” *whispering* You can totally tell if someone does hard drugs just by bleaching their hair. Like your hair is processing normally and if I leave it in long enough, all the color will come out and you will have this fabulous platinum. But, like for example, I had this one client who clearly seemed out of it– like could not make eye contact and was slurring his words. Ok, first, I was worried and we got him some cookies. We only have sugar-free cookies here so I’m not sure it helped much. *laughs* But his hair, and this is true for anyone who takes hard drugs, not like marijuana, but like real drugs, just would not bleach out. It gets to this highlighter yellow color and no matter how long the bleach is in there, it stays this horrible color. Like, I’m not saying he was using drugs, but like… It can also happen on certain types of strong antibiotics.”
Context: This piece of folk science was collected at a hair salon in Studio City during the collector’s experience bleaching their hair with their regular hairdresser. This information was brought up while the hairdresser, who identifies as gay and has been living in Los Angeles his whole life, looked at the processing of the bleach in the hair to note how much longer the bleach had to stay on. After hearing the folk science from the informant, the piece was then asked to be recorded.
Informant Analysis: He said that this is common knowledge among any hairdresser who has dyed hair for sometime, noting that he had experienced a handful of clients who were upset with the final bleached color when the brassy highlighter yellow color was the lightest color they could achieve. The hairdresser did not know the science behind why the color would not lift from the hair, only that it is hairdresser’s gossip about their clients if the color does not lift.
Collector Analysis: Although I cannot speak to the science behind hard drugs or antibiotics effecting the bleaching process of hair, I can say that there are two main reasons I can think of that may be the reason for this piece of folk science to be carried on between hairdressers. The first reason is the perhaps unacknowledged botched up hair dying job of a hairdresser. It seems possible, and I have seen in other hairdressers, that when the client becomes enraged with the end product of the hairdresser’s work, the blame will often go on the client instead of the hairdresser. Since these stories are often shared to different clients as entertaining gossip, it seems as though hairdresser’s would be more likely to tell new clients that it was not their fault, but perhaps some chemical problem in the other client’s hair. Another reason for this piece to be shared is in part do to the environment of a hair salon. Much of the talk at hair salons is gossip or hearsay that can either be racy or somehow make someone else look bad. A client will often hear their hairdresser gossip about the other hairdressers they work with, but the client will not usually hear the gossip the hairdressers speak to each other about the client.
“So another game is called Gossip, and you sit in a circle and one person, or I think it has been called Telephone, but it’s also called Gossip, and so one person has a secret to tell the person next to them, so they whisper it into their ear, and then it goes around the circle, the next person has to whisper it and the next and the next and the next, and then when you get to the end, the last person says what they heard from that person and compare it to what the person originally said. And that’s the game.”
The informant was a 50-year-old woman who works as a middle school teacher teaching English, dance, and history to 7th and 8th graders. Although she has spent the last 19 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she grew up in Lubbock, Texas and Austin, Texas. She is also my mother, and this interview took place over Skype one afternoon when we were talking about things she did when she was growing up that she has observed taking place among her students now. She learned this game, “probably in elementary school . . . in Houston, Texas. We played it in like a second grade class, in a circle.”
The informant thinks “two reasons [the game is] attractive to people is because it’s interesting to see what comes out at the end, if you compare what originally was said with what was it, so you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s so weird that you never hear the same thing at the end that it started out to be, so it’s interesting to see what it warps into.’ And I guess the other reason it’s called Gossip it what you originally say isn’t what you hear at the end. So, the message is diluted when other people say it.” The informant implied this is also what she thinks it means.
This game was interesting to me when the informant explained it because I know it is “Telephone.” This game is an easy game to play with a lot of people who do not necessarily know each other, and it is variable in the amount of time it takes to play. The fact that the informant knows it as “Gossip” and learned to play it when she was in elementary school is somewhat revealing about what this game actually means. While it is fun to see how the original message gets changed as people hear and interpret it, it also seems like there is a deeper message behind its simple actions. This game functions as a way to teach children about the way gossip works in our society, and how what you say can be changed into something unrecognizable by the end. The way the information is transmitted may be boiled down and expedited, but it is still a helpful demonstration of a larger social phenomenon.
