Madeline doesn’t have these inclinations yet. I have been growing her bangs out for as long as she has been Thing Two, and since Easter she has begun pulling out every barrette, bow and headband I put in her hair, apparently in an effort to resemble Nick Nolte. In the mornings at the breakfast table, I only see her mouth below the fringe as it crunches Puffins into oblivion, slowly, like an exotic camel with nowhere to be. The only thing she enjoys more than sliding out her barrette out of her corn silk locks is when I blow her hair away from her eyes in a strange role reversal where I become the toddler — huffing and puffing at her dandelion head.
Madeline does enjoy brushing her teeth. She requires that once I have done all the dirty work and gotten to her back molars, that I hand over the tiny pink toothbrush so she can finish the routine: she puts the wrong end of the brush in her mouth, wriggles free from my arms, toddles purposefully into her room, plops down in her reading chair (brush still sticking brush-side-out from her mouth), and begins to gnaw the bristles. God help the big brother who interferes.
Today I managed to bathe and get my toenails painted. I even waxed away my mustache and sculpted my eyebrows, because apparently these days, eyebrows have to be “sculpted” instead of waxed — along with eyelashes that now need bars. Although her name was Kayla (and not Michelangelo), the “esthetician” did a fine job wielding the wax.
Gordon has always been a bit skeptical about this part of my grooming. “I can’t tell a difference,” he said today when he got home from work.
“It’s not obvious that I look ever so slightly LESS like Ed Norton?” I asked. But it’s useless; this is the man who doesn’t even notice when I get a face-altering haircut. I’ve resigned myself to relying solely on public opinion.
I’m sure Madeline will have very specific ideas about the size and shape of her future eyebrows. If I know her, and I think I do, she will require other specific kinds of things — a very particular eyelash curler, just the right kind of pressed powder — and she will know the exact hour for optimum application of self-tanner. Of course, all that is dependent on her emerging from what will eventually be an impenetrable wall of hair.
The other problem with Madeline is her hate, and I use the word on purpose, HATE, for bathing. I’ve written before about how Gordon and I didn’t exactly, um, bathe her a lot when she was an infant, and I think she’s gotten used to living like a Sasquatch. Like Rose floating on the door amidst the chaos of the sinking Titanic, Madeline clings to the side of the tub and whimpers as I pour water over her head. It’s all very dramatic. We shampoo and rinse her off in a 45-second ritual that must end in under a minute before the real wailing starts. Where a rubber ducky or a toy sailboat might sidetrack other babies, Madeline sees only the stark certainty of drowning. She’s a realist, and for that I am grateful, but sometimes I wish she would just give it a rest sometimes and act oblivious.
But, of course, that would be out of character for Nick Nolte.