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Yes…. I am a Closet Hairstylist

To say I “Do” hair is a like claiming I know how to install cabinets or replace the transmission in my car. What I “Do” when it comes to styling my wife’s or my daughters’ hair is more like me planting my flower beds or staining my wood fence – someone asks me to do it, I do a good job, but I avoid it if I can.

It all started years ago when we were newly married, I was in graduate school and we didn’t have a lot of extra money for my wife to in for a buff and puff. So, she came home one day with a hair highlight kit and asked me if I would do it for her one Saturday. So, after carefully pulling her hair through the cap, mixing the color, and applying the solution (and ruining a chair in the process since it’s like bleach) I instantly vaulted myself into ranks of a noted closet hairstylist. I can use the word ‘noted’ because of the compliments my wife got on her hair in the following weeks. When a friend asked her who did her hair I knew I had earned my ‘street cred.’

And so began many years of home highlighting. I think maybe you get less feedback if you color someone’s hair who isn’t your wife. “You’re hurting my head.” “Don’t leave the color on too long – I don’t want it to be WHITE.” “Make the highlights around my face really look like the sun kissed it.” My response – “Uhhh… I’m an analyst not a magician.”

After I finished graduate school, I retired for a few years only to come back many years later. My comeback was marred by an incident that was not my fault. We had two kids under the age of 3-yrs-old, hadn’t slept in years and my wife wanted to “go for something different.” So, we went through the routine and when I mixed the color it looked a little different than it did years ago, but I didn’t say anything because I learned by this time not to provide too much feedback on decisions regarding hair styles or hair color. In the end, she ended up with purplish-brown hair and resembled an older version of Wednesday Friday Addams. It only cost me about $400 to get that fixed.

So, aside from the occasional hair bun for ballet class or side pony tail for school I have been in retirement until a few weeks ago, and I am once again back in the game. I’m not allowed to do color anymore, but I have mad skills with a curling iron. The only problem is that after you do your wife’s hair, then your daughters want you to do theirs also. I have a ton of respect for how well the pros ply their hair skills because it is not easy and it takes a lot of time. When my wife’s friend asked if I would do her hair I had to explain that we would need to work out a separate compensation arrangement since we work on a barter system in my house… and I keep careful accounting.

So, much like the cowboy poet who pens his limericks on the open range with only his faithful mount and a few hundred head of cattle as his audience. I too hone my hair styling craft in relative obscurity.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved


Mr. Mom and the Make-up Kiss

I work to be an involved dad. Not only when it comes to the kids and their activities, but also as it pertains to my wife and doing some of the things she does on a regular basis… cook, clean, fold laundry, grocery shop….etc. So, when my wife went out with her friends a couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t a huge deal.

Having the girls to myself for an evening of dinner and a movie at home reminded me of one of the most disappointing realities of parenting. Which is that you spend so much time taking care of your kids (cooking, homework, activities…etc.) that you get very little time to be WITH your kids. My evening was no different. I thought making dinner while watching a movie would allow us to hang out while I cooked. It never works out like that.

So, I go to make dinner, but he kitchen is a disaster and I have to clean it up before I can start. This means dealing with piles of mail and newspapers, then cleaning out the dishes in the sink. The dishes wouldn’t have been a big deal except the dishwasher was full. So, I was reminded that my dishwasher is huge when it comes to unloading and tiny when it comes to loading it up. So, after unloading the clean dishes I re-load it and start it. Now, I can start cooking. This always involves more chopping, grating and slicing than I expect before I even turn on the stove. But, before I can begin the actual cooking I need to unload the dishwasher – again – because I have a new set of dirty dishes in the sink. Then, the kids eat their dinner in under three minutes while I eat standing in the kitchen. Then, I find myself cleaning – again. And the dishwasher is now full – again. So, I turn it back on – again. By the time I sit down, I am catatonic from exhaustion and catch the last 15 minutes of the movie. Now, its time to put the girls in bed, which involves at least three arguments between the two of them and the nightly battle on why they can’t stay up later.

