Isn’t it strange how you can receive a thousand compliments, but it’s that one insult that sticks with you? I was thinking about one of those just the other day. I have no idea why this one possesses such a sharp, cutting edge for me when it was delivered by someone whom I never met face to face, but it’s a laceration that never quite seems to heal.

When I was in my early 20’s, I had just been brutally dumped by my boyfriend. I had long, thick, wavy hair at the time (I still think my hair is one of my best features), so in an effort to start afresh, I decided that it would be fun to get a curly perm. I wanted to curl that man right out of my hair, so to speak.

I’ve always been kind of a wash n’ wear type of girl, so doing something this elaborate was quite a departure for me. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Fortunately, out of sheer luck, I happened upon what I still think to this day was the world’s greatest hairdresser.

The perm she did made me feel transformed. Sadly, these things require maintenance, so I wound up seeing her many times in the next two years. And of course, while she worked her magic, we talked. I began to think of her as a friend.

It turned out that she had a son my age. She said we had a lot in common. He was as liberal as I am, and he was pursuing his dream to become a writer in a unique way. He was living in a tent in Denver in the winter. Not only was he writing about his experiences, but he was also saving a boatload of money so he could focus on his writing.

It sounded like a grand adventure, so I allowed that it might be fun to be pen pals. And besides, the perm hadn’t attracted a new boyfriend, and since I lived in conservative North Florida and was the only liberal (I thought) within a 500 mile radius, I was lonely. She gave him my address. We struck up a correspondence.

It was interesting, hearing how he lived, and what he did in his day to day. He really was a good writer, and could spin some fascinating tales. We did have quite a bit in common.

In those days before blogs, he wrote a newsletter which he distributed to his friends and family. I was soon added to the mailing list, and delighted in his exploits along with everyone else.

And then one day he wrote an entry about me. In it, he said, “My mom is trying to fix me up with a Florida girl. She tells me that this girl is not at all attractive, but that she is extremely intelligent and liberal. Thanks a lot, mom.”

Nothing quite like finding out that your hairdresser, the one who raves about how great you look while taking your money and giggling with you like a school girl, thinks you’re “not at all attractive.”

Nothing quite like having that put into a newsletter that is distributed to about a hundred other people. Even worse, having that be written by someone who knew it would be read by you. How callous.

I had an appointment with the hairdresser coming up. I decided to go. I sat in her chair. I looked her in the eye via the mirror as she babbled about how she was sooooo sorry and that her son had no right to say those things.

“You’re right. Neither did you,” I said. I left without getting the perm.

Needless to say, I never went back. It would have been too awkward. There would have been two elephants in the room. One named, “Your Son is a Jackass” and one named, “You Have Been Lying to My Face This Whole Time.”

Shortly after that, she left town. It was a shame, too, because I never found anyone else who could perm my hair without either drying it out like broom straw or making it look like a bird’s nest in a high wind.

But then maybe that had something to do with my altered self-perception. Hard to say.

Ever since, with a few brief experimental exceptions, I’ve pretty much stuck with the same tired hairstyle that I had in my high school yearbook. Yeah, whatever.

Me, long after the perm grew out.

Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Those Pesky Pedestals

I’ve always admired the Dalai Lama. For me, he seemed like the epitome of enlightenment. He’s dignified. He’s compassionate. He remains calm in the face of grave injustice in the form of China stealing Tibet. He doesn’t even seem bitter about the fact that no country is willing to step in to correct this outrage. He’s all about love and acceptance. He doesn’t judge.

But it seems that he’s also just a man of his generation. And that breaks my heart. Because as a man, he’s inherently flawed.

According to this article, he has said on more than one occasion that if a woman succeeds him, she should be attractive. Because if she’s not, no one will want to look at that face. Even when he is told that this comment offends people, he sticks by it.

This enlightened man just doesn’t get it.

You’d think that someone who has seen his country go through what it has gone through would understand that it’s wrong to require that someone’s most important quality be something that is so completely out of her control. It’s wrong to place hurdles in front of one group of people that you don’t place in front of another. It’s an incredible waste to completely overlook someone’s vast inner value based upon the arbitrary yardstick that you use to give a seal of approval to their outer shell.

It makes me sad to now see the Dalai Lama as an old man with occasionally outmoded, wrong-headed ideas.

But perhaps that has more to do with the rickety pedestal I have placed him upon than it has to do with the man himself. What right do I have to expect perfection? Just because he has failed to meet my standards, that doesn’t mean his inherent value as a public figure has changed.

Let’s try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as he seems so willing to do. But give me a minute to mourn the fact that I am having to lower my expectations, here. I, too, am only human.

Dalai Lama

Hey! Look what I wrote!


I’ve never considered myself to be beautiful. It was not the kind of compliment that was given out in my family. Intelligent, yes. Pretty? No.

Because of that I have allowed myself to be intimidated by beauty over the years. As if good looks had some sort of additional value. As if it makes you a superior person. How silly.

In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve seen people who appeared attractive at first glance, but then seemed forever ugly to me once they opened their cruel or ignorant or self-absorbed or racist mouths.

Now I actually feel sorry for beautiful people, because beauty fades. It must be quite upsetting to have something that you set great store by, and then have that thing slowly slip away like sand through an hourglass. And if you are used to certain advantages, such as more attention from the opposite sex, and therefore haven’t made much of an effort to work on having a pleasing and attractive personality, when your looks diminish, you’re left with nothing.

There’s also a number of problems on the opposite end of the spectrum. Perhaps you are beautiful and are also blessed with a great deal of personality and intelligence. The problem with that is that many people aren’t going to take the time to look past the surface. They’re not going to take you seriously. That’s got to be frustrating as well.

And you’d always wonder if people like you for you, or because you look good on their arm. That’s a concern I’ve never had to have. I also don’t have to worry about being seen in public without makeup, or gaze anxiously in the mirror at my crows’ feet. I’m not even sure if I have them. I have much better things to do with my time.

So, yeah, it was painful when I was young to not get asked out to the prom, but in the long run, I honestly think I came out on top. Life is what’s beautiful. Friends and loved ones are what matter.

Inner Flames Inner Beauty by ClareMaria Vrindaji Bowman at
Inner Flames Inner Beauty by ClareMaria Vrindaji Bowman at

Kiss Me, Russell Brand

About 20 years ago I saw an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. in which a very young Neil Patrick Harris, as the lead character, fresh from some triumph or other, walks up to a woman he has never met and says, “You’re beautiful. Can I kiss you?” And then he kisses her and they both go their separate ways.

When I saw that, I remember thinking, “Oooh! I want to do that!” The thought of having a brief, innocent, extremely sexy encounter with an unknown person with absolutely no consequences, giving me an utterly clean slate on which to paint fantasies for the rest of my life, greatly appeals to me. In fact, “Kiss a total stranger” is on my bucket list.

Ah, but who am I kidding? I’d never risk the rejection or the potential look of horror and the subsequent awkwardness or assault charges. I’m not brave enough for that.

But the other night, with Russell Brand’s autobiography My Booky Wook on my nightstand as I drifted off to sleep, I thought, “Russell would let me kiss him.” Let’s face it, though, a great deal of Russell Brand’s, er… brand… revolves around his libido, so I’m fairly certain he’d kiss just about any woman, even one like me whose fantastic 19 year old body is hidden under a thick layer of fat and age.

So yay! That would remove the whole rejection factor, and there’s the added benefit that I happen to think he’s one of the most gorgeous men on the planet.

But here’s the question, would I actually do it?

Heck yeah! Didn’t I just say he’s gorgeous? (Well, at least when he doesn’t go wild with the mascara and the teasing comb.) And I wouldn’t have to worry about being tempted to go further than a kiss, because the man admits he doesn’t practice safe sex, so… no thanks.

But I think that after the kiss, instead of feeling triumphant, I’d feel a little sad. Because there’d be no emotional connection. There’d be no meaning behind it, no “might have been”, especially for him, so it would have no value. Well… reduced value, anyway.

In his book, he says he enforces his “identity and status as a man through sex and the seduction of women.” I’d love to talk to him about that, one on one. Not judging, but frankly, I’m curious why that identity and status needs to be enforced over and over and over again as he does. I suspect he may not be doing something right.

I would love to point out to him that what makes him a man has very little to do with sex and seduction. What I find most attractive about him is his erudition and intelligence, his ability to look at the world from his own unique perspective, his personal honesty about his rocky past, and the way he attacks life with a white-hot intensity. I like that he seems to have an utter lack of social filter, and that, to quote My Fair Lady, he treats a duchess as if she was a flower girl. Everyone the same. I find that charming.

So don’t worry, Russell, you’re a man. You seduce the world with your words, and I therefore think I’d get more of a kick out of talking to you than I would kissing you, but I’d be more than willing to test that theory. So if you ever pass through Jacksonville, Florida, call me, darlin’. You could spend the wee hours of the morning hanging out with me on the drawbridge. It’d be our delicious little secret.

Oh, and by the way, I’m told I’m a great kisser. Just sayin’.