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A book that taught me a lot and has some great turns of phrase but is in desperate need of an edit

My siblings and me with our neighbors, the McCanns. One of the few times my hair was down, I'm sure I paid the next day.

Oh the awkwardness.

Chez Juliette in La Fosette, France, where we would eat our meals

Scavenging class photo, pre haircut.

Hair keeps coming up. I have just finished reading Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which has got me thinking about it. Throughout the novel, we begin to understand the Nigerian protagonist’s relationship to her hair, what she’s willing and not willing to do to make it look a certain way, her perceptions, and the reactions of others to different styles.

As a kid, I wanted to have long hair and wear it down, but it was thick and would quickly get tangled, so my mom would brush it out with the Black Brush every day and put it in one long braid. As styles changed and I began to chafe at relying on my mom for this daily routine, I decided at 10 to cut it all off so that I could look like Twiggy. Instead I was mistaken for a prepubescent boy on a trip to Orlando, when a flight attendant started to put a food tray in front of me, but then gave it to my sister, saying “boys have to wait.” with not a little hostility. Things were no better at home. My dad, who without input from me, had decided I was going to be an international flight attendant, felt my recent decision veered from the script and didn’t talk to me for a month. But cutting it off may have been the first statement I made, and it felt right. I kept the braid in a plastic paisley shower bag in my bottom drawer, next to my autograph book that held sought-after tennis players’ autographs (though sadly not Borg’s, he wasn’t cooperative), gathered at Forest Hills when less people were interested in professional tennis. I took out the braid every once in a while to admire its thickness.

Eventually styles got shorter and my hair got longer, though I never did get that blow dryer that Farah Fawcett used because my no-nonsense British mother felt fresh air worked fine for drying hair. Since then, my hair styling, (a gross exaggeration) has gone back and forth and around, including an 80s perm that made me look like a brunette Annie and smelled like burnt hair for a week. Occasionally I change my part, as I had read a left part means power and the right side creative.

So while reading this novel last weekend, my brother and his other half called me in fits of giggles asking me to recount a story from before my hair was cut. We had been on vacation in the south of France, staying at an auberge that prompted us to walk though vineyards to the beach every day, living in our bathing suits and eating outside on a terrace with wisteria hanging above us. My dad had given each of us a jack knife to be used for prying what he called limpets, but were perinkles, off the rocks. We would cut out the meat and eat it, as he had done in his Maltese youth. He also taught us how to catch small crabs in the seaweed, coming from behind them to not get pinched, then we’d eat them alive (there was a skill to that as well). Quasi-feral, I was able to avoid hair brushing, but when my mother half-heartedly cornered me one day, a small, dead minnow fell out of my matted and smelly hair. My brother remembers me freaking out, I don’t, but have a vision of something like those little dried fish that one gets at a Korean grocery store.

I've upped my diligence since then. For the last year, my hair has been longer, mostly out of indecision or lack of commitment to any particular goal. A dear friend who has a lot of life rules about things you must and mustn’t do, “gently” told me last week that after a certain age, women shouldn’t have long hair. Ha, guess what? Decision made, got a plan.


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