I finally make it to my bed with my remote control, my sore back (from bending over the dishwasher half the evening), my tired feet and my book. That’s around the time my wife makes it home. She begins to rub my shoulders, and I explain I am really, really tired and that if she thinks she can come home after being out with her friends all evening while I have been cooking, cleaning and putting the girls to bed and expect me to meet her needs, then she is going to need to keep doing that thing to my shoulders for a little while longer. You see, I am still a guy so I have the complete ability to rally at a moment’s notice.

I will say the advantage of this atypical role-reversal is that I get the benefit of make-up lovin’. This is not to be confused with the post-argument make-up kiss. This means she keeps her make-up ON. You see, after almost two decades of marriage, most evenings together are spent after my wife has spent 30 minutes taking off her make-up only to show up a make-up-less, washed-out version of her daytime self. It’s kind of like kissing a hairless cat – it’s an acquired taste. So, make-up lovin’ is the married guy’s version of the White Tiger – a rare encounter with an endangered species. As one of my best friends told me, “If there’s a downside to make-up night, it’s that afterwards – your pillow looks like you murdered a clown.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Lip Gloss, Lip Stick, Girls and the Dad

The daily kiss from each girl in my house has changed since they started wearing lip-gloss. Every girl in my house gets a kiss to start the day. They need it from me, and I need it from them. I just didn’t know how sticky lip-gloss was.

I didn’t know lip-gloss was like glue. It doesn’t look like it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the way it looks, but it wasn’t until my girls started wearing lip-gloss that I began to appreciate the difference between it and lip stick. I have quietly surrendered to the fact that I will show up for work most days wearing both lipstick and lip-gloss.

In the morning, everybody is dressed and ready to go (lips are no exception), and everybody needs a kiss to start the day – myself included. Now, my wife doesn’t like lip-gloss, but my daughters wear it. So, I’ve found I need to do my daily kisses in a specific order so I don’t disturb the natural balance of things in my house. So, I get my fresh coat of lipstick from my wife who wants the first kiss because she doesn’t want lip-gloss on, and then I get two lip gloss kisses – one from each girl.

Lipstick is the final touch to a woman’s outfit. The garnish on a gourmet entrée. The nut topping on a hot fudge sundae. It says, ‘I care’ and ‘my outfit is complete’ and I’m ready to go.’ For the veteran husband, it also says “if you wrinkle my blouse or step on my fresh pedicure I will kick you until you die.”

For men, it is important to notice this detail. If you notice a new scratch on your car, then you should be able to notice lipstick. This will require eye contact. As difficult as it may be, you need to look ALL women in the eye and not look below the chin. Their eyes are locked on yours, so don’t slip. Also, just because their back is turned, don’t think they don’t know where your eyes are going. Women have eyes in the back of their head. Trust me. However, if you are at a moderate distance, then you may compliment a woman’s outfit. Me, I can’t see far away, so I don’t notice attractive ladies at a distance anymore. Not because I don’t try, but because I am middle-aged and I can’t see. I digress. It’s important to notice the subtle detail of lipstick because she did it to look nice for YOU. But if it isn’t your wife or girlfriend, don’t tell a woman their lipstick looks nice because it will come off as really creepy.

If you are not sure what fresh lipstick looks like, check out your wife before she meets up with her friends for dinner. Not only will she look nicer than she does when she goes out on a date with you, but her lipstick will be fresh. (Remember: Women dress for other women, but that’s another story.) Or, when she comes out of the restroom after dinner in a restaurant. Yes, fresh lipstick, which one of many reasons it takes so long. Lastly, if she has lipstick on her teeth, tell her at all costs. This is a big deal. Most women would rather walk around with toilet paper stuck to their shoe than lipstick on their teeth.

