Column Classic: With Apologies to L’Oreal

by Lisa Scottoline

I’m sweltering because I have low self-esteem.

That’s what I figured out.

Otherwise I can’t explain my own dumb behavior.

This might be a new low, because usually I can explain my dumb behavior. Like if someone says, do you want to get married, I always say, Yes!

Dumb, but I know why.

Temporary insanity.

This time, I don’t, and the stakes are much higher. We’re talking air conditioning.

We begin when summer started, in earnest. The heat wave rolled in with temperatures of ninety degrees, but for some reason, I don’t turn on the air conditioning. One part of my house has central air, and it happens to be where the family room and my office are, but still I can’t bring myself to turn it on. By habit, I try not to turn on the air conditioning unless I absolutely have to.


I tough it out. It’s warm but not unbearable. I drink lots of iced drinks and wear tank tops and shorts. I tell myself I feel cool, even though the dogs pant and flop listlessly on the floor, flat as area rugs.

The cats don’t mince words. They walk around with signs that read: TURN ON THE AC, DUMMY.

I know if I had a window air conditioner, I’d feel differently. Then I would turn it on and it would cool down the one room I was in and nothing else. But central air has to cool the family room, kitchen, and office – all for one person.


When Daughter Francesca lived home, I would turn it on all the time. It makes sense, for two people.

But for one?


I sweat as I type away, and I’m on deadline, running out of steam. Still I think if I could just hang in a little longer, I could get through another day. Partly it’s the money, because the bill is so high, but it was high for two people too, so that can’t be the real reason. It’s not the money, but it seems wasteful.

For me alone.

Do you remember the commercial for L’Oreal haircolor, where the tagline said, Because you’re worth it?

I’ll explain, for those under seventy years old.

The idea was that L’Oreal was the most expensive of the at-home hair color kits, costing, if I remember correctly, twelve bucks a box.

Yes, there was a time when things cost twelve dollars.

And yes, there was a time when I did my own haircolor, and it looked it. I was a Nice N’ Easy fan, which went for six bucks and was neither nice nor easy.

They also called it hair painting, and we all know what a lousy painter I am. I’m the girl who paints around the pictures on the wall, so you can imagine what my roots looked like.


By the way, L’Oreal doesn’t use that tagline anymore, though its website asks, What Does Your Haircolor Say About You?

Which, I realized, is a more tactful way of saying, WHY DON’T YOU TURN ON THE AC, DUMMY?

I didn’t spring for the L’Oreal, and frankly, I don’t turn on the air conditioning because, at some, level, I don’t feel worth it.



Advocate of strong, independent women everywhere? Writer of books featuring same? Could I really have self-esteem that low?


I don’t know the answer, and I don’t want to know, but I turned on the air conditioning immediately, just to prove it to myself that I wasn’t a loser.

The dogs thanked me.

The cats didn’t.

They knew they were worth it, all along.

Copyright © Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Getting It Straight

By Lisa Scottoline

Women have come a long way, baby, except for one thing:


By which I mean, curly or straight?

Secretly, I have curly hair, and not wavy curly, I’m talking majorly curly. I don’t have curls, I had coils. I don’t have naturally curly hair, I have unnaturally curly hair.

Let me take you back in time, to the Jurassic.

By which I mean, 1955.

When I was little, I had so many curls that once they sprouted from my head, they grew sideways, defying many natural laws, starting with gravity. Bottom line, on my shoulders sat a triangle of hair.

I was too small to care. If anything, I thought it was good, because every adult who came up to me asked, “Where did you get that curly hair?”

Let’s pause a moment to examine the questions we ask little kids.

I had no idea where I got my curly hair or my blue eyes. Nor did I know the answer to the third question, which was usually, “Do you help your mommy in the kitchen?”

I swear, this happened. There was a time in America when they asked little girls this question, all the time. Now, they’re not allowed to. It’s against federal law. Try it, and go to politically correct jail.

Nowadays, nobody’s in the kitchen, and we’re all overweight.

Anyway, I got older, and kids started to tease me about my hair. All the cool girls in school had straight hair, as did the girls on TV and in magazines. Also my best friend Rachel, whom I loved.

So I discovered Dippity-Do. It was hair goop, and they still make it. I checked online and found the website, where they claim to be “the original name in gels, for 45 years.”


I seem to remember that Dippity-Do came in pink or blue, maybe for girls or boys, but that could be my imagination. Boys didn’t use it, anyway, because they liked themselves the way they were, which was clearly insane.

 Girls used Dippity-Do by the tubful, and by ninth grade, I had mastered the art of slathering it all over my wet head, putting my hair on top of my head in a ponytail, and wrapping it around a Maxwell House coffee can, which I bobby-pinned to my scalp.

Then I tried to sleep.

If American girls were drowsy in math class, this was the reason. My hair didn’t even look good, because it would be bumpy on top, until it fell out. The sides would be smooth, except for telltale ridges from the coffee can. And the delicious aroma of Maxwell House.

Still, I did not stop, as there was another product to try, which there always is, this being America, where we girls know that if we just buy X, we’ll be beautiful and our lives will change.

I’m talking U.N.C.U.R.L. It was some kind of chemical straightener that you painted on your hair while holding your nose.

It had a great marketing, with a spy-girl on the front of the box, and if you bought it, you became “The Girl From U.N.C.U.R.L.,” which would make you feel like a cool double agent and not a miserable preteen with a triangle head.

The stuff smelled funny but worked great.

For two days.

Then came blow dryers, and the rest is history. We could blow our hair straight, using an array of gels and mousses, and I still do, though it’s starting to seem like too much work. Once, on book tour, I got too tired to blow dry my hair, and my then-publicist looked at me in horror.

“What did you do to your hair?” she asked, aghast.

“I let it go curly,” I answered, in ninth grade again.

She said, “But you don’t look like your author photo.”

I blinked. That I knew already. I look nothing like my author photo. That’s the whole point of an author photo. If it looked like the author, nobody would buy the book.

The girl in my author photo is from U.N.C.U.R.L.

In contrast, Daughter Francesca was born with curls, lived through all the dumb questions people asked her, and always wore her curls with pride.

“Mom, why don’t you wear your hair curly?” she said to me, the other day, and I told her this whole story. And she said, gently, “I think you should just be yourself.”

I’m considering it, and we’ll see.

Sometimes it takes a kid to straighten out a mom.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline