Saturday, 24 March 2012

Apocalyptic Spiders, Home Perms and Near-Suicide by Essential Oils

As I'm packing and preparing to move from Newfoundland, after almost 10 years, I'm in one of those moods to think about different phases of my life, and reminiscing like mad. Of course, being me, these thoughts rarely lean towards the poignant, and instead dangle off the edge of ridiculous. 

Buckets O'Death
For example, I thought I saw a spider on the carpet, and had a gloriously rampant freak-out moment before realizing it was just some black string. As the adrenalin started to drop, I had the most vivid memory of Grade 5. For the first part of this grade, my mother, in a fit of Catholic pride, attempted to send me to the local Catholic elementary school: Our Lady of Perpetual Help (or, Old Ladies Play Hockey...whatever floats your boat). This, fortunately for me, did not stick, as I rebelled as only a petulant 10 year old can, and my father had me moved back to good, old public school later in the year. However, for the first part of that school year, I took classes in a basement classroom, with a she-bitch-dragon of a teacher, and wore a blue tunic over a white button up shirt. No cute plaid mini-skirts at this level!! 

Each Friday was show-and-tell, and after the usual "this is my pet rock, Fred" jazz at the front of the classroom, we would all get to work on some project, and the objects would be handed around the room. Arriving a little late to class, I did not realize that some muffed up little freak had brought his spider collection. I do not joke. He had a 4 litre ice cream tub (white if I recall...) that had some twigs and leaves and such in it, a tiny water dish thingy, and...yep...spiders. Several. And, there tiny me sat, not realizing that a bucket of death was slowly moving around the desks towards me. 

As I bent over a map of Canada, carefully colouring the provinces different shades with my trusty pencil crayons, intent on staying within the lines (yep, I was THAT kid), the jackass behind me literally shoved the bucket under my bent face. Mere centimetres from my schnozz (metric had only been in a Canada a few years...yes, I'm THAT old) was, apparently to my 10-year-old brain, a swarming vision of apocalyptic nightmare. My reaction? Screaming seems appropriate, or passing out (dear lord, NOT IN the bucket though!), or perhaps knocking it off the desk (spiders would be everywhere..ACK!), maybe crying.... 

Or, as I did, jumping out of my seat, running to the back windows and banging on them like a loon, all the while inexplicably shouting, "Dear God, not now!! PLEASE LORD, NOT NOW!!!!" 

To this day, I have no idea what this meant. Please don't bring the spider overlords? Please don't let me die and end up in a fiery pit of spider hell? Please don't let me be the last one left during a spider apocalypse? Who knows. My teacher, the old bat that she was, choose to slap me, tell me to knock it off and get back in my seat (the sick spider-bucket had mercifully been sealed at this point...probably the little geezer who owned the sick-spiders was worried for their sick-safety). Humiliated, terrified, slap-happy, and angry, I sauntered my blue-tunic'ed self back to my desk and ignored the guffaws of my classmates. Needless to say, I may have ran crying to the back field at lunch, and then later kicked a boy named Lance in the balls, but I feel these actions were completely within my rights at the time.

Boxes O'Humiliation
Shortly after this, my mother discovered the joy and wonder of perms. Having always had rather thin, fine and wispy hair, my darling marme decided what better way to give my locks a lift than with a home perm! Now, she did not do these perms, nor did she like the smell of them. But trust me, dear ones, there is ALWAYS some old lady (ex-small-town-beauty-shop-owner) who lives down the lane and who can do a perm in a jiffy. She still has all the equipment, smokes like a truck driver, smells like soup and perm chemicals, and will take your store-bought perm kit and, wrapped in a balding towel and crackly left-over-beauty-shop cape, get your do done.

So, Grade 6 found me back in public school, living in a cul-de-sac and heading to the corner house to get a home perm from Mrs. Whoever. Every perm I ever had (and lord, I had a few), the Permer says something along the lines of: "Oh, you're hair is so fine! Like baby hair! We'll have to use the tiniest curlers we have to make sure the curl holds, or it will just come right out!"
Tiny, pink curlers get taken out of a box, and my hair gets wound around them, a whack of putrid, bleachy, stinky chemicals gets dumped on, and then I sit and wait for the horror to reveal itself. For it seems to me as an adult, that THICK hair would need a small curl to hold, because the sheer weight of the hair might pull it out. THIN hair should be light enough to hold any curl..right? Oooh, it holds a curl all right! After Mrs. Whoever did the rinse, she actually seemed slightly aghast and said, "Oh, well, that's a real nice curl. Off you go," and proceeded to send me out the door. 

I ran home before anyone could see me, my hair not even BOUNCING the perm was so tight, with tears spilling over my little cheeks (though this could be from the burning of the chemicals). Even my mother, who bizzare-o world where she consistently attempts to reclaim the lost-baby-curls-of-my-youth type thing, was taken aback. I feel she said something like, "I wonder why Mrs. Whoever gave you such a tight perm...hmmm... Well, I read about a solution that might help relax it a bit."

The solution? Why, mayonnaise of course! I'm sure you all saw that coming.

Yep, she slathered my stinging skull with eggy, vinegary mayo, which was supposed to have the proteins needed to relax perm chemicals. Then, she took a bread bag out of the drawer (my mother is a frugal soul, who would rinse out bread bags and keep them for baggies after the bread was finished) and bobby-pinned it to my head to keep the mayo under control. THEN, because she couldn't stand the stink of all that slathered mayo and chemical perm, BOOTED ME OUTSIDE!!!

As it was summer holidays, by this point the cul-de-sac had filled with children, gathering like a swarm of paleolithic cave dwellers, pointing and asking, "What's that on her head?" My mother, knowing I would make a beeline back into the house if given half a chance, had locked the door and refused to answer my panicked doorbell ringing. My only escape? My dad's truck. I ducked into it, locked the doors and huddled on the floor, Wonder-Bread-bagged-and-mayo'd head cushioned on that hump thing between the passenger and driver's foot areas. I could hear the voices of the neighbour kids gathered around, waiting me out, ready to pounce as soon as the door was opened. Some of them had reached up to tap on the windows with their filthy hands, and others were discussing if they would get in trouble for climbing in the truck bed to peer in the little back window. Finally, after what felt like days, but I'm sure was only about an hour, I heard my mom's voice shout from the top of the steps, "What are you kids doing? Get away from there!" and then the sound of her yelling for me to get in the house. 

I ran in, defeated and tired, and we washed the mayo out. I give you one guess as to whether the method worked.... Needless to say, I hate perms. 

Bottles O'Suicide
As I got into high school, I became obsessed with homoeopathy, natural remedies, homemade bath products, and scented essential oils. Essential oils are the extremely distilled and powerful captured scents of flowers, herbs, fruit, etc. They are potent, and you often only need a drop or two to make full bottles of lotions, hand creams, soaps, etc. I was obsessed!

The Body Shop, a staple bath/beauty shop now, was just starting in the 80s, and they sold a variety of essential oils used expressly with their scent rings. What are scent rings, you ask, perplexed? They are unglazed ceramic rings, and you put drops of essential oil on them, rest them over a light bulb in a lamp, and then, as the light bulb starts to heat, it diffuses the oil and scents the room. Lovely idea, if you are a sensible person.

I have never been a sensible person.

So, in my teenage basement bedroom--my teen-lair--I took a bottle of dewberry (those who are older than 20 will remember dewberry from the Body Shop!) essential oil and DOWSED a scent ring with it. Like, it looked greasy with dewberries! I slapped it on the light bulb in my bedside table lamp, and prepared myself for the sensual experience of essential oils wafting about and essentially scenting my person! 

With very little ventilation, and a LOT of hot, diffusing scented oil, a weird thing can happen. I started to feel a tad drowsy, and slightly nauseous. Thinking that I was studying to hard (*snort*....yeah, right...) I decided to take a kip on the bed, and think of dreamy things (like Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street, or the super cute punk boy down the road) as the dewberries helped me relax. Relax into a coma!!

I don't know how much time passed, but after not getting an answer from me to get upstairs for something or other, my mom came downstairs. Busting in my door, she could only have been confused at what form of teen angst could cause this kind of suicide attempt, as I lay stupefied on my bed with my room chokingly stinking of hot, overly-chemical dewberry! She turned off the lamp, opened my tiny almost under-ground window, roused me, and got me up the stairs to the backyard. After explaining that it was not a drug thing, and then hearing her laugh for a good while at my stupidity, oil rings were banned from the house, and my purchasing of essential oils was monitored.

However, I was not to be thwarted forever!! In my early 20s, married (yes, way to young), and living with my young hubby in Vancouver, I attempted another essential oil suicide!

Overcome with my new "housewifeliness" (it's a thing), I went on a natural cleaning/beauty product kick and bought me some more essential oils! This time, I was more sophisticated in my choices, and was trying out a more citrusy brand of cocktail. Most of my experiments actually turned out pretty great, and I had a lot of lovely homemade hand creams, and window cleaner, and room spray, and other things I'm sure I found in Martha Stewart. After a long day of doing whatever I did back then, I decided to take a lovely hot bath, and would make it extra nice with essential oils!! So, in went a buttload (this is a real measurement) of lemon scented essence. And what better way to relax sore muscles? Why, baking soda helps soften the water, relax your tired body, and soothe aches and pains. 

My science-type friends might start to recognize a problem here. 

Did you ever mix vinegar and baking soda to make a volcano?

So, the bathroom smelled lovely and fresh and lemony, and I pop my nekkid hide into the hot, steamy, lemony water. OR, as I have come to call it, the acid bath! Within SECONDS, my skin was feeling burny, and tingly, and itchy, and not goody. Not goody, at all. Starting to wonder if I had some allergy to lemon, I stood up screaming for hubby. My body, in all the places the water had touched it, was a colour that could only be described as "lobster," and as hubby ran in, he halted in the door, and said, "What the f*&@ did you put in that tub??"

As I explained, he darted his hand in the water and pulled the plug and then got the shower running with cool water. "You bloody fool! You just made a tub full of alkaline water in there! You can whiten teeth with lemon and baking soda!!" Skin starting to burn less, I sobbed out, "I just wanted to s-s-s-mell nice!" Hubby quips, "I'm pretty sure you cleaned your butt better than it's ever been cleaned before, so don't worry about that!"

Needless to say, I've decided to stop packing now and go to bed. All this reminiscing is making my skin itch...


  1. I have never heard the alkaline tub story - amazing!