Some of my fondest childhood memories were of me and my brother staying up late on a Saturday night to watch Saturday Night Live. Sometimes hiding under a blanket to hide the glow of the TV, because our parents would not have approved of us watching the show. We were still young, so we had to sneak the viewing.
I remember great skits like they were yesterday… John Belushi as a Bumble Bee, The Coneheads, and my personal favorite, the incomparable Gilda Radner as Roseanne Rosanadana.
If you have never seen her, cut and paste this clip. You will laugh… guaranteed.
Even though I was just a kid, I could do a mean imitation of the character. I could even do the look thanks to my naturally unruly Mexican hair, and very tight braids my Nana would make to control it. She would wrap those braids so tight, I am convinced it is the source of the migraines I suffer from today. When I let those braids loose, there was the big hair! I even had a blazer – like the kind they wore on the SNL newscast segments – thanks to my mother who liked to sometimes dress me like a real estate agent. I just thought the character was a hoot. The look, the comic delivery, Gilda Radner made me laugh like nobody’s business.
When I imitated the character, I found power in the transformation. I was not the shy kid who normally could barely speak. For some reason when I went into character I could shed the painful shyness that defined my childhood. Pretending made the introvert disappear, and I was “somebody” that made people laugh. It was a very powerful feeling.
What really made the act was the hair. The unruly hair that I hated so much as a young awkward girl was finally useful! But once my Roseanna Rosanadana phase grew out, I was once again left to deal with the hair. Being a teenager left me once again hating the strands I was born with. I am only sorry that when I looked in the mirror, I never again saw an opportunity to embrace the humor or beauty of having something so unique to who I was. As soon as I could, I started a life long process of struggle against my locks. I wanted to tame those waves, and destroy the unruliness. Armed with all kinds of hair products and appliances, I have forged several decades of war against my Roseanne Rosanadana style hair.
Now that I am older, and my sister is a licensed hair stylist who has taught me so much, I have finally won the battle. I can tame my locks in a few short hours of sitting in a stylist’s chair, going sometimes months without having to do much at all. It is all together a relief and time saver.
But recently, after going a few weeks too long since my last straightening process, I found myself once again looking in the mirror and seeing that unruliness. I had fallen asleep with my hair wet, and woke up to the biggest hair I had seen on my head since I was a child. I suddenly had a flashback to the days of my impersonations. I sat in the chair in my large unforgivably bright bathroom, stared in the mirror, and wondered where that child had gone. I thought about how I cracked the shell of silence that plagued my youth by joining the military and building my confidence. I thought about how I transformed my life by going to school, working hard to have the blessings I have, the best of which is my daughter (who I am happy to report did NOT inherit my hair 🙂 I realized that no matter how much I change myself, I can’t run away from who I am underneath the cloak of professional success. No matter how much I process my locks, the brown (and now salt and pepper) hair will always come back to remind me that I can be the shy girl who hides, or I can embrace my inner-Roseanne Rosanadana and laugh, talk, joke, and be someone people want to know.
I will forever love Gilda Radner for planting the seeds of confidence through laughter, that I can see even today. We need more Roseanne Rosanadana’s in the world, so that young girls can learn to love who they are inside and out, and begin a lifelong process of self discovery. I wonder if Gilda ever knew just how much she impacted the world.