible might just be very possible—if you believe it can.

Mothers ask my daughter questions. Do you do that yourself? Do you go to a professional?  How long does it last? Clearly there are many supportive parents willing to ask the questions for their own daughters who want colorful hair. She is delighted to explain that she has a professional who does the initial coloring, but she keeps it up herself. She graciously gives out her stylist’s name and phone number.

Teens approach to tell her they love her hair. Guys tell her it looks cool. Young people who appear to be otherwise shy are unafraid to talk with her. Her hair is an icebreaker, a conversation starter. Adults comment, too. She gets the occasional sideward glance or look that states the giver clearly does not agree with her choice. Some scoff, or roll their eyes. She ignores the negative, instead enjoying wearing her hair as an accessory that can be changed any time she likes.

Other adults tell her her hair is fun and pretty. They say they would wear their hair brightly colored, if only they could. Perhaps as grown-ups, they are too self-conscious. Or perhaps they are held to an employer’s dress code that forbids anything other than a natural color. I encourage my daughter to do what she chooses, now, while she can. Cut it, color it, curl it or straighten it. Change your mind and do something different. It will grow back.

She had no idea when she started coloring her hair, first with streaks and tips of blonde, then with highlights of blue, then with an all-over color from a world of fantasy and imagination, that she would stir the hearts of so many. I’m pleased that something she does just for fun has given joy to children and reassurance to parents. My daughter has fully embraced the responsibility that comes with appearing to be an ethereal being. She is unique and amazing, a quiet reminder to those who see her that the magic and wonder of our dreams might be found in the most common of places.

Angelique York is a Dallas-based freelance writer and mother of three. An essayist and former newspaper columnist, she is currently writing a memoir.

Why We Shouldn’t Dress Twins the Same

Why We Shouldn’t Dress Twins the Same

Apfel_BMThe two little girls go to the same playgroup we do. Matching blue eyes, matching tufts of blonde hair, and also, every week, matching clothes. Down to the socks. I wish I could say they were idiosyncratic, that this was the only pair I knew with constantly coordinated frocks. But twins with identical wardrobes is a common sight, indeed. As a mother of twins myself, I have an eye for picking same-aged siblings out of a crowd. And when they are dressed alike, as they often are, I’ll admit it is cute. For the parents, perhaps, for the onlookers. What message, however, is it sending the children themselves?

Twins are a source of endless fascination, and there are more of them now than ever before. As a culture, we foist a magical quality onto their existence, which can have little bearing on the hard facts of raising them. We expect their early relationship to be defined by a soothing symbiosis, their later relationship to be tantamount to soul mates. Likewise, the imagery of twinhood is about a fused, harmonious identity: peas in a pod, mirror images, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The reality, though, is something else. The reality is that twins are two individual people, who through luck or artificial means happened to be born at the same time.

A failure to recognize this is a potential danger to the emotional health of the twins themselves. So says expert Joan A. Friedman, experientially enchanted in this arena as both a mother of twins and a twin herself. By getting wrapped up in the feel-good reverie of the “twin mystique,” as she describes it in her book Emotionally Healthy Twins, we are doing our same-aged children a disservice. “When the longing to see twins in a romanticized way prevents parents and others from seeing them as individuals, twins feel as if they are merely playing a role in someone else’s fantasy.”

The “twin mystique” manifests itself in many ways. Some of it is real, the stuff of viral video sensation: two neonates “hugging” in their postpartum bath, a throwback to the months spent enmeshed in the womb; two toddlers gibbering to each other in the secret language twins are famed for, incomprehensible even to their parents. But much of the “twin mystique” is synthetic, imposed on them by caregivers for aesthetic reasons or from a belief that twins should be linked outwardly in the eyes of society. In this respect, it is not surprising that twins are given similar sounding names, often with the same first letter. Pairs like “Isaac and Isaiah” and “Madison and Mason” are repeatedly among the most popular names chosen for multiples.

Clothes, like names, matter because they are an overt and symbolic representation of identity. When they are matchy-matchy, the message is not one of individuality. A sense of self is important to nurture in every child. And yet, many parents who wouldn’t dress consecutively-spaced siblings in coordinated outfits feel a compulsion to do so for their twins and on a regular basis to boot. Once in a while, it is adorable, to be sure: for a special occasion or a photography session. Done routinely, it becomes parental reinforcement of the idea that two people, with separate personalities and separate core beings, should be seen as painted with the same brush. The wardrobe, Friedman explains, is part of the “identity-building process.”

