Much like the fairy tale princess, Rapunzel, if you met me in person, the first thing that you would notice about me would be my hair. It is very long, not so long that you might use it to climb a bell tower, but still pretty long.
I keep my hair long because it is also extremely curly. The shorter the length, the bigger and wider my curls become and I enjoy fitting through doorways. If you saw me walking down the street, you would see a giant mass of curly hair before you would realize that it is attached to an actual person.
My hair has always been long and curly and comprises at least one third of my total body weight. Let’s just say, I feel Rapunzel’s pain.
When I was a little girl, my mom would lovingly brush my hair every night before I went to bed. “One hundred strokes!” she would say and count as she went. She was gentle, but inevitably my tendrils would get wrapped in a knot around the brush. My mom would carefully unravel my hair and continue her brush strokes.
It was such a sweet gesture, but my mom did not realize…
I do not even own a brush. When you brush curly hair, it becomes a giant ball of frizz, and when I woke up each morning for school, I looked like I had been electrocuted.
Kids referred to me as “Cousin It”. I did not watch much television, but I knew they were poking fun at the curtain of hair that could hide half of my body. I was painfully shy and I liked being able to hide behind my hair. Besides, nobody gave me the memo about not brushing curly hair, either.
In middle school, I thought getting bangs was a superb idea.
It was the 1980’s and everyone had bangs. This was the era of having bangs hair sprayed and stacked a mile high on top of your head. I had to have bangs! My parents tried to talk me out of it. It was just a fad, they reasoned. There would be a new trend around the corner, but they finally they acquiesced.
The first beauty shop we went to, the hair stylist flat out refused to give me bangs. Bless her heart. I should have listened, but I was not easily swayed. The lure of obtaining mall bangs was just too great. The second beauty shop we visited, the hair stylist was more than happy to give me bangs for the bargain price of $9.99 and I was overjoyed.
I would spend hours, literally hours, teasing those bangs into shape. Allow me to paint a picture for you, Dear Reader.
I have curly hair, thus I no more know how to work a curling iron than I do a tractor.
My “bangs” consisted of a giant curling iron shaped roll on the top of my head and frizzy fringe draping my forehead. If your eyes could drift away from the train wreck on the top of my head, my lower half was no better, garbed in tapered jeans and multi-colored leg warmers. In my mind’s eye, I thought I looked amazing. I needed Maleficent’s magical mirror to set me straight.
My daughter has inherited my locks and is currently rocking what can only be described as a “baby afro”. It is adorable. She is the beneficiary of my long and eventful curly hair education. I do not brush her hair, as that is rule number one.
I wash it, usually twice a day. It requires washing twice daily because she has quickly learned that her hair not only adorns her head, it is a great hiding place. Bites of food, broken pieces of toys, and balls of lint all end up in her hair at some point throughout the day.
She thinks it is hilarious and…I do, too. There is nothing more comical than glancing over at her in her high chair and realizing that she has covered her entire head in apple slices and has not eaten a single one. Madeline does not like headbands or bows, but she will rock an apple slice like it is nobody’s business.
Perhaps Madeline’s early obsession with hair has led to her fascination with the movie Tangled. My friend, Regina, came over to babysit Madeline one day while I had to work and introduced my little girl to the world of Disney. Regina believes that I deprive Madeline by providing her with more books than toys and not exposing her to Disney movies from birth.
In my defense, I did change my mind about banning all television. They say television rots your brain and I spent a long time growing that perfect brain! I soon realized that since Jerome and I rot our brains most evenings with television, the banishment would be impossible.
Also, I rediscovered Sesame Street and that might be the greatest television show ever created. Madeline, to her credit, never showed much interest in anything displayed on that giant rectangle in the living room.
That is, until Auntie Regina brought over the movie Tangled. She is enchanted by Rapunzel and her long, flowing, magical locks. She watches the movie beginning to end in complete captivation. Is it the magic of Disney or the magic of hair?
Our hair may not have the power to heal injury or restore youth, but think about how powerful you feel when you have a good hair day. You stand straighter and smile more broadly. You want to be noticed and feel as if you can accomplish anything.
Conversely, think about the powerlessness and utter despair you experience on a bad hair day. You shrink and cower. The thought of leaving your house fills you with dread. I swear my hair follicles multiply on a humid day and I once again resemble Cousin It. I don’t know about you, but my hair has a life force all it’s own.
Long ago, I used to spend a lot of time combing, blow drying, and styling my hair. Women would compliment me in public restrooms. My hair stands out and makes me unique. I love my hair, but I no longer have the time or energy to battle it into submission each morning.
I take the world’s fastest shower with Madeline’s face plastered against the shower door, attempting to discern why I am so close, yet so far away. I comb my hair when wet (this is the key to curly hair management) and weave it into a long braid, sometimes two. Then, my hair is out of my face and out of sight, out of mind for most of the day.
The magic happens in the evenings, when the weight of my braid is finally too much for my head and neck to bear. I unravel my hair under Madeline’s watchful eye and exclamations of, “Oooooooo! Aaahhhhhh!” as if I performed a trick. She runs her fingers from the top of my head down the length of my hair, petting me.
Finally unable to contain herself, she buries her face in my hair and squeals with glee. Each night as I nurse her to sleep, she winds my hair around her fingers and then brings her hands to rest beneath her chin, like covering herself with a blanket.
My hair may be long, frizzy, and uncontrollable, but it also possesses my distinct “mama scent” and brings comfort to my baby girl. Perhaps it is magical. Rapunzel, you have some competition, girl.