Three Little Latchkeys

By Onicia Muller

Balancing the thin line of beauty and torture is a difficult and necessary act every girl and woman must learn. My father was a restaurateur and entrepreneurial-minded, party boy. My mother was a former disco lover turned born-again-church lady. We were often reminded to be well-dressed, well-spoken, and on our best behavior.

“When you go into daddy’s restaurant, DO NOT drag your words. You don’t have to ‘yank’ like the Americans, but speak properly.”

Luxuriating Mud Bath

We’re in the living room. The sound of rain tells me it’s time. I head to the closet for my swimsuit, towel, and slippers. Then, I go to my parent’s bathroom for my mom’s shower cap.

Our garage was unpaved. The heavy rain transformed it into my personal mud pit. The Caribbean sun warms the wet dirt. The smooth chocolate squishes between my toes. Between fingers. The thick, smooth consistency covers my arms, legs, and face. Mmm, what I would give for some cucumbers.

Regenerated; I return to the living room. But first, I slip on my flip flops, so I don’t leave tracks. I spread my towel out and rejoin Sharon and Stitch. There’s something very soothing about watching cartoons while mud dries on my skin.

I flex my toes. Then my fingers. I stretch my arms. Then my legs. I contort my face. I am a mummy resurrected.

Finally, the shower’s warm water washes away the dirt. My in-home face and body mud mask made from all natural, Caribbean dirt.

Some women pay hundreds for this experience. I had these luxuries for free.

Emo Baby Pop Star

We’re in Sharon’s room: our headquarter for beauty research and development.

We sit crossed legged while sorting our stash of pink, red, and green fountain pen ink cartridges.

These are our findings. Paper absorbs ink. Napkins do too. Most light-colored fabrics, really. Should we dye a t-shirt? A two-to-one vote says no. We don’t have enough ink. Stitch calls in Check Up for an expert opinion. Check Up is our life-sized baby doll and leading beauty guinea pig.

She survives on daily servings of wet Corn Flakes and cold bush tea.

Bush tea? Yes. It’s any tea, really. We pluck the leaves from plants in our garden. Then we steep them in a mug. We create suction by squeezing Check Up’s belly. This is how she sips and eats. Each meal ends with a soothing tummy rub.

After a few weeks on this diet, she is constipated and her breath is rancid. We switch her to a liquid diet of diluted mouthwash and bleach. There was no cure for the incontinence which she developed. By ‘develop’, I mean Sharon took to her anus with a pair of scissors hoping to make a larger exit hole for the stale Cornflakes trapped in her abdomen.

There’s no cure for the runs. Thankfully, these super absorbents Always diapers found in mom’s closet greatly improved her quality of life.

Her self-esteem was low, but we were confident a makeover would raise Check Up’s spirits. We used the pen ink to dye her hair. She became a pop star.

Finally ready to retire from touring the world, we try to revert her hair with Clorox bleach. We corrected our failure by dying her hair with black shoe polish. It turned green. Her eyebrows didn’t match, so we convert our pen into a tattoo needle and developed a new line of permanent makeup.

We try recreating the look on Stitch. Only light colored fabrics take ink. We dye a few strands from our least favorite blond Barbie and attach it to Stitch’s hair.  With more advanced technology, she too might became a pop star!

Perfect Water Curls

We’re in the bedroom. Stitch’s afro hair is difficult to manage. It is kinky and coiled. It is fluffy and full.

The hairstylist sectioned her braided hair extensions into for jumbo plaits before dipping them in hot water. Then, she towel dried them so they could cool. We see and understand that this is a process to curl and crimp hair.

Research question: will this work on all hair types?

All the dolls line up on a towel. Real hair. Synthetic hair. Stuffed dolls with yarn hair. Thick plaits. Thin twits. Bantu knots. All their luscious locks wrapped taut around drinking straws.

Mommy says not to play with fire. We fill the rice cooker with water and set it to boil. Dip. Dip. Dunk! Pocahontas, Barbie, and Check Up sit for sixty Mississippi’s before we towel dry them. Our experiment is marginally successful; yarn hair does not curl.

Don’t play with fire. Fill the rice cooker with water and set it to boil. Once. Twice. Three times boiled. Protect your fingers; use oven gloves to carry the water.

Ok, Stitch. Dip your face in that water, hold for exactly sixty Mississippis —

Her survival instincts prevented us from baptizing her face with scalding water. This is why we can’t have advancement in black beauty.

Finally, she is convinced to sit on a chair out on the upstairs porch. Safety first; Sharon and I wear gloves to transport the water. We drape the towel over her neck and shoulders for protection.

As we pour the water directly onto her scalp


For what seemed an eternity, she screamed. “Shhh! Shhh! Don’t tell mommy. You’ll laugh at this once you’re beautiful.”

Nah, she screamed.

Praise be for resilient hair follicles.

Red-Hot Lips

Don’t play with BIG fires. A lighter. A small flame. A shot glass. Melted red crayon. Twirled thread. We’d created a candle.

Done playing with the flame we find our fingers stained. Sharon rubs the red crayon against Stitch’s lips. I think I see a difference. It needs to be more saturated. We hold the crayon to the flames and then apply to Stitch’s


For what seemed an eternity, she screamed. “Shhh! Shhh! Don’t tell mommy. You’ll laugh at this once you’re beautiful.”

Nah, she screamed.

Praise be for regenerating skin cells.

Crispy Indian Tresses

An incorrectly used curling iron caused Pocahontas to have wrinkles in her hair.

When mommy’s clothes or sheets were wrinkled, she made them smooth by using spray starch and the iron.

“Stitch, if we make Pocahontas hair straight, we can make your hair straight, and then you will be beautiful. You in?”

Pocahontas rests with hair fanned smooth on the pillow. The iron is plugged in with dialed turned to highest heat. Her hair is soaked with spray starch. We pressed the iron firmly down. Hold for sixty Missis—

“Oh, Jah it’s smoking!”

She didn’t scream because she was inanimate. On the upside, now we had a doll with afro hair.

Stitch returns to the living room where she watches cartoons as therapy. Sharon and I return to headquarters to document our findings and draft new plans.


Onicia Muller (@OniciaMuller) is a Caribbean writer and comedian living in Chicago. Her weekly humor column, Just Being Funny is one part inspirational, two parts ‘How, Sway? How?’, and most importantly one part funny! You can read it in The Daily Herald’s Weekender or on her website


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

28. August 2017 at 23:04

I loved the flow, the vibe of this passage. My family is of Caribbean descent and felt like I was listening to one of my cousins chat about her childhood.

Onicia Muller
25. October 2017 at 14:53
– In reply to: Jeuelle

*High five* for successfully sharing the Caribbean vibe. I’m happy you enjoyed the story. Go text your cousins 🙂

30. August 2017 at 4:23

She has a horrible taste in mixture of food. I use to love my bush tea while growing up but now you can barely get me to make a cup.

Onicia Muller
25. October 2017 at 14:56
– In reply to: Tione

Whahahahaha! That’s the best we could do. I also haven’t had bush tea in a minute (no plants/garden). But herbal tea remains fule for life. Thanks for reading.

30. August 2017 at 16:14

This was an interesting post. I could picture myself and all of my experiments with my toys as a child.

Onicia Muller
25. October 2017 at 14:57
– In reply to: Candice

Thanks for reading, Candice. I really miss playing with all our toys.

30. August 2017 at 20:33

What an interesting way of storytelling. Anyone of the subtitles would make a great book

Onicia Muller
25. October 2017 at 14:59
– In reply to: Ola

I’m happy you enjoyed the story. Writing a storybook is a great idea. My weekly humor column “Just Being Funny” has more crazy adventures.

31. August 2017 at 23:18

Very cool story! It’s so nice growing up with sibglings and getting into mischief! Thanks for sharing your story!

Onicia Muller
25. October 2017 at 15:01
– In reply to: Olivia

Yes, I loved having adventures with my sisters. We live in different countries now so all we have is online shenanigans. Hopefully, there’s a reunion in our future. Thanks for reading!

1. September 2017 at 0:48

Such a beautifully written essay. With each sentence and “beauty discovery,” I longed to see what the sisters would try next. As a child who did beauty experiments of her own, I really appreciate this story and the voice telling it. Thank you for sharing bits of your childhood with us, Onicia.

Onicia Muller
25. October 2017 at 15:03
– In reply to: Dre

Thanks, Dre! I’d love to hear about your beauty experiments. Send me a link on twitter! @OniciaMuller.

Distinguished Diva

Never miss a story: