I glanced quickly at the photos and answered, in astonishment, "What do you mean? That's not Marilyn. It looks sort of like her, but don't you see that girl's a brunette?"
"Exactly, Marilyn has dark hair, like us, get it?" The pictures showed a very young Marilyn, before she became a famous actress. She was pretty, but she wasn't beautiful - in other words, she wasn't Marilyn with the golden hair, whom the whole world is still crazy about.
I was upset and disappointed. But it turned out to be not such a big deal, because a few years later I made a grand discovery: blondes are made, not born! Justice is done! Anyway, the difference between the two Marilyns, the blonde and the brunette, was obvious. There was no doubt about it. Marilyn was beautiful because she had blond hair. And so I began to take very seriously the Arabic saying that half of a woman's beauty is her hair. In Italy they say, instead, Altezza mezza bellezza - half of a woman's beauty is her height. Frankly I'm not so sure. Why? Imagine a pair of lovers walking in the center of Rome, she's tall and he's short. How's he going to give her a kiss, or whisper something romantic in her ear? And so? So what. To solve the problem they'd have to go around with a ladder- there's no alternative.
I have to admit that Marilyn didn't have much to do with my obsession with blond hair. Poor Marilyn, they all used her and threw her away, including the Kennedy brothers. I wouldn't have expected it of J.F.K. What a disappointment! By the way, I've always wondered: did Jackie know about her husband's frequent betrayals or did she pretend it was nothing? I once read in a newspaper that Jack used to say, "If I don't go to bed with a woman every three days I get a migraine!" He said "woman," not "wife." Probably Jackie was very busy being the First Lady. Poor Jack, he didn't have any drugs available, he had to manage like a prehistoric male.
I was talking about my obsession with blond hair, right? The explanation should be sought in childhood, said Freud: perhaps the Barbie doll that my uncle Salem brought me from a trip to London bewitched me. For years I couldn't go to sleep without hugging her. This is a plausible hypothesis. The only certainty is that even as a small child I envied blond girls for their silky-smooth hair. My hair, on the other hand, was long, black, and curly, and I yelped in pain every morning before school when my mother combed it. As soon as I saw the comb, I ran away, like a hen that's about to have its neck wrung.
"Saaaafiaaa! Don't make me angry! Come here immeeeediately!"
"Mamma, you're hurting me."
"It's an order. Don't act like a spoiled child."
Me a spoiled child! No joking, please. It was my daily torture. As time passed, my mania for hair didn't diminish but increased. So to the classic question that every child is asked, what do you want to be when you grow up, all my classmates would answer "doctor," or "architect." I, however, with great assurance and no hesitation, would say, "I want to be a hairdresser."
That's right: a hairdresser. I wasn't an idiot, I was a perfectly normal girl. I wasn't interested in provocation. But it was something very strong that I felt inside. One day my math teacher complained to my father:
"Your daughter doesn't apply herself enough in her studies."
"Because she wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up."
"What? A hairdresser?"
"Yes, exactly. Just imagine! Hahaha."
All hell broke loose. My father got angry not only with me but also with my mother, holding her responsible for my lack of ambition. (The word "ambition" is a trap for women, my grandmother will explain it to you shortly.) Fortunately there was always Aunt Amina to come to my defense: "Dear brother, you're overdoing it with the child - it's not as if she wants to be a singer, or an actress, or a belly dancer, or something else immoral!"
Excerpted from Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous. Copyright © 2012 by Amara Lakhous. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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