The Hair

By the time I was in 6th grade my hair was out of control. 22 inches from my head to my legs, it swung down in a single braid every day for as long as I could remember. It was a heavy weight, a force that kept my tiny head held high, despite my all-too-frequent tendency to not speak. Every morning I would crawl downstairs before school, where my mother would be waiting, armed with a fine toothed comb and a bottle of baby powder. The comb was for the imminent knots that would no doubt surface in my cascade of thick blonde hair, and the powder was for her hands, as any slight humidity would cause her hands to stick in my hair and yank my scalp until tears surfaced. And did tears come. There was rarely a day in my young existence where I didn’t cry, bitterly fight with my mom, or throw an all-out tantrum. But by the end of each twenty minute hair session, no matter my mood, a thick plait would pull every baby-fine wisp back into one or two French, Queen Ann, or herring bone braids, ending at the small of my back. While all the other children sported the no-fuzz bobs or shoulder length styles around the elementary school, either down or in a pony tail of their own design, I was a slave to my mother’s desire, rather resembling someone from a different century who suddenly had materialized on the playground, out of sorts. My friends used my hair as playthings, a bridle for the horse I had to be up and down the halls, an easy handle to grab my attention, a intricate mass to admire but never to imitate- no, my hair was too different for that. By 6th grade my scalp was well used to the pain, to hold the wait of another small girl pulling, but it never fully numbed the pain each morning I felt as my mother wove and un-wove it for what seemed like an eternity.

One day my sixth grade class gave us the news: we were going on a week long camping trip! We squealed with delight at leaving the nest, to prove our independence. The kids with older siblings began divulging the fun their brothers and sisters had when they set up tents, lived off the land, and ran through the rain with little heed to any parents warnings. An entire week! An entire week of wearing our hand-picked clothes, our own food, our own toiletry routines without parents-I stopped short. The was no way I would be able to braid the entirety of my hair on my own. The moment I got home I told my mother.
“I want my hair cut.”
Surprisingly, she gave no argument to my explanation that I would need to pull my hair back on my own. We went to the salon the next day, and at the ripe old age of 12, I got my first real hair cut. At last, the shoulder length hair of my friends was my own. The hairdresser made a deep cut, and showed me the eleven inches that had just been severed. It was over. I stood up, and my head whipped around with such ease that it was comical. The next morning, I brushed my hair back into my first ponytail, and I skipped to school without having cried at all. My friends didn’t desert me without the odd playthings, instead, if anything I Was more accepted, and I soon found myself talking more and more. By 8th grade I was winning a student council office election, and the shy Cara was no more. It seemed my hair was more than just a decoration on my head, but it was something to be cut, to reveal someone ready to go forward independent.





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