I cannot recall, even after 25 years of life, what my mother’s natural hair color was. I say was because it is has now grown grey with her increasing meanness, increasing craziness or increasing age. I want to say craziness but I’m going to go with all three. The first vivid memory I have of my mother’s hair is the horrified look on my dad’s face the time she decided to dye her hair a bright ass pink. She had meant to dye it bright red but things happen. My mother refused to admit she had messed up and to prove how much she loved her hair she wore it that way for two solid months. In that time my father bought her more scarves and hats than she’d ever had. Pink is not the only color or style my mother has sported. There was the mullet of 94’, the Mohawk of 98’, the jerry curl of 01’ and I remember vividly the bright green it turned after visiting friends in Florida. She would pass that off as part of her Halloween costume that year. My mother apparently has always been like this. Her hair has changed often and rapidly. I’ve poured over pictures of my mother. My mother in the 60’s with a short, charming pixie cut. I picture of my mother in the early 70’s her hair fluffed out into an afro. A picture of my mother from the late 70’s at her wedding, her hair standing more than six inches high. My mother’s hair was a kaleidoscope; daring, fearless and colorful. However, my mother did not keep these attributes to herself. My sisters, 10 and 12 years my senior, had managed to bypass my mother’s experimentation on their hair. I wasn’t so lucky. The milestones of my child are tagged by the hairstyles I had, almost all inflicted on me by my mother and my mother started young, starting with my first horrible, awful haircut.
I cannot express the emotional impact a girl’s first haircut has on her. I’m not talking about the menial haircut you get as an infant so that your mother can keep a piece of you locked up in a box or pressed in a book. I’m talking about your first, honest to God haircut. The haircut in which when you think about it you reminisce fondly on that rocking do or you are overwhelmed with the horrified grief of what was and what could have been. When thinking about my first haircut I do the latter of those two things. My first haircut and the events leading up to it were tragic.
I got my first haircut at the age of 6. My hair at the time was long and shiny. It was most definitely the envy of my Kindergarten class. I’m not trying to brag or anything but my hair was a boy magnet. All the boys wanted to play with my hair. I was at the prime of my single digit years at the time. I had awesome hair, I had shoes the lit up, my Barney backpack was rocking and I had a boyfriend who had some really cool hair as well. It was totally meant to be. These glory days wouldn’t last for long though. My mother would make a decision then that would affect me for the rest of my life. My mother decided to get my hair “trimmed”. She would claim that it was to get rid of dead ends; she would claim that bangs were amazing and she would claim that it would only be a little bit. That woman was also a liar. She took me to a heinous monster with bright orange skin, inch longer fingernails and large fluffy hair like some deranged poodle. This monster would then proceed to cut my beautiful ass length tresses up to my chin. My mother oohed and awed as if something magical had happened. I looked into that mirror and I sobbed. Nothing could calm the storm of horror that raged inside me. I took one look at the deranged poodle’s wide, horrifying smile and screamed out the only thing I could think of.
“You mean bitch!” I had absolutely no idea what the word meant at the time but I knew enough to know that you used it when you were especially upset at someone. My mother, in utter embarrassment, paid the poodle well and took me home as fast as she had brought there.
That first haircut changed my life. I went to dark places that year. My boyfriend broke up with me for a girl with longer hair and in a fit of jealous rage I took my Crayola scissors and cut off all of his stupid curly hair. For the rest of that year everything was precut for me. It was awful.
I wish I could say that my first haircut was the worst of things that happened to me but alas as a child under 18 my mother had full reign of my hair. My childhood is marked by bad school pictures. In first grade my mother took me to a salon where the woman would give us twin haircuts. I looked like a boy for the better part of two years. It did not help that my grandmother from Texas sent me a dark blue flannel shirt with horses on it. In my picture I had short hair allover except for my bangs; my bangs were 80’s bangs. I looked like a very ranch hand in training. In my 5th grade picture I was the victim of Sun In. In that picture I wore an itchy pink sweater with the word Barbie plastered on the front another gift from my grandmother; my hair an orange and blonde streaky mess. While all of these are memorable almost nothing beats the time that my mother decided that she should dye my hair blonde.
I had just got out of elementary school. I was no longer and a child and I wanted to go to this new school as a new person. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson were my jam at the time and I thought nothing would be better than going blonde like them. Big change almost always starts with the hair. But change isn’t always good and this hairstyle would prove it. My mother was ecstatic when I approached her in hopes of going blonde. I was old enough to use real hair dye and we had a beauty shop down the road. My mother, however, is a do it yourselfer and paying someone to do what she could do just as well (SHE COULDN’T) was a waste of time and money. So off my mother went to get her tools of torture. In an attempt to make sure my hair was as colorful as it could be we dyed my hair two nights before school started. When it came out my hair was a mess and there was no time to fix it. My brother and sisters in their immense pity tried to comfort me as best as they could. “White hair makes you look like a badass.” “You’re unique.” “I might even ask mom to do my hair.” My father said nothing, resorting to hugging me more often than he usually did, even taking me out for ice cream the night before school started. These acts of kindness lured me into a false sense of security and by the time the morning of classes came I thought I was one edgy lady. (I wasn’t.) That morning I put on my tough camouflage shirt and my red leather jacket. The thoughts racing through my head were not of worry although they should have been. Instead I was pumping myself up with inspirational talk. “Look how awesome you looked this morning.” “You’re going to have some of the coolest hair at school.” “People will be so surprised to know that this isn’t a professional dye job.” “You look so awesome in your leather jacket and camouflaged Betty Bop shirt.” I had swallowed the lies of my well-meaning family so much that I was feeding them to myself. The bus stopped in front of me and I boarded it a confident woman. I stepped up, my head slowly clearing the top of the seats, and there I waited, for one brief moment, the gasp of envy I thought would be mine. Instead what I heard was the most horrible thing in the world. A loud screech of laughter followed by the worst nickname ever, “CUM HEAD!”
My face turned a violent shade of red in return only making my white hair stand out ever more. Laughter filled the bus and I hurried to my seat and with a crushing realization.
My mother had done it again.