The informant was born and raised in Colorado. She all her life has used proverbs that her grandmother taught her to develop relationships. Her grandmother helped in assisting her by giving her proverbs to live by that apply to any situation and any human.
“A dog that brings a bone takes a bone”
When I was a lot younger and still in my adolescent years, I would try and keep up with the latest drama and gossip. I was all in his business or her business and always had the latest gossip. So and so would tell me something about someone and I would talk to my grandma like oh so and so said that she’s been doing a,b,c and my grandma would respond with A dog that brings a bone, takes a bone. At first the didn’t really mean much to me, I had to experience it on my own to have a full understanding of what she meant. A dog that takes a bone brings a bone to me means that if someone is coming to you with gossip, they are going to leave with something about you and talk about you to other people the same way the were talking to you about so and so. I just always have kept this in the back of my mind when someone is gossiping about someone else to me. I realize that if i egg in that conversation, there might be something that I said that would give the person a bone to run off with. I guess what I get from this is be aware of conversations you engage in and how much you trust to tell people.”
A dog that brings a bone takes a bone. I haven’t heard this before, so it is new to me. When to informant was explaining it to me I think she could sense my confusion probably by my facial expression and thankfully she continued to elaborate until she thought I could make sense of it. I think this just goes along with the proverbs about being careful who you trust and spend your time around. Not everyone in this world has good intentions and I think that in informant’s grandmother kew that and she was wise enough to share them with her granddaughter to hopefully help her in life. A dong that brings a bone takes a bone puts an all new perception of people and relationships into my head. It makes sense that a gossip who gossips to you is most likely gossiping about you, so it is important to choose carefully who you also yourself to be around.
The metaphor described verbatim by informant:
“That’s about gossip. That’s a Puerto Rican saying about gossip. I learned it from my mother, my Puerto Rican mother. Who would hear people talking about stuff especially about like somebody’s marriage or you know ‘Oh you know she did this’ or you know ‘They’re doing that’ or ‘This happened’ when it’s something going you know you hear that something isn’t right in a marriage or a family, and my mother was always quick to say, really, she would say, ‘You know what, you and I can look in and we can make all sorts of judgments but the truth is, none of us know for sure, because no one knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it.’ And she’d say that in Spanish. No one knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it. And that’s the truth isn’t it? So my mother was always quick to say that because she really wanted me to understand that I shouldn’t judge. That’s really what she was saying to me: be careful how you judge other people’s actions cuz you really don’t know what’s going on. I thought that was lovely. My mother was always, she was all about that really, she was all about that. Because judgment was really huge in Puerto Rico, you know? Everybody’s watching you, everybody’s watching what you do.”
The fishbowl living that my informant experienced while growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico is a big part of why this proverb holds meaning to her. As my informant infers, the saying relates to people’s assumptions and preconceived judgments—“Nobody knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it.” You think you might understand other people’s situations or give yourself the authority to pass judgment but you don’t. Coming from a place where everyone talks about everyone else’s business and gossip is rampant, my informant says her mother did her best to teach her the opposite. The metaphor in cooking terms also aligns well with the culture because it’s women who traditionally cook and, in many cases, gossip.
Whenever your ear itches, it mean’s someone is either saying good things about your or bad things about you, depending on which side of your ear itches. Specifically when your left ear itches, bad things are being said; when your right ear itches, good things are being said.
My informant’s mother told her this proverb when she was 10 years old. She stated that one day while my informant and her mother were walking home from school, her mother said “My ear itches, someone must be talking about me.” My informant then asked what that meant and she explained this superstition to her. She then always answered with that statement when someone she knew said that their ear itched.
She said that this proverb was passed down from her grandmother to her mother. She believes it was a simple superstition due to the fact that Korean women are known to gossip frequently. Thus every time someone’s ear itches either good things or bad things are being said about them. She believed as a child if her ear itched a lot a certain day either people liked her a lot or despised her. My informants analysis makes a lot of sense as it provides quite the answer for a simple body reaction.