It's not the only thing about this body - well, this form; it's still my body, isn't it? - that I hate, but it's something that I just can't seem to get any help with. For all the hints Arlene can give me about every other element of being a teenage girl, dealing with African hair is all on me. I'm half-tempted to go out for the swim team just so that I have an excuse to shave it off, but that would mean more time in the locker room.
If Betty were college-aged, that might be fun, although I suppose that in such a case I might be mortified over other people seeing me getting changed, as so many other people who have been through the Inn and changed sex have described. Instead, though, I'm stuck taking a physical education class with a bunch of Grade 9 girls, and how do you not feel like a complete pervert surrounded by 15-year-olds? I usually just try to face the locker as much as I can and not make eye contact. I'm not sure which is worse, feeling disgusted at myself or the idea that I eventually may not feel that way.
Arlene feels it too, at least a little. About a week ago, she came home from a football game late. The Daves didn't much care, and why should they, but she shook me awake as soon as she got in (and I'd just fallen asleep!). I asked what it was, and she said she'd gone out with some of the other cheerleaders and players after the football game, and she'd wound up making out with the quarterback.
I congratulated her and rolled over in bed, but she pulled me back. "I told you when this first happened to me, I don't do kids! He's only seventeen, and he thinks I'm sixteen, so that's trouble no matter how you look at it! And I don't want trouble this time!"
"'This time'. You understand that these aren't our lives, right? That eventually, we're going to be ourselves again?"
She groaned, not wanting to get into the argument over why we haven't heard from the original Betty or Lasker family yet again. It's something we've hashed and rehashed over the past month and a half, generally along the lines of me and Big Dave not wanting to spend the rest of our lives female while Arlene and Little Dave say our lives our better and not to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Look, even if Betty and Heidi do show back up and want their lives back and we can give it to them, do we want to give them back screwed up?"
"So what's the problem? You made out a little, got grossed out, came home."
"What about next time? I've got a ton of teenage hormone juice in me right now, and this may come as a shock to you, but I wasn't so hot at saying no the last time!"
"I imagine you'll get better with practice."
"Yeah, but... Look, Rick and I have a double-date with Justin and Lacey on Friday. I can't back out, and even if this is temporary like you say, I don't want to leave Heidi with a bad reputation. Could you come with us? Be our fifth wheel, help me put on the brakes when I need to? I'll get better at this, I promise, but until I do..."
"Damn it, Arlene..."
"I'll find out what Keisha does with her hair. Her straight, beautiful hair."
"Fine! Just let me sleep!"
So the next day, Arlene asked one of the black girls on the squad how she got her hair straight, saying that "Betty" envied it but didn't want to look like she was ashamed of her African-ness. It turns out it's done with some chemical goop called "relaxer". We bought a container of it at a CVS before meeting the others for the movie (is it me, or is the beauty products section of a drug store much smaller here than it is back home?).
I was oddly excited about getting that stuff under control, and then the previews before the movie included one for a documentary with Chris Rock that shows that the stuff is incredibly toxic and corrosive, so that gunk got thrown in the trash on the way out. I'll deal with brushing if the alternative is something that can burn my scalp. As I said, this is still my body, and who knows if any sort of damage to it will carry over should I get to be myself again?
Arlene did, at least, promise to treat me to a trip to a hair salon as a "birthday" present (Betty's 17th was last week). Nice of her, I guess, and I don't have any reason to be suspicious of it, the same way I may of the restaurant gift certificate that arrived a few days later.