My mom always said my hair was scraggly and unbrushable, that I was a real mess head. She called me Mowgli from the Jungle Book in the summer when I ran around naked and got brown as a nut.
When I was 11, I played softball. I got my hair cut really short and then had it permed, tight poodle curls hugging my ears like a helmet or a wig. When I was 12 my hair grew long and straight and flat and brown. I thought my hair was so boring. I thought I was so boring. When I turned 13 my hair began to curl like it had a mind of its own.
When I was 15, my friend started bleaching my hair in her bathroom sink. She was Juicy Jessie, I was Back Alley Valley and the people we hung out with were the best and worst kind of trouble there was. I became mountain dew yellow, orange, purple, blonde, red. I loved always being with and becoming someone else as I discovered who I was.
When I stopped brushing my hair, the underside grew into a thick forest of knotted dreads. I cut them out and saved them in a sewing box where they looked like small taxidermied animals. When I missed my friend Edward so bad that I cried every single day, I sent them to him in the mail and he says he has them still.
In Italy, I started cutting my hair little bits at a time until it was almost all gone, throwing the loose fat chunks into the Arno. I cut ragged uneven bangs, a page boy bob. The Italian men loved me way too much or not nearly enough. I didn't know who to turn myself into to satisfy anyone. I was 20.
When I came home my hair got long and curly and big. I dated a football player who dumped me. I married my soulmate. When we lost our baby 19 weeks pregnant I went to the Hair Cuttery and begged the Korean hair dresser to do anything she wanted to me, anything at all. She cut and she cut and she cut and when I looked in the mirror I was glad to not recognize who I saw.
For a while, an old friend came over and cut my hair in my backyard letting the dead split ends merge with the grass and dirt. We talked about our bodies, our lives, our addictions. I loved the feel of her small, soft hands on my head.
Now, I make appointments in advance and go to a salon. My hair cutter has taken my writing class. She is independent, strong, beautiful and she is always trying something new. I've started to pay more to have my hair cut, buying nicer products, leaning all the way back and in as I'm shampooed, conditioned, massaged, sculpted, patted, loved. It's my hair. It's worth it.