But It's My Money!

Should I spend my birthday money on me, or on somebody who really needs it?
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Discover the secret to beautiful hair," says the ad that I have been gazing at for nearly half an hour. The model looks like she's having a very good time, brimming with confidence and energy. It's a few days before my birthday, and I'm waiting for my mom to come home so I can stop babysitting my younger brother and go to the local drugstore. I'm eager to go to discover the "secret" of beautiful hair, purchase "vibrant" colors for my eyelids and find the perfect shade of lipstick, to get the "glossiest" lips in Indiana.

My birthday falls close enough to the holidays that I get a lovely Christmas-birthday cash combination. This, in addition to my allowance and some extra money I saved from helping my neighbor with lawn work, has given me enough to achieve if not a beautiful look, then a "cute" one.

I go over the list again and look at the ad I clipped. Maybe I should get a new hairbrush too. The thing is, I'm shy—not a blushing, coy, charming kind of shy (like sweet, bashful "Snow White"), but a panic attack, hiding-in-the-bathroom-'til-everyone-is-gone kind of shy.

Everyone thought I'd eventually out-grow my shyness. My dad's job had caused us to move about every two and a half years. In each new town and with every year, I feel a little more worried I'll never learn how to fit in. Somehow I never learned to slink and flounce and flirt the way other girls my age seem to do naturally.

I'm just me, and more often than not, that doesn't seem to be good enough.

Moving mid-year, this time to a small school in a tiny town, has made my life even more difficult. This birthday is a big one for me. My parents decided that if I behave maturely I would finally be allowed to date.

There is a boy I like, who has finally started to notice me. But I know I need a miracle to keep his attention. Which is where the desire for my pre-birthday makeover has come from.

The phone rings. It's my mom saying she's running late, as usual. I sit down and start to flip through the pages of one of my mother's magazines. On one of the back pages is a short article about children who live in the Sudan. They have lost everything in the midst of war, famine and Islamic persecution. The article mentions a relief group that was requesting blankets, because the children are sleeping outside, and winter is coming. They also want two dollars to defray the shipping cost.

"No way!" I shout. Then I realize no one has asked me anything—except the boy in the picture with the huge, chocolate eyes and the hopeful smile.

"But it's my birthday, and I just wanna be . …"

What do I want exactly? I wonder. The model in the ad with the perfect hair is what the boys at my school call "hot." I look at her ad and the boy, her and the boy.

"I have a right to spend my money the way I want—on me," I explain to the picture.

Then I feel silly for doing it, and I close the magazine.

Restless now, I stalk through the house. Everywhere I look I see my "beauty" supplies. I start to gather all the stuff I already own. When I am done I have a pile consisting of a blow dryer, detangler, crimper, barrettes, hair gel, body spray and five hairbrushes of various shapes, colors and sizes.

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