It was Casey who came up with the term “House Sarah,” but she’s existed all my life.
It was our junior year of college and I was out at a nice birthday party with some of my girlfriends. I wore a really pretty red dress from Express and nice shoes because it was a fancy event. Later in the night Casey called me and said he and Katharine were at a party and wanted me to meet them. When I arrived, Casey introduced me to some potential hook up for him named Brian. The four of us spent the rest of the night hanging out in the pantry of this party stealing oreos and sipping PBRs. I enjoyed Brian and I hoped Casey would bring him around again.
A few days later, Daria and I had friends over to watch Bravo. Casey arrived with Brian and went around the room introducing him to everyone he didn’t know. I said hello to him, and Brian cocked his head at Casey in confusion, waiting for him to introduce me. Casey immediately said, “Oh, yeah, you remember Sarah, you met on Saturday. You just don’t recognize her because she’s ‘House Sarah’ right now.”
I looked down at my outfit; black track sweats with red, green and yellow stripes down the side, a size XXL Rosebowl 2005 t-shirt, a large grey Columbia fleece (they were out of mediums but it was on sale) and bright blue Puma running shoes (not the casual ones in cool colors, the ones that you find at the Swapmeet that look like the might light up when you take a step).
I hardly call those my house clothes, those were my gym clothes. And even though I never made it to the gym that day (it was really, really cold out), it’s not like I walk around the house like that. Around the house I wouldn’t even think of wearing a bra with such an ensemble. It’s my house.
To top it all off, my hair was gathered into a really messy bun – not a fashionably messy bun – on top of my head. I wear it like that because I can never seem to find something – within comfortable reaching distance – to pin my bangs back.
People make fun of ‘House Sarah’ all the time, but I never stop bringing her out, because I genuinely look in the mirror and assume that what looks like a crow’s nest on top of my head is a flattering hairstyle for me. I think it accentuates my cheekbones, even though no one has ever, ever complimented anything about any of my bones, or really anything on my face. In fact, every time I put my hair the way I like it, people I’m not even close with tell me I look like shit. When I was with my family at the beach this summer my 10-year-old cousin Dylan said, “Yew luhk lahk a Chi-neeze persuhn.” He’s from Texas. And very culturally aware.
A few weeks ago I met a boy that I might be interested in. We kept running into each other around town until finally, he invited me to see his band play. Being a girl and genetically unable to resist boys in bands, I had to go. As I was getting ready, I made an effort to look nice. I admired that I was having a good eyelash day so I skipped on the eye makeup. I moisturized and applied my signature lipgloss (Vaseline). But, I really, really, did NOT want to wash my hair. The thought of it being wet and then having to brush it really annoyed me. I HATE hair. It’s just dead soft stuff. So I put it up.
I got to the show and it was a lot of fun. As the band was playing I saw a mutual friend of me and said boy so I went over to say hi. He looked at me as if I had just asked him a question in Spanish; like he really wanted to understand, and was reaching deep down in his ninth grade Espanol class memory, but could only smile and nod. In embarrassment I explained who I was, and he said, “Oh, wow, hi I didn’t recognize you.”
Sure enough, when the show was over, I approached my love interest only to be given that same language barrier expression. He gave a cocked head look to our mutual friend, very similar to the one Brian had given Casey years earlier. He didn’t recognize me either. I ran to the bathroom to see if my skin had changed color. When I looked in the mirror I noticed that the ballet dancer bun I had crafted in my apartment ten windy blocks away had turned into the nasty, underneath-a-turban nest-like mass that I wear only in the privacy of my own home. I had showed up to a date as “House Sarah.”
I don’t care when people see House Sarah, but I’d actually made an effort that night (When I said moisturizer I actually meant sunscreen because I was out, but I think it still has the same effect). I was embarrassed that this identity crisis had happened, but had this boy started to date me it wouldn’t have taken long for him to discover what I really am. You don’t have to go deep into my apartment before discovering all the bottles of baby powder that I use to soak up oil in my hair.
My body image issue is that I really think I look better when others think I look like a train wreck. That has to be better than the other way around, right? Maybe I’m just waiting for everyone to catch on and realize my oversized, neon green Lady GaGa t-shirt (that I got for free) is actually a lovely silhouette for my body type.
I can’t wait for grunge to come back in style.