I should write a piece of YA flash fiction about what I could have done with all the time I spent worrying about and fussing with my hair between the time my mother gave up on it when I was seven, and when I decided to stop trying to battle my curls sometime in my mid twenties. Slavery to conventional wisdom on hair styles. Submission to parental belief in tidy hair signifying good grooming. Sleeping on hair rolled around orange juice cans. Sitting under a bubble dryer for an hour with hair tortured around huge rollers. Denying myself social activity around a pool or lake or being outside on a rainy day to avoid dreaded frizz. Blow drying sections of hair stretched taut with a brush until my arms ached. Constraining the untamable with rubber bands, head bands, barrettes, bandanas. I did it all. Until I didn’t care whether curly hair was in fashion or not. Until a run in the rain trumped a sleek hairdo. Until I spent summers sailing and swimming far away from mirrors. Until someone reminded me that my life was a mass of twists and turns that originated in me and grew outward: why would my hair be any different?
Nemon (www.barbarastarknemon.com) grew up in Michigan, listening to her family’s stories of their former lives in Germany, which became the inspiration for her first novel, Even in Darkness. Barbara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Art History and a Masters in Speech language Pathology from the University of Michigan. She lives, writes, and does fiber art and photography in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan.
Love it. Contrast that to the hours I spent trying to get curl–perms, rollers, curling irons, “denying myself social activity around a pool or lake or being outside on a rainy day to avoid”–losing the curl! All to adhere to insane social norms.
Right… what were we thinking?
This is already YA flash nonfiction which I think we should make required reading for every 7-year-old girl (and boy) today. I really like the exquisite analogy at the end.
I liked the flow of it, and the commonality of what having curly hair was like for so many young women growing up in the 50’s until counter culture years began. Also liked the “punch line” conclusion of the story
Good for you, reaching such a state of loving acceptance of your hair that you can embrace life lessons from it!
Thank you, Susan!
You said it so well…been there with the rollers and stretching the sections of hair for the blow-dryer; in fact I’m still doing it! Kudos to you for not caring.
Thank you, Betsy.. Full disclosure.. my daughter-in-law taught me how to use a curling iron to tame the curls. For book events and when I see my mother, I’ll occasionally use it!!!
I was there too, and you certainly captured the agony we curly-hairs had to endure in a straight-hair era. I spent hours ironing my hair — on my knees in front of an ironing board, holding a hairbrush in one hand and the iron in the other hand. The invention of curling irons and flatirons made it so much easier, but by then I didn’t care (as much).