Twins are already forced to share so much that is out of their control. From a practical point of view, they are bound to occupy a common ground for years—literally and metaphorically—especially before the opportunity arises to separate them in a school environment. They move through the phases of childhood with a friend, a witness, a foil continually by their side. This is a profound partnership, where identity issues are real and problematic. Dressing twins as one of a set during such an impressionable time in their lives, as darling as it might look, only serves to blur the line between them. There is a sad irony in the fact that, as caregivers, we are most likely to conflate the siblings who are in most need of clear boundaries.

Don’t get me wrong: the bond between twins is a powerful, wonderful thing that shouldn’t be denied or downplayed. But it is also a delicate thing, which, from the very beginning, involves two distinct entities trying to figure out, like the rest of us, who they are uniquely. Dressing twins differently in the early years is a parent’s decision. It is a simple, yet far-reaching, way to communicate that however much life may throw them together, twins will always be valued, first and foremost, as individuals.

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The Costumes of My Adult Life

The Costumes of My Adult Life

0-33While shopping for the kids’ Halloween costumes this year, I thought about the costumes of my adult life and how there’s often a negative feel to this idea of adults trying on different “costumes.”

And yes, during this time of year it’s especially hard to think of the words adult and costume without getting an image of the overly-sexualized Halloween ensembles for grownups (mostly women) that have become a profitable part of the holiday’s industry. What also comes to mind are the conventions where adults dress up as their favorite characters from video games and movies. I’m not discussing either of those types of getups right now. I’m referring more to the various roles, hobbies, and even slight changes in my persona that I’ve tried over the years.

I also want to clarify that I’m not referring to a “disguise.” A disguise hides an identity. A mask, too, implies phoniness. In the various roles and personas I’m remembering, I feel that I have always been myself even if in some cases I’m reaching to be better and do better. Costumes, even aspirational ones, are not necessarily a false path to reaching a new goal or milestone.

In my days as an English teacher during my mid-20s, for example, I wore pencil skirts, blouses, and heels. Some of my colleagues in the English department wore jeans, but I wanted to appear serious and confident despite worrying that I was only one page ahead of the students most of the time. For my first year as a licensed teacher, I was assigned to seventh and eighth grade classes in the morning and ninth grade classes in the afternoon. Every day I needed three sets of lesson plans and I had to arrive at two buildings on time (the first one at 7AM). Most of the time I felt like a disorganized, underprepared disaster. But in my teacher getup, I made it through the year at least looking professional. I did a decent job and earned a position teaching full time at the high school for the next year. I still never wore jeans.

I only taught for three years before I had a baby and took on the role of stay-at-home mom. I won’t go into all the clichés of mom clothes, but I can say that the pencil skirts were no longer part of my wardrobe. When I decided to start writing after having my second child, I didn’t need a “costume change” per se, but I did want the accessories that went along with my new self-appointed and experimental hobby. A laptop, a new notebook, and a few special pens helped me ease into the writer persona long before I would publicly call myself a writer and even consider writing a realistic career path. I had to convince myself first.

Once I was writing often enough to get articles published, I did develop a certain mode of dress for the days I’d be writing in coffee shops. My writing uniform now includes scarves, sweaters, and a vest no matter the time of year because the air conditioning is as miserable in the summer as the cold air from the door is in the winter. Some accessories and outfits help us ease into a new role while others develop out of practicality. When I’m dressed to write and my laptop is charged with my notebook beside me, I know it’s time to fill up that blank screen. The outfit reminds me what I’m there to do.

I also have my religious outfits, which require a different length of skirt and sleeve depending on the synagogue I’m attending. Then there are my exercise ensembles. About a year and a half ago, I really got into exercise for the first time in my life. I remember acknowledging at one point during that particular transition that I was finally putting the yoga in my long-loved yoga pants.

This “trying on” of roles is more than all right. In fact, I think it’s good, and I’m not sure why so many of us find ourselves initially suspicious of others who dive into a new role, hobby, persona or whatever we want to call these moments of change. We mock the friend who gets so into meditation that after a month she’s converting a corner of her house into a quiet, scared space and signing up for a retreat in Santa Fe. Who does she think she is, we ask ourselves.

But why are we uncomfortable with others’ attempts to change and even resentful, yet so hopeful for friends’ and family members’ support when we want to try something new? Perhaps we see others’ attempts to take on a new persona as too contrived. Yet I’d like to argue that we can’t know what we like and what will enrich our lives until we give a new activity, job, or relationship a real shot. And sometimes a real shot requires a full costume change to convince our minds that we’re ready to tackle whatever challenges lay ahead.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

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Is A Woman’s Identity Based on Her Last Name?

Is A Woman’s Identity Based on Her Last Name?

0-5I didn’t think about the connection to my daughters based on our last name until two months after signing divorce papers. Then I realized if I reverted to my family name I could lose my identity with my girls, who had their father’s last name. In addition, strangers might think I was an unwed mother. I know there’s nothing wrong with that, but, for me, after twenty-three years of marriage, and closer to fifty than forty-five, I deserved my social status married with children. Yet, I had to face the truth, I was no longer married. How would I announce my new last name after owning it for two decades? Perhaps, like an address change. “Dear Friends and Family, Now that I am divorced, please refer to me as Ms. Hooks. Please change your contact list from Mrs. Batchelor to Ms. Hooks.” And we know what happens with address changes: people forget to update their contact list and frequently lose contact with each other.

Still paranoid about this transformation, I imagined constantly correcting people. I’d have to deal with sorrow and grief about the divorce. And the very mention of divorce can be hostile.

Historically, society expected a woman to take her husband’s last name for convenience as a societal expectation with no questions asked, a better last name, nuclear family identity, and true unity. Also, it was illegal for a woman to keep her surname before the mid-70s. But times have changed, women keep their maiden names, hyphenated or not.

I asked my own daughters their thoughts about returning to my maiden name: Hooks. My 19-year-old said, “You’re leaving an old life behind and starting a new one.”  My 15-year-old said, “I know you’re my mother and that’s all that counts.”  I knew she understood that concept when one of her friends asked, “What do I call your mom? You know, the divorce.”

“Ms. Angela,” my daughter said. “Or Ms. Hooks.”

Keeping life simple for the sake of the children is one thing, how about the married woman who has established her career or needs to reintroduce herself to friends with her maiden name?

My last name is hyphenated—Hooks-Batchelor—on my undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with my first book; however, not on my writing clips and collegiate adjunct status.

Maybe I’d wait for a second marriage and adopt his name and use my family name, Hooks, for publications and future accreditations. Yet, I wonder–why couldn’t I use my first name, Angela, like Beyonce, Cher, Madonna, Oprah and Pink. Even women in the bible didn’t have last names; they were identified by tribe, occupation or place—Lydia, a dealer of purple cloth, Gomer daughter of Diblaim. Who was I kidding, I didn’t have celebrity status, and this was not biblical times. Who would call me, Angela, a writer of essays, or Angela, daughter of the Bronx? Although during my teenage years, the neighbors called me the beauty parlor lady’s daughter.

In December, eight months after considering changing my moniker, I read a quote indicating people cannot start a new life until they rid themselves of the old. That was me. Instantly, I clicked on my computer and changed my name on all social media forums. For LinkedIn, I placed my former name in parenthesis. One person emailed asking if I remarried. I politely replied, no. To avoid this confusion, I updated my Facebook status: Yes, a name change has taken place. Please note Angela Hooks, not Batchelor. And since you didn’t get a wedding invitation and I didn’t post a wedding photo, I didn’t remarry. That post received several likes and comments such as, “Welcome back,” “You Go, Girl, Ms. Hooks, love it,” and “I didn’t want to ask.”

Next, I called my lawyer, and he reminded me that my judgment of divorce stipulated the Plaintiff, me, “shall be entitled to resume the use of her maiden name.” Then I made a list of people and places to contact and inform of this change. Inside a manila folder, I placed the judgment of divorce, my birth certificate, social security card, passport, and driver’s license, stuck it in my handbag and carried it everywhere. I headed to the Social Security office to make the official change, and the moment the new social security card arrived, set off to Motor Vehicle. Each time I mentioned a name change, responses varied. Some creditors asked why. One representative said, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” The bank teller blurted “Congratulations on your marriage.” Her face soured at the mention of divorce as she tried to clean it up, with “Are you happy?” I smiled.

Church seemed the most difficult and invasive, since I’d been there five months and had not shared my personal life. The moment my name appeared on the bulletin as Hooks, the infamous question followed, “Did you get married?” Some faces frowned, others smiled at my answer. One lady said, “I’ve been married so many times, I don’t know who I am sometimes.”

However, on campus at the start of the spring semester, I encountered students who knew me from previous years, and they said, “Hello, Mrs. Batchelor.”  I replied, “It’s Ms. Hooks.”

My name change will take time; I did have it for two decades. Often times I forget and call myself Mrs. Batchelor. The way I look at it, identity is who you are – not religion, community or a man’s last name.

Angela writes at angchronicles. She teaches at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY and studies Creative English in the  Doctor of Arts program at St. John’s University.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

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