Monday, November 30, 2009


I'm thankful that I'm able to pursue my dream. I'm thankful for my supportive husband. I'm thankful for the friends and family, and ex-collegues, acquaintances, and strangers who are reading this blog and cheering me on. I hope that I'm helping you see that you can make your dream happen. I'm thankful that I'm not upsidedown in my mortgage, that we've only had to cut back on luxuries and not necessities. (Okay, so going to Colonial Williamsburg for Thanksgiving was not a necessity -- occasionally we do backslide.)

Many of you, dear friends and readers, email, text or IM me about something I've posted here. Please feel free to comment within the blog itself. Even if it's a general observation, comment or story that does not pertain to a particular post. Go ahead and leave it as a "comment." That's one of the strongest features of the "blogging thing." It's a conversation. If you want to have lunch, or invite me to your cookie exchange or just catch up, of course you should call, IM, text, or email me. I love to hear from you. But if you've got something to share about anything you've seen or read here, on "Hair-Do," -- please "comment" here. I'm pretty sure that everyone reading this is as interested in your observations as they are mine.

Pursuing an alternate career is a long journey. A journey that starts out as an intellectual and emotional one. You know when you're in that meeting, or that job interview, where you're asked "If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?" Think about it. Fo real!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Car Cred

In New York just having a car is cool. If you have a big car, that holds lots of people, even better. With a minivan or a SUV you can drive people places -- upstate, the Hamptons, to client meetings in Connecticut and Jersey, where ever. Even though I only have one kid, in 2002 I bought a minivan. Mostly because at the time we also ferried around our two Godchildren, and we liked to road trip.
My first week in Cincinnati I swiped the side of the van on the pillars in the underground garage at the office. Twice. Hey, I was use to having the car parked for me in underground garages. So now I had a minivan with dents on the side. Totally uncool amongst the BMW's, Lexus', and Audi's in that garage. I'd sometimes think about getting a new car, but my old WASP up-brining -- where one bought a car for cash and drove it for at least 100,000 miles, wouldn't let me entertain that idea for very long. And, I just couldn't buy into the whole BMW, Lexus "thing." I'd sometimes think that the thing to do would be to rise above all that and get a Prius -- especially since those (gas guzzling) luxury sedans were just one step down from a Hummer as far as I was concerned.

Well now I don't have to worry for a while. The Minivan still has only 60,000 miles on it -- and now that I'm in beauty school I get compliments on it again -- "Miss Cynthia, I sure like your van." There is one student who's mother picks her up in a big Mercedes ("rich bitch"), and another who's boyfriend drives a Cadillac Escalade (drug dealer), a couple of nice Camary's and a Honda CRV ("nice, lucky"); but for the most part the cars resemble those of my friends from the prep school days -- really old, beat-up and 100,000 miles +. Back then you were lucky to get your mothers old car when you got your license. Except for Steven Goldberg -- his dad bought him a Camero (I think) and we all kind of thought "how nouveau riche."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Client Service

The study guide from yesterday's theory class makes it all sound so easy.

Communicating for Success Study Guide:

What is reflective listening?

Listening to someone and repeating, in your own words, what they said back to them.

Define communication

The act of effectively sharing information between people.

What is the purpose of a portfolio?

To show your client a visual tool. To showcase your talent.

What are good relationships built on?

Mutual respect and understanding.

What is the key to operating effective and successful customer service?

The ability to understand people.

What should always be done before any service?

A client consultation.

What is recorded on an in-take form?

Client’s contact information, services and technique performed.

What is an important aspect of reflective listening?

Talk less, listen more.

What does reiterate mean during a client consultation?

To repeat in measured, precise terms.

What is the best way to handle a schedule conflict with a client?

Be polite and ever argue.

What is the best way to handle a conflict with a co-worker?

Privately and directly

What is the best approach when dealing with an unhappy client?

Tact and honesty

What is discussed during an employee evaluation?

Performance, desires and progress

What does upkeep after a service mean?

Home maintenance and limitation, and commitments needed to keep the best look.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coming Out 2

About a month ago I started to come out about going to beauty school. At first I was almost embarrassed, but then slowly I started to tell friends, neighbors, ex-collegues, then people I hardly knew. "Follow the blog" I say. The support has been tremendous. But until this week, I had not come out the other way. No one at school knew anything about my life or former career. (For all they knew I could have been away.) Then on Monday we had a business math class.