Through all of this I have also learned that lip-gloss seals in the lipstick color, which is why some women wear both. If it is waterproof lip-gloss, then you are really hosed because it’s not coming off. After one morning kiss routine, I tried wiping off my new lip color with a paper napkin that was in my car only to have pieces of the napkin stick to my lips. When I finally got the paper off and made it to work I looked like Michael Smith from The Cure. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the youthful, pouty, look the combo gives my lips, but I’m not really a makeup guy.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

My Road to Recovery and Breast Pumps

The recent controversy around mothers nursing in public has stirred in me the trauma and stress of this chapter in my own life when my girls were still babies. It wasn’t the nursing that traumatized me, but it was the breast pump that forever scarred my life.

Like many items on the long list of things “I didn’t expect” after we had babies, the breast pump stands out as an absolute low point in that season of my life. It was clearly MY issue. To my wife, the breast pump wasn’t really any different than a box of baby wipes. It was just part of the deal.

It’s not that I didn’t accept the usefulness and practicality of the device, but I think it was maybe too much reality. Nothing takes the romance out of a date night like plugging the breast pump into the car lighter, attaching it and running it for a full cycle on the drive home. Not only is it impossible to carry on a conversation with it running, but you can’t even listen to music because the motor on an electric breast pump sounds like a leaf blower cleaning out the front seat of the car. Maybe more impactful was the reality that my wife and our relationship had been reduced to ending our evenings together to drone of a two-note breast pump playing in the background. But this season of my life – much like the Mesozoic period and the ice age – eventually ended.

I can’t say I know what happens to a nursing mother’s breast when she feeds her baby, but I in no way believe it is anything like what a breast pump does to those same boobs. When a baby nurses, there is, at least, some hidden mystery to the whole process. But for some reason, the makers of breast pumps find it necessary to make these devices out of clear plastic so that everyone within a 10-yard radius can see exactly how these things are engineered to work. Nightmare. It’s like a grenade– if you are beyond the reach of the blast, then you’re good. But if you aren’t, then Godspeed.

So, to all of the mothers that are tired of people telling them they can’t nurse in public. Go to one of these places, plug in your double-sided, clear-plastic, breast pump in the same outlet as the guy’s laptop sitting next to you, then run the pump for a full cycle. I have to believe all of the folks voicing complaints will be more than happy to have you nursing wherever you would like after getting a full serving of the alternative.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

In Search of the Holy Grail, or… a Couch

Much like Indiana Jones searched catacombs and castles around the world in search of the Holy Grail so too did we travel the city and search every store, warehouse and closeout showroom possible hoping to find OUR Holy Grail – a couch for the den. As a man, I could have accomplished this task in an afternoon, however, as my wife said, “There is no possible way to find the ‘right’ (or perfect) couch unless we REALLY shop.” So shop – we did….

I quickly learned that I am color blind because I have no ability to distinguish between shades of brown. My wife has a keen sense for this and many other style subtleties as she commented on each detail of every couch we looked at – most of which were unacceptable. The choices were endless…. Leather or fabric? Dark or light? Sectional? How about one with a built-in recliner? Answer: NO! So, we test drove dozens of couches in every style and covering the mind can imagine. Me, I’m about the size and the amount of space a couch takes up in the room. I don’t want to feel like it is shoe-horned in the den. Also, I wasn’t looking for something that would change my life. I just wanted something that wouldn’t make my back sweat in the summer.

We embarked on our search in December – me with my measurements and my wife with her finely honed eye for color and detail. We set off with only a vague idea of what we wanted. After the first 5 hours of shopping at 4 different stores, I realized she had no intention on buying anything. This was just the INITIAL shopping phase, and it was about reconnaissance. Or, as my wife would say, “I’m just trying to get a feel for what’s out there.” When I heard this my head fell in disappointment and I felt like a little boy whose parents just told him there is no Santa Claus.

That same afternoon I was talking to a friend and his wife about the day’s shopping. As I went through the day, his wife’s eye’s lit up as though I was a kindred spirit engrossed in the couch buying experience. He told me that he had his wife narrow the choice down to 2 or 3 couches, and then he picked whatever was cheapest. When I said, “That is genius! I’m doing that!” The twinkle in his wife’s eyes went dark and her shoulders slumped as she left the room in disappointment. We both agreed that it is easier to buy a car than a couch.

