I don’t know if you remember 1999. I do.

It was grade nine and I was trying my best to fit in with black eye liner I’d never known how to operate and  Extra-Wide Flare Overalls my mom found at a little outlet store. It was a new school, a new year and a new season for a girl turning quick into a lady… of sorts. I’d learnt a lot by the end of September when school pictures were taken and mine looked as though I’d worn a black Kippah behind the two chunks of long bangs hanging beside my cheeks because the stale roots of colored hair had shown through my scalp so awfully. It was also The Year of Christina Aguilera. And this, my friend, is where I find my funny thoughts about growing up today.

Genie in a Bottle came on the scene and Christina wore orange baggy swish pants and a tassel crop top with her bleach white, pin straight hair while she belted loud about genies by a beach bon-fire with people she’d probably never met before… Pin straight hair. Something we’d not seen yet. A time before flat irons and all their glory. All I knew is I wanted orange pants and straight hair like I’d never imagined before. And of course I couldn’t try this straight away at school in fear of what others might say so I waited for Friday night when we as a family would inevitably go roller skating. A past time I didn’t love, though a group of people you could try anything around with little to no shame.

I didn’t know how I could transform my hair and To Google wasn’t in our vocabulary or dictionary yet. I’d have to get creative. So I found the baby oil my mother lathered her skin in daily and started with a small dime-sized amount at the tips of my hair. And it hardly worked, though yes, there was some change. So of course, I filled my hands will baby oil the second time around and drenched my hair. I was fifteen. And this was perfect.

I mean, it looked slightly dirty but mostly cool so I walked out of the washroom to my mother’s quick inquire- Deanna Marie, can you please hurry and dry your hair?! We have to go if you ever want to make it there! My hair started to clump so I smoothed it straight while lazily slipping my feet into Sketchers with no backing.

What did she know. I said I was fine and we jumped in the van to my sisters begging my mother to stop using so much baby oil. My eyes became shifty and cheeks became blushed and my mother barely noticed. That sister who gets too nosy and much too vocal poked one solid finger at my hair slowly and inquisitive. Ew, what the heck is with your hair. It’s so oily and stiff. You need to shower sick-o. I shook my head as I put two straightened palms down my hair to slick it straight again. Baby oil dripped down to the thigh of my jeans. Dag it.

And when we’d arrived at the roller skating place I’d begged the DJ to play Genie in a Bottle while I skated ’round that rink and dreamed of genies, orange pants and my super straight hair. Because I was just in grade nine. It was just 1999 and it was the year of Christina and super straight hair.

It took two days of shampooing my hair to get the baby oil out. Two days and a lot of thinking as a young lady understanding the ideas of cool and what it really takes to fit into the mold of a North American teen. I’d never use baby oil again, though my friends and I began using clothes irons with upside down heads to achieve the look. And today as I reflect on my silly ways to try practically impossible styles I am reminded both as a woman and a human to take it easy on myself. Life is too short while we continue to grow up not to sit back and laugh about genies, Baby Oil and Irons with Orange Swish Pants.