Even the teacher was getting a little stumped on how to get the answer; so I sort of took over. After I started explaining how to do the first problem, Tiara and Jess both moved over to sit next to me. "Miss Cynthia, how you know how to do this so good?" My simple answer was "I was in business my whole life. I know how to to business math; ... but don't ask me to do algebra." That afternoon, a teacher from another class asked "What did you do before this?" She had asked me before and I'd always answered "I worked in an ad agency." But this time she was looking for more -- I think because of the earlier math class. So I just came out with it " I was a vice-president at an ad agency. I dealt with the clients. For most of my life I lived in New York and worked in a really big agency there." Then I rattled off some of the campaigns I'd worked on that I was sure she'd recognize. This information got around faster than what had made Asia go away.

Surprisingly, the support has been just as strong on this side. I think because everyone in the school is on a journey to fulfill a dream. We're all working to that same goal; no matter what our background, where we came from, or where we are now.

Later in the afternoon when we were working on the relaxers, Aimee (whom btw is 36 and has two kids in college), asked "Miss Cynthia, when you going to come out with us?" I said "Aimee, I am way too scared to go out with you guys. I gotta work up to that."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Product Tip

Was never much into make-up. Now we "study" it and have classes and "practicals," which is how I discovered Mineral make-up. I love consumer products (which is one of the reasons I went into advertising in the first place); and I love this one: L'Oreal Bare Naturale mineral make-up. Check it out ladies.

Ebony and Ivory

When Chris Rock was on Oprah promoting his documentary Good Hair he said that the thing he learned about White hair is that no white woman has their natural hair color and a lot of them are gettin' weaves too. The thing about Black hair is that it's all relaxed and, Oprah aside, any time you see a Black woman with hair longer than her chin, 97% of the time that's a weave. See the movie. (NY Times review: Even if you're not interested in hair, you'll learn a lot about people and culture and the beauty industry -- and America.

Yesterday's practical was on relaxer. Of course I was the only one who had NO IDEA what I was doing. I didn't even understand the demonstration -- what the hell does "base it up good" mean? Finally I had to say: "Miss Lisa, I'm just an old white woman and I don't know a thing about relaxer; I need help."
Tiara, who's been doin' "kitchen hair" since elementary school chuckled and then she and Miss Lisa came over to walk me through it.

Like I learned from Good Hair, the relaxer is so toxic that if you don't base the head first (cover the scalp with a think layer of protective ointment) the client will get chemical burns and sores. And if you're doing a relaxer touch-up (which was the assignment), and you go beyond the regrowth to the previously relaxed hair, the hair will break off. Not is MIGHT burn and break off; it WILL Burn and Break Off! Remember Salt and Peppa from the '80's? Remember how she shaved off half her hair -- that was the result of a relaxer accident!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmas in July

I walked into Target two weeks ago, and was instantly surrounded by Christmas. And I was happy. I embraced it. Even though it was the day after Halloween I loved seeing the Christmas decorations. For the past few years I've been very "bah-humbug" about the season. At least until a week or two into Advent. I threaten to get one of those little table-top trees -- AND THAT'S IT, DAMN IT! I haven't of course, but I've wanted to. I was trying to figure out why this year I feel so different. As soon as I got home from Target I wanted to put lights up every where. I relized it's because since 2002 I've worked on retail accounts; I'd have to start thinking about Christmas ("the Holidays) in July. It'd be 100 degrees out but I'd be writing holiday marketing plans -- what would we do for Black Friday, for the 23rd and 24th -- what great deals could we offer -- what would the door breakers be? If I started much after July 4th we'd be sunk. Then in August or September we'd be shooting -- making snow in Los Angles. Santa would be there... Then we'd donate a all the props to Habitat for Humanity -- and even that was Christmas-y. Then as the holiday actually did get closer, the tension would build until Black Friday where you'd just hold your breath to see the sales results on Monday. If they were good, you could relax a bit and enjoy the holiday; if they were bad, you'd be fucked and might loose the business. ... and your job......

Now I love Christmas... can't wait to get started..... after thanksgiving, like a NORMAL person.