I didn’t completely adopt his approach, so the my wife and I went through more than our share of stores talking in Goldilocks speak. “This couch is too deep and hurts my back. This one is too soft. That’s just ugly. I feel like I am sitting on the floor. Did that one come out of Liberace’s house, or Siegried & Roy’s. How much?… Is that in pesos? Snake skin?…Really??? ” But, as the shopping wore on and days dragged into weeks I realized it was important not to have too many opinions when your wife is feathering her nest. Besides, I wanted to get this wrapped up sometime before our kids went off to college.

Then, I got the call to come and look at “A couch.” “I may have found the one.,” she said. So, I jumped in my car and drove to the store like my wife’s water had just broken. And there it was. Like a lone chalice among hundreds of goblets with the showroom light shining on it like God himself had opened up heaven to reveal the Holy Grail – and to put me out of my misery with great mercy. The perfect color, size, material, price, style…etc. When I told her I thought it was perfect and she had made an incredible choice. A large tear welled up in my eye as I faintly heard the salesman say, “You have chosen wisely.”

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Lions, Hyenas and Eating with Girls…

With my older daughter turning 12-years-old this week, the topic of birthday cake has reminded me again of the distinct differences between men and women when it comes to food. I have found that women (especially in my house) are more akin to a lioness pride that carefully chooses their meals while I (like most other guys) resemble the spotted hyena.

Lions and hyenas coexist and have a dietary overlap of almost 60% (me, I don’t like cucumber sandwiches). Spotted Hyenas do not eat a specific prey, rather, their meal preferences are a function of size – the larger the better. In the same way, pizza buffets (or any buffet for that matter) are typically dominated by guys due to both the quantity and availability of food. Despite a hyena’s ability to hunt (or a guy’s ability to cook), the hyena will often opt to eat whatever is easiest to obtain, which is often the leftovers of the pride. Yes, most guys will go for whatever is in the fridge instead of cooking a meal when faced with the choice. Cereal works also.

The lionesses of the pride do most of the hunting and have a varied but defined diet. However, occasionally my wife will order something out of the ordinary when eating out in an effort to “do something different.” Sometimes disappointed, and in the same manner a lion pride will seize the kill of a hyena, she will eat my meal and leave me with her lame order.

Women, like a lioness pride, are ‘socially inclined’ and eat in groups of 5-6 females much like you see in a tea room or a happy hour. Men, like the spotted hyena, are a social animal which live and eat in large communities called “clans” that can consist of up to 80 individuals – Think Hooters and College Bowl Games.

Like a lion pride seeks a specific prey, my girls are focused on Red Velvet Cake this week. And in the same way lions hunt, they prefer to savor dessert under the cover of darkness. It has been on more than one occasion that I have come down to my kitchen in the morning only to find stale, icing-less pieces of cake laying on the counter like the carcass of an impala on the plains of the Serengeti. “…When confronted on a kill by lions, spotted hyenas will either leave or wait patiently at a distance of 100–350 ft. until the lions have finished.” Sage advice my friend. Sage advice.

“…In some cases, spotted hyenas are bold enough to feed alongside lions, and may occasionally force the lions off a kill…” You could try this with some things, but if dessert is involved I would not recommend getting into the fray. “…The two species may act aggressively toward one another even when there is no food involved…” No comment.

Finally, I will add that hyenas’ fur color changes with age while the lioness maintains its svelte look and remains almost ageless though its life. I think it must be the desserts.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Uhhhh…. I’m Waiting for My Wife

I once heard a man tell a bridegroom to take a good look at his bride because it would be the only time in his life his bride would spend the entire day getting ready for you. Well, although my wife hasn’t spent an entire day getting ready to go out with me since we got married, it sometimes feels like it.

Like most guys, when I was young I thought all the pretty girls I saw looked like that, or close, all the time. Much like the disappoint on Dorothy’s face when Toto pulled back the curtain to see how the Wizard really came to life, I too was bummed out by what it actually takes for girls to get dressed and get out the door each day. Hair, nails, make-up – it doesn’t sound like much to the untrained guy…. but it is.

