I had a seriously strange hairdo in 1976. I was just recently reminded of this by an old friend I found on Facebook (*sigh*). She wrote, “OMG! Is it really you? I hardly recognize you without the ‘fro!” It’s true. I had that sort of loose curly permed thing going on, but when the permanent was new, it looked more like a brown Brillo Pad. In fact, this friend dubbed me Brillo Pad Head which is just the thing you want to be called when you’re 15. Sometimes when the humidity was severe, as it was about 90% of the time in Columbia, SC, I could tease my hair out WAY past Ronald McDonald proportions. Yeah, it was a good look. Thanks for asking.
1976 also marked the year that I had my first serious boyfriend (I know, right?), and he had naturally very curly hair that he mostly ignored but sometimes fluffed out with a groovy wooden pick. I still have a strip of black and white pictures of us taken in one of those stinky curtained booths you find in arcades at the beach. I was wearing a puka shell necklace (back when they were cool the FIRST time) and a rockin’ silk shirt with purple flowers on it (never cool again). Mark had the groovy pick sticking out of his ‘fro and a black leather Man Necklace on. We pretty much looked like twins.
1976 was also the first time I became at least vaguely aware of the concept of running. I mean, running on purpose. For competition. Or whatever. Mark ran on his high school’s cross country team, and it seems to me now that he must have been pretty good, because I have very murky memories of trophies and stuff that he used to make me look at while I feigned interest. It seemed to me then that he ran ALL the time. After Sunday services at our church (I know, right?), he used to change clothes and run home. Run! All the way to his HOUSE! I worried that he would die. I often asked him if he stopped and walked a lot. Did he collapse in a heap when he got home or throw up or anything? After all, it was 6 miles.
In the spring of ’77 we were still going steady (Laugh it up, people. “Going steady”! Ha ha ha ha hahah!!!) when Mark got in a bad car accident. It was on the same day as my high school’s junior/senior prom. In the emergency of it all, no one contacted me, and there I was in my wretched 70’s sky-blue formal complete with fake lace and polyester, apple lip gloss, terrifically overblown eyeshadow, and Brillo Pad Head, when Mark’s mother called. She had a heavy South Carolina accent, making her sound as though she was almost always too relaxed to be alive. She even sounded this way when she said, “Honey, Mark’s been in an accident. He’s gone and broke his leg in three places.”
Mark was in the hospital a long time. Or, at least, it seemed like a long time. And every time I visited him, it was a lot of endless gloom and doom about not running, missing cross country his senior year, missing how it feels to run, blah blah blah. What?! I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t more upset about missing the prom, missing First Week at the beach, missing Brenda Whitaker’s makeout party for crissakes. He missed running? Running was stupid. Mark was stupid.
And, so, in a wildly ironical-like twist of fate, I ended up breaking up with my first serious boyfriend…. over running. Good grief. Of course, my 16-year-old ME! ME! ME!-ness would come back to bite me in a big old way when I saw him out with one of my best friends (that bitch) a few weeks after we broke up. Then I was all hearts and flowers and Barry Manilow and Bread’s Greatest Hits and weepy depressed for half a year. Or a week. Or less.
Many years later, I saw Mark at a 10k in Columbia when I was home visiting. He was married to some British chick, his fro was gone, and he was a lot taller. But he was still running. We chatted for a while, and then he noticed I was wearing a race number. “You run?” he asked incredulously. When I nodded, he just said, “Why?” And then we both cracked up. It was a sweet moment. Then he introduced me to his wife who was also a runner. And then the gun went off. And then Mark’s wife totally kicked my ass in the race.
And that’s what I call karma.