Friday, November 13, 2009

....One is silver and the other gold

When you go to a new place, you make new friends. A new job, a new city -- a new school. You gravitate to the people who are like you; the one's with whom you share similar world-views, experiences, senses of humor; that sort of thing. There's an excitement to a new friendship as you share stories and pieces of your life with each other. One of my new friends is Asia. She's smart and funny and a bit cynical -- just how I like my friends. We started school the same day.
Yesterday I gave Asia a ride to her second bus stop. It's near my house and I noticed she was kind of tired and out of it all day, so I offered her a ride. I would have taken her all the way to the place she stayin, but she said the bus stop would be fine. Before beauty school Asia was away. (see yesterday's vocab word) Now she's in a Talbert House program where she has another 118 days to go before she's able to go home in January. But she'll only be allowed to leave her house to go to school. She'll have to wear an ankle monitor. She's pretty transparent about all this. So I was askin her all about Talbert House and how it work. So she's tellin me about it and it sounds REALLY horrible. I wanted to share something but, all I could think of was when we were shooting the Kmart Christmas commercials in LA with Martha Stewart and she was about to go away and really scared about it. Then when she came home, she had to wear an ankle bracelet too. But I can't say to Asia, "Oh yeah when I had dinner with Martha she talked bout being away and then having to wear an ankle bracelet..."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

30 Days

Since it's debut three years ago, I've always thought 30 Days was the best, the smartest and most interesting reality show on TV. Most days I feel like I'm living it. It's on FX -- check your local listings!

In this unscripted series created by Morgan Spurlock, participants face their fears and prejudices when they spend 30 Days living someone else’s life.


Yesterday we began learning how to give facials. I was like all "ick! I don't want to do that, I want to do hair." But once I got into it it's actually one of those experiences that really surprised me. It's very relaxing, giving a facial. I sort of got that hypontized feeling myself. It would have been even more relaxing had I not been trying to memorize all the latin names for every part of the face. You know that indent below your nose for which people say there's no word? There is. It's pepressor septi (two words actually).

Of course the facial thing lead me back to old life thinking and how when I was in high school a friend introduced me to the Georgette Klinger facial. I remember at the time it cost $75. The same as a pair of Fry boots. It was awesome. Such a luxurious experience. You'd come out all raw and blotchy and then 48 hours later you'd have clear, beautiful, perfect skin. Of course the products we use in school are crap. Every time we do facials someone has an allergic reaction. So I asked if I could bring in my own product (no way am I putting that stuff on my face). When I got home I went to the Georgette Klinger web-site hoping to buy some of those amazing products from years ago. I was disappointed to learn that the business had been sold (name retained though) and now they use all Aveda products. So then I started searching the Sephora site... If anyone has any tips on products for sensitive skin, let me know.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vocab word of the day: Salty

Salty (saul-dee): 1) pissed, upset. 2) Upset, embarrassed or indignant as a result of humiliation or wrong-doing by another person. 3) A word originating in Philadelphia generally meaning that you just got played, or are looking stupid, either because of something you did, or something that was done to you.

The Ad Club downgraded my name tag from a real badge to a printed name tag. That made me be salty; but the talk was good, so I kind of got over it.

Don't be hatin' on my school

Twice in the last few days I've had people hatin' on my school and that's not cool. First a friend made a really racist remark (which I can't repeat) and told me that I could transfer to the Redken school because they are starting a new part-time program. Then, at the professional beauty supply store where I have to show my student ID and transcript in order to make a purchase, the sales woman (to whom I of course started telling my whole story the minute I walked in and she started following me around) was all "wow, you probably have the best grades and attendance record at that school. You know, they have people there that are in women's correctional facilitates. They just let them out to go to school." I had to sort of agree with her. But then she went on to tell me how she went to the "best beauty school in the state -- International in Colerain." And how a "person like you would be much better off there." OH REALLY?! I wanted to say to that self satisfied snob.. "well -- maybe that's true but I have DEGREES FROM SOME OF THE BEST SCHOOLS IN THE Freakin' COUNTRY. And I think Western Hills School of Beauty rocks! There are some very, very strong teachers there. One (at least) who could go up against anyone I had at Horace Mann, Hamilton College or COLUMBIA-FREAKIN'-UNIVERSITY. The Ivy League? Heard of it? No? I didn't think so! (Who's the self satisfied snob now? Ooopps.)
Western Hills rocks because the teaching is good, there's lot of individual attention and because in practice, everyone actually has an individualized curriculum and pace. Do you already know how to do roller sets and fingerwaves, but want to work on foils? You can, and you do. You start doing practicals your very first day.

