I have brown curly hair. I am the only one in my family with curls. Not just waves, but corkscrew curls. People asked throughout my childhood: Who has curls in the family? The answer to strangers was: Her grandmother had wavy hair. To friends and one another, we joked: Her father was Zorro.
Zorro is what we called the postman who delivered mail on Neat Lane. Zorro stayed out in front of our mailbox and talked to Mom for hours. Literally. He would sit in his little postal truck and Mom would lean against the mailbox, and they would talk.
None of us knew his real name, and no one, not my dad or my older sisters, must have honestly believed that Zorro was a threat. I do wonder, though, what all the other housewives thought as they waited for their mail while Zorro frittered away the morning chatting with Mom.
Mom says my hair started out straight but that after the tracheotomy at 18 months, the time I nearly died of croup that became pneumonia, my hair got curly. She says I was in an oxygen tent for days and that as I lie sleeping and sweating, the ringlets formed.
Like a flower growing, in those nature shows where they speed up time, time lapse photography, that’s how I picture me inside the oxygen tent. Mom and Dad peering into the plastic then wham, straight wispy hair curls up all around, my forehead covered in drops of sweat. I even see their eyes growing bigger, as if witnessing something unnatural. And even though I’m sure this isn’t at all the way it happened, it is forever pressed into my consciousness, my own little film about a time in my life that I was too young to remember.
Nowadays my hair is long. If I were to straighten it, it might even reach my shoulder blades on my back. I usually straighten it when I have a meeting, like in China or with people I don’t know.
Something about straight hair, the notion that it’s not actually me underneath it, allows me to slip into a more businesslike, more powerful persona. I like having the option, and even though I’ve come to love my curly hair, I like that at any time I can blow it out and make it as straight as straight can be.
I was remembering this morning about a time, maybe in my 30s, probably after Em was born, when I lost a lot of hair. I was thinking about the thin-haired women, aunts and cousins, on Dad’s side of the family. I remember I went through a period where I had a recurring dream that I was one of those alien dog-men from Bewitched, the one who didn’t have much hair on top of his head but had instead long, hairy ears.
My dream was that I get up out of bed in the morning, wash my face in the sink, and as I’m rinsing the soap off my face I catch my reflection in the mirror. I am just like the dog-man on Bewitched. Bald on top, long floppy ears down the sides.
-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – HAIR