The New Year Starts in Chicago


“Why is your face all black?” my mother asks me, a long Capri ultra-light cigarette hanging lowly from her bottom lip.

“Mom, what do you mean my face is black?” I ask, dumbfounded.

“You have hair dye all over your pretty little face, honey. Don’t move.” An ash from my mother’s cigarette flutters to the rock-styled flooring and spreads like dust, blending in oddly perfectly as she squeezes the bottle of brown hair dye to my roots.

“You’re not smoking in the house again, Janet, are you?” my dad’s concerned voice yelps from the other room.

He’s serious.

I look over to the sign he typed in big bold lettering: “NEW RULE. NO SMOKING IN THE HOUSE (JANET, I‘M SERIOUS)!” The sign is laminated and taped to the kitchen cabinet: exactly where my mother stands dying my hair and absolutely, without question, smoking.

“Of course not, honey!” She laughs like a little girl getting away with something, and she puffs again, really enjoying this one. I can’t tell if she’s excited about her cigarette or excited about being bad. I’m guessing the latter.

“Mom, get the dye off my face please!” I beg.

I’m sitting cross-legged on a tall metal chair with a towel wrapped around my shoulders. She pats roughly onto my hair, trying to blend the color even.

“Oh stop being such a baby. Do it yourself if you don’t like how I do it,” she snaps, insulted.


I’m about to say something really snarky, but really, it’s no use. I know this by now. And I’m trying out this whole new maturity thing, so a snarky comment just wouldn’t be … mature.

“Your father and his OCD little signs all over the place are driving me crazy.” She spins me around, and roughly blots a freezing cloth all over my face in an attempt to remove splattered hair dye that apparently covers my face.

Kiki, my middle sister, stomps into the room wearing UGG boots and chomping on chips: “Um … nice spots.”

“Kiki!” my mother yells, dropping her cigarette. She cusses. Picks it up. Re-lights it. And continues, creating quite the show.

Kiki stompers away, but not before looking at me. She inches closely to my face. She’s inspecting. I open an eye.

“You have no wrinkles! Except for that one.” She chomps obnoxiously on a chip and points under my eye.

“Thanks” was my comeback. This is definitely not the experience I had at the Beverly Hills salon last month when I decided to go brunette. At least there I got to hear gossip about what A-List celebrities don’t leave tips!

But I’m home. I’m in Chicago. And really, I could care less about the bad tipping celebrities, because at the end of the day, cigarette signs or not, blotchy face or not, wrinkles under my eye or not, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Alice can be reached at

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Tales of a Toluca Lake Actress

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