Thursday, April 17, 2008

DRAWN BY HAIRS*

*The greatest events are often drawn by hairs: Events of great pith and moment are often brought about by causes of apparently no importance.

I’ll never forget mother’s words, “We’re short-haired people.” The first time she saw Mr. French for a cut and color, she returned home all smiles, reminding us kids of a brunette version of June Cleaver. When she turned sixty, she feared her scalp may have absorbed enough toxic chemical to become a candidate for brain cancer, so she let the color go off. Beneath the tint, her hair was white as newly fallen snow; she hated it. She died at sixty-four from unrelated causes.
* * *
My sister’s first husband had coarse black hair that hung to the middle of his back. When he needed a trim, she would reach for the kitchen shears. One cut became particularly memorable. The top bunched straight up, the sides and back hung long. He wore a blue stocking cap for months waiting for grow-out. Years later and remarried, she cut her new husband’s hair. When they came for a visit, he hung his head sheepishly. He giggled about the bad haircut that she’d given him. She has a way of humbling her men with her kitchen shears.
* * *
On a bad-hair-day, you’re forever fixing your hair in found mirrors. The rearview at the red light; a van side-mirror in the Sears parking lot; the ladies’ room mirror just inside your office building; a purse compact so small it only reflects a square inch of your head at a time; the fun-house reflection in the back of the spoon you used to stir cream into your afternoon coffee. When you finally arrive home late, you go to the bathroom mirror and do one little thing and your hair looks better than it’s ever looked before. What gives?
* * *
In the early seventies, wigs were all the rage. Traveling wig shows set up in hotel rooms across America. At one such show, bright lights highlighted wigs pinned on faceless Styrofoam heads. The proprietor pointed out a human hair wig and guaranteed it would make me look just like Elizabeth Taylor. She said my features were perfectly balanced like Liz’s. I couldn’t afford the Liz look-alike wig so bought a cheap, synthetic black wig permanently styled in a smooth Pageboy. It had several drawbacks: I couldn’t hear the short order cook while waiting tables, it was too hot to wear during the summer, and it made me look like a slut.
Published in Exhibition Magazine, Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities. To read more, see http://www.nancycanyon.com


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