Surprisingly, it is at the Western Hills Beauty School that I have discovered that I was never taught exactly how to study. I was just always in the "smart class," then the "honors program." By the time I got to prep school I guess they assumed that everyone just knew how to study. I've got say I did struggle. And now I see that I really could have done SO MUCH better. Maybe would have gone to medical school after all. Did you know that if you read the review questions BEFORE you read the chapter you'll retain the material (almost as if by magic). (Granted this material is pretty simple -- although there is a lot of anatomy and physiology.) And if you write out the study guide.... you know it. These "tricks" really work. When I mentioned this to my rocket scientist (literally) husband he told me "yeah, I didn't know that either. And then when I got to Michigan and they told me I didn't believe it and blew it off. Once I started doing it (studying the right way), I got really good grades. I should have been doing it all along."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

treasure island

Ever drive, or walk by one of those beauty supply stores that looks really enticing, but has a big ol' sign on the door "professionals only?" Wondered what was in there and why it was "professionals only?" Was it really that much better? Well..... I've been, and it is! A fantastic array of products. Color and texture. All those "salon only" projects. The ones I use to buy at salons. Goldwell, Sabastien, Kiwi, OPI -- all my favorites. The one's I use to pay BIG BUCKS for. Flat irons that get hot, hot, hot -- so much better than anything you can buy at Target. Better even than the pink one you buy at the kiosk at the mall -- and for A THIRD OF THE PRICE. I love retail environments. I love the displays. The organization, the end-aisles, the colors, the patterns. Retail at it's finest. And they had a lot of holiday season gift items...... so you all know what you're getting for Christmas....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

The week I got fired, David Kessler the author of The End Of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite ( was interviewed on the The Daily Show. That week I also saw Food Inc. ( I felt I was left with no choice but to start weaning myself and my family off any and all processed food and meat. I got some vegetarian and vegan cook books from the library. Brought the food processor up from the basement and bought one of those Asian rice steamers. I made the most delicious curry veggie burgers -- with ingredients I could only find at the health food store in Clifton. I spent A LOT of time chopping. I also committed to buying local and cutting back on dairy. I bought organic. Not only was I chopping for what seemed like hours a day; I was driving all over the freakin' city to buy produce, meat, dairy and bread. Sometimes I was baking my own bread. It was a huge time commitment. And a little bit crazy. Channeling all that unemployed energy. Not a life style change I could sustain. Especially not when I'm in school six days a week. Months later, we've managed to hang on to the soy "dairy" products and the local meat and eggs. So I feel good about that.

But the food at school is an entirely different story. The food culture is probably the single thing that is the most radically different from my "old life." These ladies eat JUNK ----- ALL - DAY - LONG. A typical breakfast is chips and pop. Mountain Dew and potato chips! For Breakfast! Mid-morning snack is Doritos. Lunch is KFC, McDonald's, Chili Cheese Fries, Rallys or Taco Bell. And not just once in a while. Every - single - day. In advertising you might see a bunch of people go out to say, Chipotle or a wings place once in a while. It's an indulgence; a treat. People's breakfast would be a boiled egg and coffee, or a yogurt. Oatmeal was very popular. Lunch was salads or soup or a Lean Cuisine, maybe a sandwich from somewhere. (And, not all four!) Of course there was always the skinny guy who ate junk all the time and the fat girl who never had anything but baby carrots and rice cakes. But, man... these beauty school chicks just let's it all go. Most of the girls are quite thin, some have great figures, many are overweight and one is pregnant. But with only one exception, they all consume A LOT of junk food. Junk food, junk food, junk food. The girl who's trying to diet has a slim fast shake in addition to her Lean Cuisine and then a donut. Really, I couldn't make this stuff up. I had no idea that people --- young, attractive people -- ate like this. And God knows, that unlike in advertising where people go to the gym five days a week -- these ladies get no exercise whatsoever.

On Friday, a teacher from another class came down to our class room to ask if anyone could claim the lunchbox left in the break-room 'fridge. It was a nice neoprene lunch bag. She held up the bag:
"does anyone belong to this? Anyone? No? It's got to be one of you guys, you're the last class I've asked."
Student "Well what's in it?"
Miss Teacher: "let's see (she opens the bag...) celery, baby carrots, a little thing of low-fat ranch and an apple."
Me: "No one in this class would have that!" Laughter
Other Student: "Fo' Sure!" Much laughter.

