Monthly Archives: July 2011

The curse of curly hair

I have curly hair. I married a guy with even curlier hair. My daughter was doomed. She has curly hair that makes her life hell. That’s what curls do to a girl. Left to its own devices, her hair arranges itself into layers of ringlets. At this point you may be picturing Shirley Temple and wondering what all the fuss is about, but bear in mind that my daughter doesn’t have a Hollywood makeup team slaving over her. Her curls are long and untamed, their length pulls them down, stretches them out; her hair is dark and frizzy, unmistakably ethnic.

You can’t look at her hair without feeling a primal urge to twine a ringlet around your finger. People always come up to her and say, “Look at those curls,” as they reach out to touch her head. When she was little, I didn’t think it would be polite to say, “Please don’t touch my child,” so instead I tried to explain to my confused daughter why stranger danger didn’t apply in those circumstances.

My daughter is handicapped by the fact that I grew up with no hair care training of my own. It was a time when everyone, men and women alike, had long wild hair. As a young woman, I looked like the character with the wedge-shaped hair in Dilbert. In a rash, fear-of-forty moment, I finally cut my hair short enough to take advantage of my curls. But it was even later before I learned about product, that generic term that applies to all sorts of goop you can buy to enhance your hair care.

When I was younger and people admired my hair, I would say, “Well, the grass is always greener on the other head.” When I was sixteen, my mother agreed to pay an exorbitant fee to have a salon slather chemicals on my hair to straighten it. I was transformed. I felt beautiful for the first time in my life. I went to a party that night and boys who had never given me the time of day swarmed like bees to honey. Over time the chemicals wore off and the curls crept back. I don’t remember if it was the money or the fear of damage to future generations that kept my mother from agreeing to pay to have it straightened again, but that was the only time in my life I had straight hair.

My daughter’s friends like to use their flat irons to straighten her hair, so for her birthday this year I bought her one. I thought we had both matured enough to work together to tame her curls. I was wrong. I merely introduced a tool that is not only difficult to use and bad for her hair, but can cause serious burns. One yelp was all it took before we agreed to abandon the effort.

My daughter is a beautiful girl, no matter how her hair behaves, but like all teenagers she’s more likely to listen to strangers than to me. For that reason, I’m eternally grateful to all the strangers who continue to reach out to touch and admire her hair.

*August 8 update. After reading this post, a friend sent me this photo with the note: “See the attached photo (taken at the MFA in the Roman section)  for proof of the longstanding popularity of curly hair.”


Free on the list

I’ve been helping my mom clean out the attic. Technically it belongs to both of my parents, but the stuff that’s ended up there over the years seems to be mostly her purview. I’m being polite when I say stuff. George Carlin’s observation was, “Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?” It’s worth reading his routine on stuff; he nails it. I’ve offered to take on the garage and basement for my dad (for all that most of the stuff around the house seems to be hers, he’s quite the pack rat) but so far he’s been quietly resistant.

Cleaning out the attic has been much less stressful than either my mom or I thought it would be. I think it has something to do with the shared nature of the project; we get to laugh, reminisce, maybe share a few tears. Regardless of the specific emotion, things get sorted quickly into the relevant piles; garbage, Goodwill, recycling, and my favorite, free to whoever wants it.

My town has an email list where a group of people share thoughts about all sorts of things. Participants refer to it as the list. The list is purported to have over four thousand members: they’re mostly lurkers. The core, visible group is much, much smaller. (I’d put a number on it, but that’s the kind of thing that would then be debated ad nauseum on the list.) I contribute from time to time, when I think I can be helpful, but mostly I lurk and post when I have something I’m trying to give away. That didn’t work too well for my treadmill if you recall, but that was a rare failure. For the most part, I can find a new home for almost anything, if I tell the list.

Most of the things I give away can be left on the porch for the new owner to pick up at their convenience. I’ve only met a few of the recipients of mom’s down-sizing and my house cleaning. Once in a while, an item is too big for me to manage on my own, and I need to take the interested party down to my cellar. When that happens, I wonder briefly if I’ve just invited an axe murderer into my home. Sometimes I ask before I invite them in, “Are you an axe murderer?” So far the answer has been no, but if the answer was yes, they’d lie, wouldn’t they?

Assuming I continue to avoid becoming a news headline, I’ll keep giving things away. It feels good to know you’ve made someone else happy, or solved a problem for them. I know that Dad’s scraps of wood and old chicken wire are going to make someone very happy, as soon as I can convince him to part with them. When I do, you’ll read about it on the list.

Short short story

This winter I took a class on writing short, short fiction; those in the know call it flash fiction. I thought I’d do something a little different this week, and share one of the stories I wrote for that class with you. This story, It’s Called Fast Food, was written in response to the assignment to create a one sentence story.

It’s Called Fast Food

She was in a big rush to get home because guests were arriving any minute and she’d had to wait longer for the Chinese food than she’d expected, so she tried to perform multiple tasks at the same time to get moving as quickly as she could; she put the Chinese food on the floor in front of the empty passenger seat, turned the key to start the engine, yanked the shift to ‘D’, and with her left hand turned the steering wheel, while using her right hand to reach across and grab the seatbelt and grope for the buckle at her side, simultaneously giving the car some gas and, without looking to her left, pulling out of her parking space, right into the path of an oncoming car, which effectively ended her ability to go anywhere, fast or otherwise, ever again.