For years I never understood the joke my grandfather told about the man who taught himself to play classical piano while waiting for his wife to get ready. It really is an amazing process, and there is no better example of the 80-20 rule that says you spend 80% of your time to do 20% of your work. This also means that 80% of the magic happens in about the last 5 minutes.

The other day my wife reminded me again how it was “obvious” that a “man” designed our bathroom because there is only one electric plug on her side. After the shower happens, everything goes into overdrive – curling irons (yes, plural), hair rollers, hair dryer, make-up, outfits (totally within the rules to call an audible on your outfit if you are a girl), hair spray, accessories, shoes…etc. And since there is only one plug on her side, her stuff is spread out on her side and my side and she requires use of the entire bathroom. It is a frenzy of activity that resembles mission control before a shuttle launch.

At the five minute warning, I say the usual, “I will be waiting in the car. We NEED to leave in five minutes.” But as I leave the room, she is in her robe, her hair is wet, and only about half of her make-up is on. Then, five minutes later she is in the car, totally together, dressed, hair is fixed, and make-up is on – mostly. What actually happens in those last five minutes remains one of the great mysteries to men everywhere along with the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Ford or Chevy and existence of Bigfoot.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

What’s the Deal with the Pillows???!!!!

The couch, the bed, my chair, the kids’ beds are each a Rubik’s cube puzzle when it comes to CORRECTLY arranging the pillows. Why do we need all of these pillows, and why do they need to be arranged in a specific way?

Back in the dark ages when I was single, my home life was simple. I slept in a sleeping bag, I could move all of my belongings in one car trip and I had no home furnishings much less the accoutrements that made them ‘warm and cozy’. I had two pillows I slept with, and I really didn’t see a need to have more pillows than was functionally necessary. Then I got married, had kids and it not only takes half of a tractor trailer to move all of our belongings, but my sleeping bags are in the storage closet and it seems each room has a dozen pillows that need to be placed in a very specific way so the room looks ‘inviting’. Bed pillows, throw pillows, decorative pillows, body pillows, donut pillows, neck pillows, travel pillows, knee pillows, down pillows, foam pillows, buckwheat hull pillows, pillow pets, orthopedic pillows, pillows with fringe, bolsters…it’s chaos.

From my perspective, there is nothing warm and inviting about a room that doesn’t have any place to sit or sleep because there are too many pillows on the furniture. But I learned early on in marriage that if your wife doesn’t like your opinion, then it doesn’t count. So I live with it.

We currently have 13 pillows on our bed that are to be arranged in a VERY specific way, and my Martha Stewart wife is standing ready to inspect my work to make sure I did it correctly. I find the order and combination is overwhelming, so I suggested using a Sharpie marker to number each one to ensure I put the pillows in the right order after making the bed. No buy-in. This is all made worse by the fact that my Goldilocks has an opinion when it comes to which pillow she sleeps with – “This pillow is too hard. This one is too soft. This one is too big. This one is too small…” I never know which pillow is mine because there are 13, I can’t tell them apart, and my wife won’t let me mark the pillows with a Sharpie so I know which ones are mine. So, at least once a week, after I have finally made it to bed, the lights are off, all is finally quiet, and I am about to….. finally…. doze…. off…. to…. sleep, she rolls over and without whispering she says, “I think you have one or both of my pillows, can we please trade…”

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Do These Jeans Make My Butt Look Big???

The classic female question: “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” has been answered incorrectly by guys for centuries. Not because every guy answers, “Yes!” but because every guy is answering the wrong question.

Let me explain. After almost two decades of marriage, I have learned that the question your wife is asking is not actually the question she is asking. What I mean is that when your wife asks, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” she does not want a ‘yes or no’ guy answer (ok – sometimes she does, but hang with me for minute). What she really wants to know is if you love her and you are forever committed to her even though she may not be perfect. But if you aren’t listening closely, you won’t hear the question.