We're a bunch of junk food junkies! Fo' Sure!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Coming Out

I put off even looking into beauty school for months because I couldn't admit to my family, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues that that was what I wanted to do. It would be so much easier to say "Oh I'm going back to school for .... law, or veterinary medicine,... or education... or a PhD in Theology." Anything but BEAUTY SCHOOL. For God's sake.... Beauty School?? WTF?
At the six month mark I started to realize that I needed something, I'd had enough of cooking, gardening, quilting, scrapbooking. And besides, the pool was closed now until next May. I called the beauty schools in town and went to visit them. Figuring there was no reason to get everyone's panties in a bunch until there was something real, I didn't even tell my husband what I was up to. Of course I also keep looking for that elusive "day job" -- the one that would pay me in excess of $100K to get treated like shit from madmen and morons pretending to know how to work with an agency. I even went on an interview; sent a couple of resumes, did a few networking lunches/coffees and checked every day. Truth be told I am still doing all that stuff. 'Cause I like it, and turns out I'm good at it. But I digress. This is suppose to be about coming out.
I pick a school -- based on overall flexibility and ability to switch to part-time (for when I get that big, perfect day job). I filled out applications for financial aid and student loans. I talked to unemployment about whether or not I can go to beauty school and still get benefits (I can). And still I TELL NO ONE. Because it's embarrassing. BEAUTY SCHOOL....WTF?

So I decide I just have to do it, and now's the time. I tell my husband and a couple of close
girlfriends. They are all unbelievably supportive. But I don't tell anyone else. I'm embarrassed. But then I start school and I LOVE IT. On so many levels it is completely awesome. (See first posts) I keep trying to channel Michael Gill Gates of How Starbucks Changed My Life ( I want to be happy -- publically; but I can't. Not yet. I tell my brother, a few out-of-town friends, close friends who live far away but know I've been talking about beauty school for years. I give a few people the url to this blog. Every single person I tell is genuinely thrilled and many are jealous. When I meet new people (which is often because since I've been unemployed I've gotten very involved in my church -- but that's another story) I start saying "I use to be in advertising." It feels weird, really weird, and I wonder if it's true.

Then comes Halloween. I live on one of those streets that you see in the movies, that you wish you grew up on. Everyone is nice, everyone is normal, people watch out for each other, and everyone is smart and fun and the kids are all above average and they all get along -- all the time. Halloween is a big deal here. There are little block party-like affairs on the front lawns with adult (and kid) beverages, hors d'oeuvres, fire-pit fires and everyone sitting around having a great time while giving out the candy to the trick or treaters. Okay, so you get the picture. As the evening winds down and we start to talk to each other, I get the curious, but sympthay-loaded "how are you doing?" Phrased the way you'll know if you're unemployed -- emphasis on "doing," in kind of a sing-song tone of sympathy. And then it happens -- instead of the lame and uncomfortable ... "working on projects, doing some consulting, networking, exploring options..." I just come out with it... "I just started beauty school. Yup, beauty school. Have wanted to do it for years... blah, blah, blah." People got really excited, everyone was so psyched for me -- and then they wanted me to give them highlights. It's like being the doctor at a party I'm finding.

Then yesterday was the big one. Like telling your parents your gay. I attended a networking event with about thirty other "highly networked" professionals -- invited because "people know, like and trust you." These are the people who could help me get that "big job," these are the people who could help my friends and associates find great jobs (Tangent -- I've kind of fallen into a little; albeit successful head hunting thing. Again... need to save that for another time.) As usual we go around the room and introduce ourselves to the group -- our name, company, why we're here, what we want to get out of it, etc, etc. Lawyers, designers, HR professionals, marketers... I'm starting to sweat and
feel like I'm going to have a panic attack. I think to myself that if I'd know this was going to happen I would have taken a Xanax before I got out of the car; and it's too late now. The damn thing takes twenty minutes to kick in. I'm thinking I could do the "laid off, ... project work.... consulting.... " thing. But when it's my turn, I come clean. I tell the whole freakin' room that I'm fulfilling my dream of going to beauty school so I can work in a high-end salon and do cuts and color. That it'll be fun, and creative, and fulfilling. I'll be making people feel good. And if the client is an asshole -- they'll be out of my chair in 40 minutes! It felt good. Even though a little voice in the back of my head keeps screaming (WTF are you doing!!!! You're going to ruin any chance you have of EVER going back to a big job you moron!) But the room went wild. Seems I'm living out everyone's dream. Later, during the networking part, people came up to tell me they wish they had the balls... how inspirational I am. And of course wanted my opinion on their hair. (again, I think it's like being a doctor... weird.) They asked for the address of this blog.
I loved being in the professional meeting enviornment. I felt validated. I felt secure. I felt at home. At 9:00 I had to race off to school where we did theory on pedicures (YUCK) and spent the afternoon doing thermal curls. I heard some crazy stories about shit that went down in ISS (In
school suspension), and some really jacked opinions about birth control (did you know if gives you cancer? and "That Norplant don't work. when I got that thing taken out I got pregnant a week later")

