The Adventures of Ms. Potato Head

I took the Green Line to an art-teaching gig I had last week.

I shuffled up to the train stop around noon. The day was sunny and bone-chillingly cold, with a nasty wind blowing down from Canada. In deference to the climate I was swaddled in my warmest hooded coat,  fur-lined boots,  snowmobile gloves and polyester leg warmers. The only thing saving me from terminal frumpiness was a pair of Audrey Hepburn sunglasses.

As I took my place next to the other travelers at the train stop, I observed that we were experiencing the kind of fashion synchronicity which sometimes occurs among strangers:  we were all wearing  lumpy hooded coats, leg warmers, snowmobile gloves and Audrey Hepburn sunglasses. If I hadn't known which one of us was me, I might have lost myself in the crowd.

Suddenly a pretty  teenaged girl skateboarded up to the train stop. She was lightly dressed in a  purple velvet  jacket, lavendar miniskirt, pink tights and laceup granny boots. A riot of auburn curls cascaded across her shoulders. Her nose sported a dusting of freckles, her brown eyes were luminous and her rosebud lips shaped the words of a lilting melody. She was the perfect embodiment of springtime and hope.

As soon as Ms. Springtime-and-Hope spotted me, she pirouetted to a stop. "You look comfortable," she said to me.

 "Comfortable" is not a good adjective to fling at a shivering, narcissistic female who is no longer in the first bloom of youth.

"I am NOT comfortable," I said. "I'm fucking  freezing." I flung off my hood and displayed my head. "I'm supposed to look like you but it's so cold I had to wear this damned hood... and now I'm all mashed."

The pretty girl looked puzzled.

"My hair," I said, gesturing at my head with my snowmobile-glove flippers. "Look at my hair: it's all mashed."

By now the other travelers were peering at us through the periscope openings of their hoods.

The  girl studied my hair and my face. Her puzzled expression faded as a flicker of understanding shadowed her features. She grinned and gave me a thumb's up.  "That's okay," she said. "You're stylin' the mashed."

She turned and skateboarded off, singing her lovely song.

Such is the way with women: even the pretty young ones understand about the beauty contest all women get enrolled in at birth. Even the pretty young ones understand  how much it hurts to lose against time and circumstance.

But as that enchanting creature reminded me that day: even when all seems can always style the mashed.