HAIR CARE (an excerpt)
“She looks like Donald Duck.” Those were my father’s words when my mother brought me home from the hospital. My mom relates the story (wine glass shaking in her hand) with raised eyebrows and a slight scowl that telegraphs her disbelief even today, a zillion years later. He wasn’t completely wrong, from what my sister tells me. I had tufts of reddish brown hair fluffing out around my ears. As if to corroborate the story, I have no newborn photos of myself, only those with a small black dateline “April 1964” or later imprinted in the border of the fading Kodak black and white photos in my album.
My baby hair became dark and just unruly enough to make you wonder if my mother had ever received or purchased a soft bristled, silver baby brush. If she had, my older sister Michele, she of the lush, shiny tresses, must have hidden it under a bed round about November 1963, just prior to my arrival in the family. My saving grace? My eyes. I had large, blue eyes that really caught everyone’s attention. When they weren’t “tisk tisking” over my hair.
I can barely recall a time in my childhood when I didn’t envy everyone else’s hair. Starting in my own family, where many selfish, unpleasant thoughts are born. My mother had the most wonderful hair I had ever seen. A thick tumble of dark brown, straight hair that hung to her waist. It was as luxurious as a mink coat. And to my adoring eyes, as elegant. This was the 1960’s, when 26 year old married women who didn’t get the memo about free love and pot wrapped their long hair into giant buns on top of their heads a la Audrey Hepburn. My mother was no exception, with her mysterious widows peak that added to the dramatic effect of her hair. She had hair pins the size of pliers that she embedded into her swirl of hair with practiced ease.
My grandmother had been a hairdresser and continued to ply her trade long after her license had expired. Grandma Yoli cut my sister’s and my hair for years. She called it a pixie cut. We always had the pixie. Short, swept to the side, just nipped around the ears. My sister’s pixie was beautiful. Her well behaved hair fell softly and smoothly around her face, framing her almond shaped, green eyes. My pixie never sat politely on my head looking all pretty. My hair flitted about my head in nilly willy flips and curves and turns, never landing in the same spot twice.
My hair envy only deepened when my brother was born. When he, the exalted boy, arrived home from the hospital, everyone was aghast at his shock of thick black hair. I was delighted at this glaring defect that eclipsed even my own. The kid’s hair looked like a burnt, blackened, thatched roof. But the hair gods smiled upon him, and his hair gently faded into a poker straight caramel colored picture perfect blond. BLOND!
My hair slowly grew out, and by fourth grade, I naively thought I had left my hair cares behind. My fifth and sixth grade school pictures show my brown hair neatly pulled back into a half ponytail, softly draped on my shoulders. Not bad! And then came junior high. And the hormones. And the horrible little man at the Walpole Mall hair salon who took my long hair and cropped it into the hair style that my family dubbed “the bubble.” I still don’t know if the short cut was my idea or my Mom’s. I don’t have the nerve to ask her. I love the woman and don’t want to know that it was her decision to throw me under the coiffure bus.