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I have a ton of irrational fears. I refuse to cross streets without a clear sign that it is my turn to walk. I am afraid of driving because I have trouble telling my left from my right. I am scared of snakes, spiders, beef jerky, unnaturally-colored foods (like Jell-O), and technology in its many forms. I also fear spandex. Don't ask me why. What I try really hard not to fear is the truth. I always want to know who should be held responsible, even if it's me. And a lot of the time, it is me. Sometimes I don't even realize that until years later, when I wake up and think, Wow, how lame am I for trying to blame someone else for that? Answer: exceedingly lame.
So I don't blame anyone else for my hair pulling. I refuse to bore you by wailing about how if it hadn't been for my dad, or my sister, or our beauty-obsessed consumerist society, my life would have turned out differently. Partly, because it just isn't true. All of those were factors (maybe even large factors), but they don't explain why I have an insistent craving to reach up and pull out my hair. Why I long for the rip and relish the sensation. And I suspect that blaming my love of pulling on other people is just as fruitless as blaming Toll House for my love of raw cookie dough. There are times when people need to stiffen their spine, nod their head, and admit they do it to themselves. For me, that's pulling.
It didn't start out as this big convoluted heap of ugliness in my life. It turned into that, sure, but at the beginning it was something much purer. I wasn't doing it to be mean to myself, or to punish myself, or to abuse myself. It wasn't nearly so dramatic or masochistic. I honestly thought I was beautifying myself. A little part of me even thought that pulling might make my life better. Maybe if my eyebrows were more attractive, people would notice me as being someone special. Maybe then I wouldn't feel like I was always being passed over and slotted in the role of the understudy sidekick who would only be in the play if something happened to someone else. I honestly thought that if I were prettier (and had the self-confidence that goes with it), maybe my life would be better. I thought pulling my eyebrows was one way to get there. It didn't work out that way.
Instead, I found myself clutching long strands of hair I had ripped from my head, unable to stop myself from reaching up and wanting more. My pulling was never supposed to take on a life of its ownit was never supposed to take over mine. I knew it had, though. When I stared at the mirror and tried to recognize the girl without eyebrows, eyelashes, and bangs as myself and failed, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. It's hard to recognize yourself when you've pulled at your eyebrows so consistently that there is almost nothing left. It's hard to believe you could have done something so destructive to your face, and that tomorrow you have to go to school pretending nothing is different.
At some point in my life, I stopped being Marni and instead turned into an addict who ravaged her head when she didn't think anyone was looking. I pulled during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I pulled at school, in restaurants, in grocery lines, in my room, in the bathroom. If I were in a Dr. Seuss book, I would pull in a box, I would pull with a fox, I would pull here and there, I would pull most everywhere. There was no way to escape it. Hair has a tendency to travel with a personit's even more persistent than a shadow that wayand mine came with an incredible temptation to zone out and lose myself in the soothing rhythm of my plucking.
How did I get this way? I still wonder that sometimes. How is it possible that I am so consumed, so obsessed, with something that brings no real comfort to me? Why can't I stop? Why must I make a New Year's resolution to kick the habit, only to end up hating myself even more when I am at it again the next day? Why am I so ashamed of something I don't feel I have control over? How did I go from a happy-go-lucky kindergartener who believed in fairies, to a teenager with the urge to yank, pinch, and pull until there is nothing left to grab? Some of these answers I just don't have. To be honest, I don't know if anyone has them. How did I get here, though? Well, that I should be able to tell you. All we have to do is go back to my childhood and my very first lie.
©2009. Marni Bates. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Marni. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442