I have created a fictional character in my head named Mr. Wonderful who has perfect insight into women, and has a flawless response to any and all questions his wife or girlfriend may ask. So, when I get a question from my wife I stop myself from answering the question and think how Mr. Wonderful would respond before words actually come out of my mouth.

For example, if your wife asks, “Do you think my friend ______ is pretty?” The basic guy would answer, “YEAH! She is smokin’ hot! Are you kidding?” Bad answer. Mr. Wonderful would hear the real question and say, “Sure, she is pretty, but I love you.” That’s what she wants and needs to hear.

Another question would be, “Do I look tired? I think I look tired.” The basic guy would say, “You mean because of the giant, black circles under your eyes the makeup can’t hide?” Mr. Wonderful would say, “Honey, you have had a lot on your plate lately. Why don’t you sleep in Saturday morning and I will take the kids.”

Now, there are times when it is best to say nothing at all, and knowing when not to talk is probably more important than learning what to say. So, if you were to walk in and find your wife watching television while eating out of a bag of leftover Halloween candy and empty candy wrappers cover the couch like spent shotgun shells litter a duck blind, then even Mr. Wonderful won’t be able to help you. I will give you and Mr. Wonderful the same advice on this one. Act as though you were walking down the street, looked into a random alley, and witnessed a mafia hit. Keep your mouth shut, turn away and keep walking as though you didn’t see a thing. In either situation, any response you can muster will only end badly.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

My Wife is Killing Me with the Thermostat

Much like a wounded mullet learns of his inevitable demise once the shark begins to circle, so too do I know how I will punch out of this life and into the next. The home thermostat. I had no idea that something as ordinary as the thermostat would create not only marital friction, but it would also act as the ghost of Christmas future.

My wife has a very limited comfort range when it comes to room temperature. I estimate this range to be 69 degrees Fahrenheit to 71 degrees Fahrenheit. One tick below this range on the low end, and she notes that she is in the early stages of hypothermia. A notch above 71 degrees, and she complains of heat exhaustion. The simple answer would be to keep the thermostat set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and never touch it again. However, that would be too easy and require my wife to believe MY explanation of how the thermostat and the air conditioning unit actually work. My wife chooses to use the device much differently than the manufacturer intended believing that if she sets the thermostat to say 80 degrees the unit will know to blow HOTTER air and warm the room faster because she is cold. Or, if she is hot, turning the temperature setting down to 60 degrees will somehow cool the room down faster. Note that we still arrive at an average ambient temperature of 70 degrees albeit with much more temperature variation which exacerbates the problem and will lead to my inevitable death by phenomena.

Because my wife is in the midst of her tender middle years, she will sometimes feel her body temperature rise rather quickly. The first sign this is happening is her query, “Does it feel hot in here to you?” Before I can respond with, “No Buttercup. It does not.” I see her frantically punching thermostat buttons like she is a 9-year-old on an elevator. Now, some might suggest turning on the ceiling fan, and this is where another problem arises – she doesn’t like the air to touch her skin. So, when she is hot she wants the air temperature cooler but does not want any air to come into contact with her skin. This is tricky. When I point out that God made our bodies with a natural cooling mechanism that allows our core temperature to cool when sweat meets with air moving across our skin it is not well received. This problem peaks in the summer when driving. She turns the air conditioner as cold as possible because it’s 112 degrees outside, but points all vents at me so the cold air doesn’t touch her skin. So, I end up driving down the interstate with blue lips while she comfortably basks in the sun on her side of the car.

This issue is especially problematic when it comes to sleeping. If she feels the room is too cold at bedtime, then the temperature is turned up to a balmy 80 degrees and I fall asleep on top of the sheets sweating like a missionary battling malaria in the Amazon River Basin. After she feels it has gotten too hot, the thermostat is then turned WAY down and I wake up shivering like a Yukon Territory gold prospector sleeping underneath the January Aurora Borealis.

I am still able to recover from the frequent colds and flu-like symptoms, but I am waiting for the day when I no longer recover and I am living out my last days in a room where the temperature still fluctuates between 60 and 80 degrees knowing the thermostat did me in.

© Johnny Hea – 2011 All Rights Reserved