An interesting day. (and I didn't even get to the part about my seond grade religious ed class making their first reconciliation last night. So sweet. It fills me up.)

At least I'll never get called up by the pilot to trim someone's bangs!

Oh, and I'm still keeping this a big secret from quite a few.... but I'm working on dealing with that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Mourning

I'm constantly comparing my old life with the new one. Yesterday we did theory and practical on manicures. I keep thinking of the hundreds and hundreds of manicures I've had. Remember when the magazine reps use to take us to the Elizabeth Arden salon at Saks for lunch? We'd get manis and pedis and a "light ladies lunch." The best was at Jessica's Nail Clinic on Sunset in West Hollywood. The concierge at the Mondrian hooked me up with an appointment there one time, and then I'd make one for whenever I was in LA. Only place ever to be able to save a natural nail and make it look good. Along with good schools, gray flannel, straight hair and alcoholism, my WASP heritage came with weak nails that break all the time. Total opposite of my Italian family -- they actually have to cut their nails; a couple of times a week. Imagine! Anyway I keep remembering all those manicures and the life that went with them. I wonder if I can really keep at this beauty school thing. Then I have to tell myself that that life no longer exists for anyone. At least not for overweight fifty year olds who have priced themselves out. Today we'll be doing pedicures. There was this place on 73rd street that would do a reflexology pedicure that was heaven....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Assimilation of Language

The Summer I was eight we moved from Framingham, MA to Hartsdale, NY. That Summer the cocktail crowd at the Riverdale Yacht Club would tell my mother "your children have awful Boston accents." Beefeater & Tonic in hand, and always in denial, she'd reply "Funny, I don't hear it." But by the second week of September I was pulled out of my new class for one-on-one speech therapy where instead of asking where "Mummy paked the ka," and adding an "er" to any word ending in a vowel (my own name included), I was taught to speak correctly. By Halloween I was speaking like a real New Yorker and no longer had to meet with the speech teacher in the little room.

Twenty-one years later after living in Mexico for a few months, friends from back home began commenting that I was "getting a weird accent." Even though my ability to speak Spanish was was on par with the average Mexican three year old, I'd picked up the accent of native Spanish speakers speaking English. On moving back to NY, the "weird accent" went away in a matter of days.

Then again, shortly after the move to Ohio "are-ange" became "or-ange," "warrter" became "wahter," and sometimes "soda" is "pop." Now when ever I'm back in NY I'm taken-aback by the strong New York accents in friends whom I previously had thought had none.

I've just always picked up the accents and dialects very easily. I'm also an excellent mimic. I could never understand people who spoke, say Italian for the first twelve years of their life but then spoke nothing but English for the next fifty years, AND STILL have a strong Italian accent. That would never happen to me. My speech patterns -- accent, vocabulary and grammar -- naturally assimilate seamlessly.

Now in this very different beauty school culture, I'm trying very hard not to stand out. Because I already stand out enough. On Friday I actually heard myself say "Where's that flat iron at?" I felt my grammar slipping all week -- the inexplicable urge to use double negatives, ending sentences in prepositions and the deletion of the verb "to be" from any sentence. Mr. McCardell (my high school English teacher) would TURN OVER IN HIS GRAVE. Interestingly, there are many, many people who easily slide back and forth from "speaking white," to "talking black." Just not many old white women like me. On the plus side I've got some great new vocabulary words. I'm seeing that like Yiddish, there are some Urban words that just perfectly express something I had no one single word for before. My favorite is "bitter," as in: Those teenagers, I don't know why they so bitter all the time. That puberty get to them.